Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics (December 15, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic hit the road for a battle against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics in the first of a weekend series that could legitimize the Magic's run to the top of the East standings in the first months of the season.
Markelle Fultz could be making his return to the court tonight as the Orlando Magic take on the Boston Celtics.
Markelle Fultz could be making his return to the court tonight as the Orlando Magic take on the Boston Celtics. / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

18-5. Celtics by 6 (O/U 222.5). 7:30P. 38. Bally Sports Florida. 18. 16-7. Dec. 15, 2023. Magic Celtics Matchup 12.15.23

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Season Series:
Magic 113, Celtics 96 in Orlando on Nov. 24; Tonight in Boston; Dec. 17 in Boston


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Our Record: 15-8/12-11

The Orlando Magic have been the surprise story of the Eastern Conference. Everyone views them as such and sees them as a young team making their way onto the bigger stage. But nobody believes they will stay there. Even Magic fans are pinching themselves and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here is the other shoe. Here is what could potentially tip the scales against the Magic.

They are going to be facing some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and a fair amount of them on the road in the next few weeks. The Magic are going to be able to plant their flag.

It starts with this weekend's series with the Boston Celtics. This is a team the Magic have a lot of confidence playing against after winning the last four games against them -- including the In-Season Tournament Black Friday game. Orlando always has the motivation to play against Boston.

The Celtics may have it too. They are also aware of how many problems the Magic have given them. And the question will be whether the Magic can stand up to a Celtics team that is looking unbeatable at home.

The only thing working in the Magic's favor might be the impending return of Markelle Fultz and the fact the Boston Celtics are on a back-to-back (albeit one without travel) after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday to sweep a two-game set with that Eastern upstart.

18. Prediction. 110. 38. Magic Celtics Prediction 12.15.23. 115

3 Keys To Watch

Road Weary/Home Warriors

The Orlando Magic, like the Boston Celtics, may be downright juggernauts at home. At the Amway Center -- or the "building that was called" the Amway Center -- the Magic have won nine straight games and are 11-1 on the home floor. They score a robust 120.0 points per 100 possessions.

Who is that Magic team? And how do we get that to travel?

Because as impressive as the Magic have looked on the road, they look very mortal and shaky on the road. It is not merely just the 5-5 record -- including only one win against a team currently in a Playoff position with the victory over the Indiana Pacers. It is an offense that downright struggles.

The Magic score only 105.9 points per 100 possessions on the road. That is the second-worst road-only offensive rating in the league (ahead of only the woeful San Antonio Spurs). The Celtics are one of the best home offensive teams, scoring 125.2 points per 100 possessions.

Coach Jamahl Mosley emphasized that playing defense is the big key to success on the road. The defense has to feed the offense and supercharge the team. That is something the team can sometimes let slip. And the Magic will have to be sharp in a tough environment at TD Garden.

Newcomers at home

The Orlando Magic rightly celebrated their victory over the Boston Celtics on Nov. 24. It was a huge win for the franchise in a big, marquee matchup -- a holiday, a national TV appearance (sort of) and the In-Season Tournament all at home. The Magic stepped up.

But as the Magic prepared for this game, coach Jamahl Mosley acknowledged some advantages the Magic had in that game they will not in this one.

Jrue Holiday missed the game with an injury and Kristaps Porzingis left the game early in the second half. Orlando pressed its advantage and depth from there -- especially on the interior where Moe Wagner ate up with 27 points in the win.

Both Holiday and Porzingis are expected to play Friday and both will present big challenges for the Magic.

Porzingis, for instance, scored nine points on 4-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes in the game against Orlando. He is averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting 52.5 percent shooting. The Celtics have a +9.1 net rating with him on the floor (117.7/108.6 split).

Holiday is certainly a bigger wild card. While the Magic do not have any guards that he needs to necessarily shut down, he is more than capable of guarding bigger players and could find time on both Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero.

He is averaging 12.5 points per game and 4.9 assists per game. The Celtics have a +9.8 net rating with Holiday on the floor (118.7/108.9 split).

Orlando will have to find a way to combat both players.

Markelle's back?

Probably the biggest story for the Orlando Magic in this game and this weekend is the potential for the return of two starters who have been out since the beginning of November (or virtually since then).

Wendell Carter was ruled OUT for the game with a fracture in the third metacarpal of his left hand before the team left for Boston.

Markelle Fultz though was upgraded to QUESTIONABLE as he nears the end of his recovery from left knee tendinitis. That does not mean he will automatically play on Friday. But it certainly suggests he is inching closer to that return -- potentially Sunday if it is not Friday.

Fultz struggled offensively early in the season -- as the entire team did through the first five games when Fultz played -- averaging only 11.4 points per game and 4.0 assists per game. Those are both worse than his numbers last year and well short of the 16 points per game and six assists per game he averaged after the All-Star Break last year.

Everyone knows that version of Fultz is in there. Adding in a potentially athletic and dynamic playmaker who is also a big-bodied defender and opportunistic stealer is a big boost to an offense that is already pretty strong.

Next. Suggs Heart and Soul 12.15.23. Jalen Suggs is Orlando Magic's heart & soul. dark

The Magic have found a better groove offensively than they had earlier in the season. While Anthony Black has played admirably, he also has a usage rate lower than 15 percent. The Magic could use another aggressive offensive option on the floor.