Boston Celtics at home on Christmas Day, look to avenge that lo..."/> Boston Celtics at home on Christmas Day, look to avenge that lo..."/>

Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic, who were defeated by the Boston Celtics at home on Christmas Day, look to avenge that loss when they host the Celtics Thursday night. The Magic have been playing much better as of late and won three straight games before blowing a 16-point lead and losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night. The Celtics have had Kevin Garnett back for two games and won both games. Before Garnett’s return, the Celtics had lost three games in a row and five of their last seven.

The Celtics are currently the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference while the Magic are the #4 seed, but just one-and-a-half games seperates the two teams. The Celtics are 29-13 and the Magic are 29-16. The two teams have split the season series this year with each team winning on the other’s home court. The Magic are 16-4 at home. The Celtics, at 16-6, actually have a better road record than they do home (13-7).

Tip-off from the Am is set for 8:00 pm EST and you can watch the game nationally on TNT. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

Update: The Magic will be wearing their “Hardwood Classics” jerseys – the black pinstriped jerseys.

The Line: Orlando -3.5



Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson


Kendrick Perkins
Kevin Garnett
Paul Pierce
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo

These two teams have met twice this season. In their first meeting on November 20, the Jameer Nelson-less Magic got 26 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists from Vince Carter and held the Celtics to 34.5% shooting to earn an 83-78 victory. On Christmas day, the roles were reversed. Boston, who was without Paul Pierce, allowed the Magic to shoot just 33.3% on their way to an 86-77 victory.

Shockingly, both teams will be playing with their starting five in Thursday night’s game – that hasn’t happened in quite some time.

With the Celtics, it all starts with defense. The Celtics give up just 93.7 points per game and rank first in defensive efficiency. Without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics are still a very good defensive team but Garnett’s return makes the Celtics the elite defensive team in the NBA. Garnett is especially tough against the Magic because his versatility gives Orlando’s most versatile player, Rashard Lewis, fits.

Dwight Howard always has a lot of trouble with the Boston big men. Rasheed Wallace has always been known as a player who has defended Dwight Howard very well. Now that ‘Sheed has fallen off some, Kendrick Perkins has become maybe Howard’s toughest matchup. Howard is averaging just 7.0 points per game and 5.0 turnovers per game against the Celtics this season. It hasn’t been all bad – he’s still grabbing 17.5 rebounds per game.

Orlando’s offense has had some struggles. Their shooting woes cannot continue against the best defense in the league if they expect to get a victory. Maybe this week’s comments about the shooting from Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy will wake the Magic up and help the become a better shooting teams.

Howard would also like to get more shots. It will be interesting to see if he can actually get some good looks against the team that defends him best.

The Magic have had turnover issues all season long and they must do a better job of taking care of the ball if they want to beat the Celtics.

Both Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis have had some chances to make plays against the Celtics this season. Carter, despite poor shooting, did just that in the first meeting. He dished out 6 assists and hit a late jumper that would eventually be the game-winner.

In the second meeting, Lewis hit three 3-pointers that helped get the Magic back into the game.

Jameer Nelson is going to have to be on after a poor performance Monday.

Both guards have to penetrate and create open shots for their teammates.

Offensively, the Celtics score 99.7 points per game and are 13th in efficiency. Paul Pierce (18.9 points per game), Ray Allen (15.9 points per game) and Kevin Garnett (15.0 points per game) are considered Boston’s “Big Three” and are their three leading scorers, but Rajon Rondo really gets Boston’s offense going. Rondo still doesn’t have much of a shot (he shoots 39.2% on jumpers), but he does a very good job of getting to the hoop (51% of his shots are from a close distance) and sets up his teammates very well (9.5 assists per game). Rondo has been up and down against the Magic and that hasn’t changed this season. In their first meeting, Rondo scored just 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting, had 6 assists and 3 turnovers. In the next meeting Rondo still didn’t shoot the ball well (7-of-18) but he scored 17 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had 8 assists.

For more on Thursday night’s game, check out this morning’s news and notes.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)