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Season Series: Magic 113, Celtics 96 in Orlando on Nov. 24; Celtics 128, Magic 111 in Boston on Dec. 15; Today in Boston
Our Record: 16-8/12-12 ATS
The Orlando Magic had a golden opportunity to take advantage of an injury-depleted Boston Celtics team on Friday and continue some positive momentum. Instead, the Celtics took their injuries as a chance to rally themselves and play a sharper game. They looked like the veteran team that understood its identity and could adjust.
They just played with a more focused and frenzied attitude and the Magic just could not adjust. Eventually they tried to go small and it was far too late. The Celtics were able to run circles around them. The losses made them more focused.
Injuries will not be a problem. Al Horford will play after doing planned rest for the second night of a back to back on Friday. And Kristaps Porzingis will play after he sat out with a calf issue Friday.
The Magic are the ones who will play with a more frenzied and focused effort this time around. They certainly want to make up for the defeat on Friday.
They will also be dealing with injuries with Markelle Fultz DOUBTFUL with the left knee tendinitis that has had him out since early November. Joe Ingles (left ankle sprain) and Jalen Suggs (left wrist sprain) are both QUESTIONABLE.
Orlando will have to figure out how to tighten up and be more focused defensively, keep their offense fairly efficient and play without their full complement of players.
3 Keys to Watch
The Paolo Bounceback
Paolo Banchero had a bad game Friday night. One of the worst of his season, scoring 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting with five turnovers in the process. It was an ugly performance for him, one where he and his teammates wore their frustrations on their sleeves.
That is in the past. The work for the Magic now is in the response. And that is something the Magic need to see from their young star. On the rare nights he has a bad game, he has to respond with a more focused and stornger outing in his next game.
Banchero is still young and has had his share of bad games this year. Since his breakthrough game against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 2, Banchero has had only two games scoring fewer than 15 points. His response to those games has been downright star-like.
Banchero scored 13 on 6-for-14 shooting against the Chicago Bulls (the second game) and followed that up with 24 in the win over the Indiana Pacers. He had six in the win over the Washington Wizards (the first one) and followed that with 28 in the rematch.
Orlando will need another big bounceback game from him.
The Ball Movement
Jaylen Brown told reporters in Boston that the win Friday was the "biggest game of the year so far." There might be some hyperbole there, but considering the game was on a back-to-back, missing so many players and going up against a team that seemed to have the Boston Celtics' number, it was a victory that had some meaning.
As Cole Anthony put it at practice Saturday, the Boston Celtics showed the Orlando Magic respect in routing them the way they did. The Magic need to repay the favor.
But the Celtics did something that worked for them in that win. Boston dished out 31 assists in the game, the second most for the team in a game this season.
The Celtics come under constant criticism for their sometimes stagnant offense. Boston is 25th in the league in assists per game with 25.0 per game and 24th with a 58.9 percent assist rate. This is not a team that moves the ball effectively.
But that is something Boston had to do to survive and win Friday night. The question will be whether they can do it again. One of many reasons why Friday's games felt like such an outlier.
The Turnover Problem
Another reason Friday felt like an outlier? The Orlando Magic had their worst turnover game of the season, turning it over 21 times for 26 Boston Celtics points and tallying a 21.4 percent turnover rate.
Orlando struggled with Boston's pressure defense and breaking down their constant switching. The Celtics were also doubling aggressively on any drives to the basket, seemingly ignoring Goga Bitadze and Anthony Black for long stretches. It was a gamble they felt they could make.
Paolo Banchero had five turnovers in the game and Franz Wagner had six. It was not a good game on that front by any means. And two of the Magic's biggest players struggled the most with their decisionmaking.
Turnovers have been an issue throughout the season, sapping some energy from Orlando's offense. The Magic are 25th in the league with a 15.4 percent turnover rate this season. The key to success in marquee games like this one is almost certainly the Magic's ability to protect possessions.