Celtics-Magic Preview


The Boston Celtics are playing much better despite injuries to several key contributors.

An undermanned lineup wasn't a problem earlier this week against the Orlando Magic, who set a record for futility in an ugly loss.

It's likely to be much tougher for Boston to win a third straight game Thursday night when it visits the Magic.

Boston (7-9) has bounced back from a five-game losing streak with three wins in four games, a stretch punctuated by an 87-56 win over Orlando (12-5) on Monday. The Celtics were missing five players, including Ray Allen (left ankle) and Rajon Rondo (right wrist), but still turned in a stout defensive effort that included holding the Magic to franchise-record lows in points and field goal percentage (24.6).

"Defensively, that was as good as you can get," coach Doc Rivers said after his team matched a club record for fewest points allowed in the shot-clock era, also done last season against Milwaukee.

Rivers may need another strong defensive performance if his team is going to win a fourth consecutive meeting with Orlando.

The Celtics are expected to be without Allen, averaging 14.9 points, for a second consecutive game after he was injured in Sunday's 100-94 win at Washington.

Rondo, though, might be back, and that would give Boston its assists leader (9.4) and second-highest scorer (15.0). He's been even more productive on the road, averaging 18.0 points and 10.8 assists.

Boston could also use another strong performance from Brandon Bass, who is making his return to Orlando after being traded for Glen Davis and Von Wafer during the offseason.

Bass had 19 points with eight rebounds in his first meeting against the Magic since joining the Celtics, and has been key during the 3-1 stretch with averages of 14.0 points and 8.0 boards.

Paul Pierce scored 19 on Monday after he had season highs of 34 points and 10 rebounds against the Wizards.

The Magic would like to avenge Monday's defeat after bouncing back from it a day later with a 102-83 win at Indiana.

"Our intensity picked up at the defensive end, we did a great job of moving the ball on offense," center Dwight Howard said. "It was a really good win for us. It shows a lot for us to be able to bounce back from (Monday)."

Howard became the Magic's all-time leading scorer in the victory, scoring 14 points to give him 10,657 for his career, second among active centers to Boston's Jermaine O'Neal (12,463).

"It's a humbling experience," Howard said of the record. "It does mean a lot. Not too many players in this league can say that they were their franchise's leading scorer."

Howard was the only member of the Magic to reach double-digits in points against Boston earlier this week, finishing with 18 and 14 rebounds. However, he made just 4 of 15 from the floor and 10 of 18 from the line.

Despite that poor shooting performance, he's averaging 26.3 points and 13.3 rebounds over the last three meetings with the Celtics.

Orlando's Ryan Anderson gets a shot at redemption after he failed to score and missed all eight shots from the field Monday versus Boston. He bounced back with 24 points and eight rebounds against the Pacers.