Event: Boston Celtics (7-9) vs. Orlando Magic (12-5) - NBA Regular Season, Game 17.
Date/Time: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Location: Amway Center (Capacity: 18,846), Orlando, FL.
Broadcast Info: Thursday's game will be televised nationally on TNT. In addition, the game will be aired regionally on Comcast SportsNet New England, with Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn and Greg Dickerson bringing you the action. Also, the game can be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network, with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on the call.
Odds: Orlando is an 8 1/2-point favorite, with the over-under set at 110 points.
Celtics Roster 2011-12: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels,Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Jermaine O'Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma,Chris Wilcox. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Magic Roster 2011-2012: Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Glen Davis, Chris Duhon, Justin Harper, Dwight Howard, Larry Hughes, DeAndre Liggins, Jameer Nelson, Daniel Orton, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Von Wafer. Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy.
Celtics And Magic In 2011: Boston and Orlando met three times in the regular season one year ago, with the Celtics winning twice. Boston lost the season series opener, 86-78, on Christmas Day before winning the last two games -- 109-106 on Jan. 17 and 91-80 on Feb. 6.
Last Time Out: Boston dismantled Orlando in its last game, winning 87-56. The 56 points scored was a franchise low for the Magic, who were held to 24.6 percent shooting (16-for-65). Paul Pierce and ex-Magic forward Brandon Bass led the C's with 19 points each and Kevin Garnett finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead Boston. Dwight Howard finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Glen Davis had six points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Orlando.
After the game on Monday, the Magic took on the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, where they cruised to a102-3 victory. Ryan Anderson had 24 points and eight rebounds to lead Orlando, which shot 45.8 percent -- much, much better than their outing on Monday. Howard had 14 points and nine boards, Hedo Turkoglu had 11 points and eight assists, J.J. Redick had 15 points of the bench and Davis finished with 13 points and five boards for the Magic.
Stats Central: Paul Pierce is the team's leading scorer, averaging 16.5 points. Rajon Rondo averages team highs in 9.4 assists and 1.7 steals while Kevin Garnett leads the team in rebounding (7.3 RPG) and Jermaine O'Neal averages a team-best 1.4 swats. Boston ranks 26th in points (89.4 PPG), 29th in rebounding (38.8 RPG), eighth in assists (21.5 APG) but is the league's third-best defense statistically (88.3 PPG allowed).
Dwight Howard leads the Magic in points (19.7 PPG), rebounding (15.6 RPG) and blocks (2.2 BPG). Jameer Nelson is averaging a team-leading 5.4 assists for Orlando, which ranks 16th in points (94.8 PPG), 11th in rebounding (43.1 RPG), 17th in assists (20.5 APG) and seventh in points allowed (90.8 PPG).
Storyline: It's been three days since the Celtics annihilated the Magic, and it's still really hard to believe that it happened. A 31 point win for a team that hadn't beaten a team with a winning record. Really? It's just baffling.
Alas, it happened, and it may have sent a strong message to the league: the Celtics are back. Of course, that message won't be proven by just one big win. If Boston can blow out Orlando twice in one week, that would go a long way towards proving the Celtics' new-found dominance. It's certainly possible, but in truth is really improbable.
Dwight Howard was humbled after the loss in the locker room, telling reporters that they will get better. The Magic certainly did that against the Pacers the next night, and you bet they will want to prove a point in the rematch.
Another key factor is the Celtics' injuries. As is discussed more in the next section, the Celtics could be down as many as six players and two starters. That certainly won't help with an aging team, or any team for that matter.
All signs point to an Orlando victory, but don't count the Celtics out yet. That's a foolish thing to do.
Players To Watch: Ever heard of that Dwight Howard guy? Yeah, keep an eye out for him. The walking double-double (and the NBA's leader in 20-point, 20-rebound games this season) is predestined to have a good game, but it will all come down to how well the C's can defend Superman. After a 14-point first quarter on Monday, the Celtics basically held Howard in check for the rest of the game. Even if they can hold him down, you should still expect to see a double-double. With attention on Howard, loos for guys like Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis to make an impact.
For the Celtics, we will first have to see who all is playing. It's possible that the team could be without six, yes six, players in this game. Jermaine O'Neal did not practice on Wednesday and may not play. Also, Ray Allen is out. Rajon Rondo, Keyon Doling, Chris Wilcox and Mickael Pietrus are still up in the air. With that in mind, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will once again take on the brunt of the scoring load on the offensive end. Avery Bradley's defense should help, too.
Prediction: It's highly doubtful that the Celtics will do what they did on Monday again. Then again, it's unfair to say the Celtics can't win, because, well, they already proved they can. Still, expect the Magic to extract revenge. Final Score: Magic 98, Celtics 85.