After getting back on the right track with a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night, the Magic will face a different kind of challenge in the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics.
These two teams met in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, with the Celtics winning four games to two. They also met on Christmas Day in Orlando when the Magic rallied for an 86-78 victory.
The Celtics lead the Atlantic division and have the second best record in the East 30-9 record. The Magic are 26-14, good for fourth in the East and second in the Southeast division. The Celtics are coming off two straight wins, including 99-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats Friday while the Magic ended their two game losing streak with a 108-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night.
The Celtics rank 21st in pace (90.8), 10th in offensive rating (108.8) and second in defensive rating (100.5).
The game will be shown nationally on TNT. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
Tip off from the the T.D. Banknorth Garden is scheduled for 8:00 pm EST.
The Line: Boston – 4.5
Kevin Garnett is probable with a strained right calf. Jermaine O’Neal (left knee), Kendrick Perkins (right knee surgery) and Delonte West (right knee surgery) are out indefinitely.
For the Magic, Malik Allen is questionable with a sprained left ankle while Daniel Orton (left knee surgery) and Jason Williams (arthritis in feet) are out indefinitely.
The officials will be Dan Crawford, Michael Smith and James Williams.
Opponent To Watch: Kevin Garnett, F – Garnett will be making his return to the Boston lineup after missing nine straight games with a strained right calf. Garnett has always been a strong defensive presence, especially against the Magic but he’s also torched the Magic on the offensive end, averaging 18.7 points per game in 32 career games against the Magic. He’s also grabbed an impressive 11.9 rebounds and dished out 4.1 assists per game in his career against the Magic. Before his injury, Garnett was having an excellent season, averaging 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season. Garnett had 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting against the Magic on Christmas day.
What To Watch For: The Magic have played very poorly on the defensive end as of late and its the reason they lost two straight games before defeating the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night. Despite being known as a defensive team (and rightfully so), the Celtics still have a lot of scorers, one of the league’s elite distributors (Rondo) and a lot of size on the offensive end. On the other end of the floor, the Celtics rank second in defensive rating and will be the biggest challenge for the Magic since, well, the last time they took on the Celtics.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).
Topics: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Kevin Garnett, Orlando Magic, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Ryan Anderson, Shaquille O'neal