Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics (May 5, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic are struggling to find their way as they have struggled with injuries. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are struggling to find their way as they have struggled with injuries. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic return home after a win in Detroit to take on Evan Fournier and the Boston Celtics as the final stretch of the season continues.

Orlando Magic (21-44) vs. Boston Celtics (34-31)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Celtics by 11
Tickets: $116-$668 on StubHub
2021 Season Series: Celtics 124, Magic 97 in Boston on Jan. 15; Celtics 112, Magic 96 in Boston on 21; Tonight in Orlando

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OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic have had some feel-good moments lately with wins in their last two games. They have watched Cole Anthony within the last week discover a clutch gene and drive to win that will serve him well for his future. They have seen Mohamed Bamba make strides defensively and put up big numbers offensively. They have seen R.J. Hampton start to come into his own. These are little victories that have added up to some wins.

That might stop now. The Magic sure seemed like Monday they were trying to put out lineups that would make the result close and potentially lead them to lose. And now they have just one team outside the playoff hunt left on their schedule — the suddenly surging Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Jayson Tatum has been on his own personal tear too and the Magic are kind of short on swing forwards who can defend him. The Celtics may not be a fully operational battleship, but they are in desperate need of some wins. If they can get past the plucky Magic early, they can cruise to a win.

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3 Keys To Watch

Jayson Tatum’s star power

The Boston Celtics have dealt with a lot of injuries and never seem to have their full roster available. They will not have that on Wednesday with Jaylen Brown ruled out for the game. Tristan Thompson will likely play. But that is not the story here. The story remains Jayson Tatum who has proven capable of winning some games on his own and carrying the team past its inconsistency. He can feel like a modern-day Tracy McGrady at times.

Tatum has been on a tear lately with 35, 60 and 33 points in his last three games respectively. Even more impressively, the Celtics’ star has shot 43 for 79 (54.4-percent) in those three games. Who do the Magic have to match up with him right now? They are starting Moritz Wagner at power forward. Chuma Okeke and James Ennis, two guys primed to defend him, are both out for the game. This one could be a big game for Tatum. Or at least a game where the Magic might have to throw some junk defense at him.

Lineup trouble

Want to get a feel for how the Orlando Magic are treating these final games? Watch the lineups the team uses. The game against the Detroit Pistons was a veritable race to the bottom. No starter for the Magic — except Moritz Wagner — played more than 25 minutes. Only two players played more than 20 minutes. The Magic seem prepared to scale back players’ minutes in these final games having been satisfied with one last home win.

The Magic are not going to out-and-out tank. They are not going to “rest” players. They simply do not have the manpower for that. And if they are in a position to win, they will do their best to win the game. But the rotation plan and how the team maps out who plays when is going to be a good tell on the team’s intentions.

In a close game, after losing a 14-point lead, acting head coach Tyrone Corbin did not go back to his closer in Cole Anthony trusting a lineup of R.J. Hampton, Chasson Randle, Ignas Brazdeikis, Moritz Wagner and Mohamed Bamba to close the game out. There are probably only a few teams that group could beat. And they still almost lost a 14-point led to them as they played the entire fourth quarter together.

Bamba’s defense

One of the truly interesting developments to watch the rest of the season then is Mohamed Bamba. Mohamed Bamba will get plenty of minutes with Wendell Carter still nursing a minor injury and has played some limited minutes the last two or three games. It definitely feels like he is a bit off. Regardless, Bamba is going to get a chance at some very real minutes.

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He took advantage of them in Monday’s win with a career-high 22 points and 15 rebounds. While he struggled for large chunks of the game, he came alive in the fourth quarter and was a force on both ends. This was what the Magic imagined when they drafted Bamba. He knows he still has to be more consistent on the defensive end. But there have been plenty of good signs.