Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics: Game Preview

R.J. Hampton
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic will close out their preseason schedule in similar fashion to the way they started it.

After tipping off preseason action on the road against Boston, the Magic will close out the exhibition calendar against the Celtics at Amway Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

While Orlando will still use this contest as an extension of training camp, Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley stated that the team may start to tighten up the rotation and give certain players extended minutes in an effort to have them prepared for opening night of the regular season one week later in San Antonio.

“The minutes are going to start to probably increase on some guys, just so we can get longer feels for what they’re doing,” Mosley said.

The team spent much of their practice session on Tuesday focusing on execution and cleaning up areas of their pick-and-roll coverages, working on spacing in their transition offense, and examining areas where they can make the extra pass in order to create an ideal shot.

While Orlando – like many NBA teams – has not yet finished installing all elements of its offense and defense, its head coach is pleased with his squad’s progress thus far.

“What we’re trying to make sure that these guys understand is the ability to grasp the simple,” Mosley explained. “It’s the reads and the decision making that these guys have to make. It can be out of plays, but more so it’s going to be out of their decision and when an action happens. The pick-and-roll, what do they see? Are they finding the roller? Are they hitting the corner? How fast can I get downhill?”

“That was a lot of what we worked on (Tuesday) of making the right decision for these guards and then the bigs, knowing when to roll, knowing when to pop,” Mosley continued. “After that happens what am I doing? Am I playing on the second side? Am I moving it to the next person? Those are the biggest things for me rather than me jumping up and calling a play every time.”

That freedom and decision making will fall in part on Orlando’s young backcourt. Loaded with potential, but short on experience, the Magic will have to rely on prized rookie Jalen Suggs and second-year standouts Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton to set the pace and start the flow of the team’s offensive sets.

“We want to use these plays to spark ball movement, so we can just play out of that,” said Anthony, who’s averaging 12.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from 3-point range this preseason. “We don’t want to run too many plays. You don’t want to come out and run a set every single time. It’s kind of just to spark that. So, I think I have a pretty good feel.”

IN AND OUT: Suggs was a late addition to the Magic’s injury report and he'll miss the preseason finale due to a non-COVID illness. Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) are all out.

For Boston, Jaylen Brown (health & safety protocols), Al Horford (health & safety protocols), Josh Richardson (rest), Dennis Schroder (rest), Marcus Smart (rest) and Jayson Tatum (rest) are all out.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Honestly, I feel like (going against) fours and fives I have an advantage. The bigger ones, I feel like I am a little bit faster. And then the small they are, I feel like I can just outpower them. In the last game, I kind of showed that a lot. If there’s a smaller defender, I’m able to crash the glass no matter where I am on the floor. I’m going to go every time. I kind of preached that to my team already, so they know.” – Wendell Carter Jr., who is averaging team highs in points (12.3), rebounds (8.7) and field goal percentage (66.7) this preseason.

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 outlook this season:

Savage: "I know we're just getting underway, but what has stood out to you so far about new head coach Ime Udoka?"

D'Amico: “That it feels as if he’s giving the returning Celtics – as well as the newcomers – exactly what they wanted and needed. Brad Stevens was an excellent coach, but since Udoka was hired, it has sounded as if the returning Celtics wanted a few changes from a coaching perspective. They wanted to be coached hard. They wanted to play fast. They wanted to be held accountable. It looks like that’s exactly what’s happening early on during Udoka’s tenure as head coach. We heard about it heading into training camp, and now we’re seeing it during practices and on the benches during games. He’s really coaching these guys hard.”

Savage: "What is the team hoping to get out of free agent acquisition Dennis Schroder this season?"

D'Amico: “Well, we don’t yet know what the starting lineup will look like, but my best guess is this: bench scoring. The Celtics haven’t had a double-digit scorer off the bench the last couple of seasons and Schroder, who finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2020 thanks to his average of 18.9 points per game off the bench with Oklahoma City, will fill that void if he is indeed a reserve. The other thing Boston wants and needs from him is for him to be a dog at the defensive end. This team has an opportunity to be elite defensively. Not just great – elite. In order to be at their best at that end, the C’s will need Schroder to be a pain in opposing guards’ sides while playing alongside other stellar defenders like Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Rob Williams.”

Savage: "What have the Celtics seen from Romeo Langford this preseason and what might his role be with the team to start Boston's 2021-22 campaign?"

D'Amico: “In short, everything they could have hoped. Most people outside of Boston have written Langford off as a bust, but the kid just wasn’t healthy for his first two seasons. He was constantly fighting an uphill battle. This year stands as the first year during which he’s been able to play in Summer League and have a full training camp, and that has gone a long way. It’s clear as day that his comfort and confidence levels have spiked significantly. He’s shooting the ball (in a small sample size) better than he ever has – like, ever, including high school and college. He isn’t going to shoot 83 percent from long range all season, but his shooting rhythm and release are indisputably much improved. His defense and passing ability were always there, but now his confidence and shot are there, too. He’s making a legitimate case to start for this team if Udoka doesn’t go with a double-big starting lineup of Horford and Rob Williams.”

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