Celtics Look to Begin Killer Stretch with Win in Orlando

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Boston Celtics (28-13) at Orlando Magic (28-16)
Thursday, January 28
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #42, Road Game #20
Amway Arena

Referees:   Greg Willard, Kevin Fehr,  Leon Wood

The Celtics begin a crucial stretch of 3 games (Magic, Hawks, Lakers) tonight as they visit the Orlando Magic.  There is a sub-plot to these games in that the Celtics begin this stretch 1.5 games in front of the Magic and 1 game in front of the Hawks in the standings.  The team with the second best record in the East will send their coaches to the All Star Game.   The Cavs are in the lead, but since Mike Brown coached the AS game last year, he is out of the running this season.  So it comes down to Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando and for the most part,  these three head to head  games.  

Both the Celtics and Magic are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Celtics have won their last 2 and the Magic are coming off of a loss to the Grizzlies. Both teams last played on Monday. The Magic are a good home team with a 16-4 record, with one of those 4 losses coming at the hands of the Celtics on Christmas Day. The Celtics have been a good road team as well with a 16-6 record on the road.

The Celtics are finally getting close to full strength but are still missing a key player in Marquis Daniels. The Magic are at full strength as well. In their last meeting on Christmas Day, the Celtics pulled out a win without Paul Pierce as Tony Allen came through with 18 points and Perk held Dwight Howard to just 5 points. 5 Celtics scored in double figures and they will need another team effort to win this game.

With another tough game in Atlanta on Friday, the Celtics bench is going to have to come through for the team in order to allow the starters to get some rest so that they have something left for the next night.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
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Rajon Rondo 14.2 PPG 9.7 APG 2.5 SPG
Jameer Nelson 11.8 PPG 4.8 APG 0.8 SPG

Shooting Guard
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Ray Allen 15.9 PPG 2.9 APG .345 3P%
Vince Carter 16.4 PPG 3.0 APG .306 3P%

Small Forward
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Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG 4,8 RPG 3.6 APG
Matt Barnes 8.7 PPG 5.8 RPG 1.7 APG

Power Forward
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Keven Garnett 15.0 PPG 7.3 RPG 0.9 BPG
Rashard Lewis 14.7 PPG 4.9 RPG .5 BPG

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Kendrick Perkins 12.0 PPG 8.5 RPG 2.1 BPG
Dwight Howard 17.4 PPG 13.3 RPG 2.6 BPG

Key Matchups

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Kendrick Perkins vs Dwight Howard
This is the key matchup between these two teams. Slowing down Dwight Howard and keeping him off of his favorite spots around the basket is key to slowing down the Magic. Perk is one of the few centers in the league who has been able to cover Howard one on one. The Celtics need Perk to contain Howard with single coverage as the Magic have so many outside threats, it is dangerous to double off of any of them.

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Kevin Garnett vs Rashard Lewis
Another key matchup between these two teams is at the power forward spot. KG and Lewis both have the ability to play on the perimeter as well as taking the ball inside. If Perk does his job on Howard, the Magic will turn to Lewis for more of it's offense and so the Celtics will need KG to be on his game on the defensive end to keep Lewis from putting up big numbers.

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Rajon Rondo vs Jameer Nelson
Rondo sets the tone for the Celtics on both ends of the court. With Nelson back in the lineup, it will be a tough matchup for Rondo. He needs to come in focused and stay aggressive on offense while keeping Nelson from getting into his comfort zone.

Keys to the Game
Focus - The Celtics' focus has waivered at times and when it happens at the start of games, they fall into a hole that they spend the rest of the game digging out of. When it happens in the middle of games, they give up leads and allow other teams to go on a run. But, when the Celtics put their mind to it and focus especially on the defensive end, they can shut down any team in the league and win going away. The Celtics need to come out focused and keep their focus for 48 minutes.

Defense - Defense is the key to winning. Period. The Celtics have shown that they have the capability of shutting down teams and when they play tough defense, the offense runs more smoothly. But when they falter on defense, it seems as though their game suffers on both ends. Perk's defense inside will be especially important in this game to keep Howard from having a big game.

Rebound - Dwight Howard can take over a game on rebounds and putbacks alone if the Celtics don't box him out and crash the boards as a team. The Celtics have been giving up a lot of rebounds in recent games. They have to commit as a team to crashing the boards. Rebounding takes effort and desire and the Celtics must show both if they want to win this game.

Ball Movement - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. When they have their passing game going, they are hard to beat. If they resort to too much dribbling and too many iso's, it will allow the Magic defenses to set up and the Celtics will struggle to score. 

Focus and Bench Play

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