The Celtics will look to extend their eight-game winning streak Monday night when they face the Magic, who will be short-handed as they try to win their seventh straight away from home.
Boston (16-2) went an Eastern Conference-best 35-6 at home last season en route to a league-best 66-16 record. The Celtics then went 13-1 in the playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on the way to their 17th NBA championship.
Including the postseason, Boston is 28-2 in its last 30 at home dating to March 26.
While Boston was establishing its home-court dominance last season, Orlando was turning into one of the league’s toughest road teams. The Magic (13-4) went 27-14 away from Amway Arena in 2007-08 and have continued that outstanding play this season, winning six straight on the road after dropping their first contest away from Orlando.
After winning at Philadelphia and Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, Orlando returned home Saturday to face Indiana. With starting guards Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus sidelined, Dwight Howard took the pressure off the Magic’s makeshift backcourt, scoring 32 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in a 110-96 victory.
“I have the word dominating written all over my house and I talk about it a lot before every game,” said Howard, who’s averaging 25.8 points, 15.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks in his last four contests. “I think about dominating the whole game. I’ve got to have that type of mentality every night for our team to be successful.”
Orlando’s been without Nelson (strained hip flexor) for three games, and he’s expected to miss at least another week. Pietrus is out three to five weeks with a torn thumb ligament, and backup guard Keith Bogans (fractured thumb) is sidelined for at least a month.
That leaves J.J. Redick and veteran Anthony Johnson as the starters, and the 34-year-old Johnson has done a solid job thus far. He’s averaging 10.3 points in his three starts and has a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Celtics haven’t had any serious injury issues, and other than one game in which Kevin Garnett was suspended, have started the same lineup in each contest.
At 7-1, Boston has been just as good as Orlando on the road. The surging Celtics traveled to Charlotte on Saturday and won 89-84 as Paul Pierce led six Celtics in double figures with 19 points.
“We’re grinding them out,” Pierce said. “It’s a tough schedule with all these back-to-back games, but it’s going to pay us a favor late in the season when we don’t have as many.”
Led by Garnett, the reigning defensive player of the year, the Celtics are playing even better defense than they did last season. Boston gave up 90.3 points per game in 2007-08 and limited opponents to a league-low 41.9 percent from the field. The Celtics are giving up 90.1 ppg and 40.8 percent shooting this season.
They’re in for a challenge against Howard, whose 59.8 field-goal percentage is second-best in the NBA. Howard shot 64.7 percent and averaged 21.7 points and 12.0 rebounds as Orlando took two of three from Boston last season.