Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics: Game Preview

Cole Anthony
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO – In their most recent win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Orlando Magic laid out the blueprint for their path to success.

Even with moments of their youth and inexperience popping up throughout the game, the Magic remained locked in on their principles at both ends of the floor and stuck to their game plan. That resulted in Orlando going on a 20-3 run that carried into the fourth quarter, setting the tone for a final frame where the Magic would outscore the opposition by a 24-point margin on their way to a 115-97 road triumph.

Now, Orlando (2-6) will attempt to duplicate that effort when they host the Boston Celtics (2-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET at Amway Center.

“It gives the example of continuing to show that you just have to stay with the process,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “We talk about guys getting better, and we’ve gotten better every game for them understanding exactly what we need to do to keep developing and keep growing. And they feel that; they feel that experience. Once you feel that on the court, then you understand exactly the things you need to do.”

For the Magic, that plan reverts back to the tenets that their head coach laid out upon his arrival. Play with pace, space and the pass offensively and bring energy and focus defensively.

It also helps that two of the Magic’s youngsters are playing at an extremely high level.

Franz Wagner is coming off a performance where he was sensational on both ends. Defensively, he led Orlando with a contest-best six deflections. Offensively, he played within the system and still managed to erupt for a career-high 28 points while going 10-for-18 from the floor and 5-for-9 from distance.

“It just tells you a lot about Franz. He just really knows how to play,” said Cole Anthony, who scored a season-high 31 points, of Wagner. “I wish I was doing that (as a rookie). Franz can really hoop, man. He just really understands the game (and) he has a great feel. He’s a heck of a basketball player. It’s awesome because I think he can get a heck of a lot better. Super excited to see his development.”

Anthony was phenomenal as well. In fact, the duo orchestrated the offense down the stretch, combining for 24 of their 59 points and knocking down six of their 11 triples in the final 12 minutes of the contest.

“It was a great team effort,” said Jalen Suggs, who posted 15 points in front of his hometown crowd. “Franz and Cole put on a show. They made it easy for a lot of us.”

The Magic as a whole have been hot from beyond the arc.

In its victory at Minnesota, Orlando made a season-high-tying 17 3-pointers. Over the last four games, the Magic have knocked down 15-plus 3-pointers in each contest, which is the first time they’ve done that in franchise history.

During that stretch, Orlando is shooting 43 percent from deep, led by Anthony and Wagner, who are each shooting a team-best 57.1 percent from 3-point range over that span.

“We’re getting more and more comfortable,” said Wagner. “For everybody it’s a learning experience and a process of getting to know how (each other plays). New system with a new coach, and I think we’re figuring it out as we go. Definitely, I think we’re making steps in the right direction. That’s really encouraging for all of us.”

KEY STAT: Anthony and Wagner became the second set of Magic teammates 21-or-younger to both score 25-plus in the same game. It was also accomplished on March 23, 2001 at Milwaukee by Tracy McGrady (33) and Mike Miller (28), per Sportradar.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “You don’t really realize what you’re doing in that kind of moment. I just tried to jump as high as possible and finish the play. Obviously, I was really excited that I made the dunk and looking at the bench and seeing all my teammates’ reactions. That’s probably the coolest part about this game (is) to see how people are happy for you. Obviously, I was really happy when everything worked out.” – Wagner on his viral, posterizing dunk against the Timberwolves

IN AND OUT: For Orlando, Gary Harris (left ankle sprain) is questionable, while Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) all remain out.

For Boston, Payton Pritchard (nasal fracture; face mask) is available, while Sam Hauser (G League - Two-Way) and Brodric Thomas (G League - Two-Way) are out.

RIVALS REPORT: We continue our Rivals Report series with special guest Celtics.com writer and reporter Marc D'Amico, who worked with me in Orlando before heading up to Boston. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the Celtics and their start to the season:

Savage: "Through seven games, Al Horford is leading the NBA in blocks per game and Robert Williams III is third. How good of a shot-blocking duo have they been for the Celtics?"

D'Amico: “A shot-blocking duo the likes of which the Celtics have rarely seen during their long and storied history. Horford and Williams have been outstanding. Both players, possessed with lethal wingspans and elite instincts, have been lurking in the background with help defense that has protected the rim at a high rate for Boston. However, the team’s defense as a whole hasn’t been up to snuff. Shot-blocking numbers are great for individuals, but the team’s success will be predicated upon how successfully it can limit opposing teams’ scoring and shooting numbers. Thus far, the C’s have not been great in those departments.”

Savage: "Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum rank top 10 in the NBA in scoring. How well have they adapted to new head coach Ime Udoka's system for an offensive standpoint?"

D'Amico: “Truth be told, the answer to this question is more of a ‘TBD.’ Each player has reached the heights of NBA scoring this season with 40-plus point outbursts, but each player has also fallen into scoring ruts. They, along with the Celtics as a whole, still seem a bit confused about when to move the ball and play freely as a unit, and when to utilize isolation basketball where their elite talents can win one-on-one situations. To an extent, this was expected. There is a new coach in town, and there is new personnel in town. These things take time to come together. The Celtics are hoping that their stars and their team can find offensive consistency sooner rather than later.”

Savage: "Obviously, the Celtics have not had the start to the season that they've wanted. What are the few areas they'll look to clean up when they come to Orlando?"

D'Amico: “Well, we’ve already detailed the lack of overall defense and the inconsistency of their offense. Those are two pretty big issues that, if resolved, would likely plug many of their games into the win column. Drilling a little bit deeper, they need to remain healthy (they’ve already had four starters and six players overall miss time), they need to better value possessions – especially during crunch time – and they need to play hard and well for 48 minutes. That last part is most important coming off of Monday’s devastating loss to the Bulls; the C’s had that game in the bag after three quarters, then let off the gas. Their margin isn’t wide enough to let off the gas and win consistently. They need to give a full effort for a full game.”

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