Game Preview: Magic at Celtics

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BOSTON – A major reunion was scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. tonight when the Boston Celtics (22-23) and Orlando Magic (14-31) meet in TD Garden. That reunion has been cut in half thanks to a possible season-ending injury to Orlando’s Glen Davis.

Davis, who was a member of Boston’s 2008 NBA championship team, and E’Twaun Moore, who was a rookie on last season’s team that nearly reached the NBA Finals, have both been key players for Orlando this season. Moore will remain in his standard role tonight, but Davis went down with a fractured left foot Wednesday night and may miss the remainder of the season.

Davis received a large ovation and a video tribute last season when he returned to the Garden for the first time as a visitor. Many Boston fans appreciated Moore because of his savvy demeanor and sweet shooting stroke. He also helped the Celtics turn their season around last year when he scored 16 points against the Magic in a critical Boston win. Moore won’t get a video tribute tonight, but his former teammates will surely greet him well and the crowd will give him a round of applause.

Reunions set aside, this is an important game for both teams. Boston will be searching for its third consecutive win without Rajon Rondo and the Magic will attempt to snap their league-worst seven-game losing streak.

The Celtics were dealt a major blow on Sunday when they learned that Rondo is lost for the season with a torn ACL. They have somehow gone 2-for-2 in overcoming the All-Star’s absence. Boston downed the East’s top team, the Heat, in double overtime on Sunday and then trounced the Kings by 18 points Wednesday night.

Boston’s stellar play has been marked by two important characteristics: great defense and unselfish offense. Miami and Sacramento combined to make just 40 percent of their shots against the Celtics and neither team broke the 90-point barrier in regulation. Meanwhile, Boston has showcased some of its best ball movement of the season while averaging 23.0 assists in those two contests.

Nelson, Bradley

Avery Bradley's defense has gotten the better of Jameer Nelson over their last few meetings.
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Much of the Celtics’ offense has been created in transition. They are listening to Doc Rivers’ instruction to advance the ball via the pass rather than the dribble. That’s resulting in all of Boston’s players being attentive and prepared as the ball advances.

“There’s no one guy pushing the ball on the break,” said Rivers. “Everybody has to be alert, because the ball could be coming your way in transition. And I think when that happens, everybody starts running because they think they could be the guy.”

Despite its losing streak, Orlando is also sharing the ball very well. The Magic have averaged 23.9 APG over their last 10 games. Scoring hasn’t been their issue, but preventing scores has been.

Opponents have averaged 104.7 PPG against Orlando during the Magic’s seven-game losing streak. Five of the seven teams have broken the century mark, maxing out with Dallas’ 111-point performance on Jan. 20.

Orlando’s struggles certainly don’t match up well with Boston’s successes. The Magic are likely to struggle scoring the basketball against the Celtics’ defense, and the C’s should be able to put up plenty of points. That combination means that Orlando could hit the road with its eighth straight loss following a downsized reunion night.

Sully’s Status

Jared Sullinger, who has started at power forward during Boston’s last two games, left Wednesday night’s contest after just four minutes of action. He was sidelined for the remainder of the night with back spasms. Sullinger’s status for tonight’s game is likely to be a game-time decision.

“I think it’s 50-50,” Rivers said on Thursday of Sullinger’s availability.

Sullinger’s presence is very important to the C’s. He is by far the team’s most talented rebounder. Boston would take a big hit in that department if he isn’t available to play.

Contain Their Guards

Orlando’s top three scorers are all guards. Arron Afflalo leads the team with 16.7 PPG, and J.J. Redick (15.4 PPG) and Jameer Nelson (15.3 PPG) are right on his heels. All three of those players are strong shooters from all over the court.

The Celtics will make it a priority tonight to limit the production of Orlando’s guards. That responsibility will fall mainly on Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee. Bradley has a history of shutting down Nelson. We’ll see if Lee can successfully slow down the others. Lee may get a break if Afflalo, who’s listed as day-to-day with a strained left calf, doesn’t play.

Continue Sharing the Ball

Rivers and Bass both stated on Thursday that nothing has changed with Boston’s offense. The sets are still the same and the concepts remain the same. The only difference is that the Celtics have simplified things to harvest more ball movement.

“If guys have got shots, we take them,” said Bass, “and if not, we move the ball.”

That ball movement resulted in six players scoring between 11 and 16 points Wednesday night. Three of those players were reserves, which helped Boston’s bench outscore Sacramento’s 50-26. Similar success tonight would give the C’s a great opportunity to win their third straight game.