The Boston Celtics play host to the Orlando Magic tonight at TD Garden in a the first of two games between the teams in three nights. The teams, which have been trending in opposite directions of late, will meet again on Sunday night in Orlando.
When the calendar turned to 2016, the Magic were sitting at 19-13, tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind first place Cleveland, while the Celtics were in eighth, at 18-14. The new year, however, has proven not to be so nice for the Magic, who has won just once in 12 tries in 2016 to fall to 20-24, and who now finds themselves all the way back in 12th place in the East standings. Despite a slow start to 2016 of their own, the Celtics have since found the touch, now the winners of their last four and seven of their last nine. The recent success enjoyed by the Celtics has the team in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind the fourth place Hawks and a game behind the third place Bulls.
Boston and Orlando have met once already this season, with Orlando pulling out a 110-91 victory at home on November 29. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who on Thursday was named an All-Star for the first time, led all players in the game with 20 points and seven assists. The All-Star missed Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury, but is expected to play tonight.
Orlando’s offense has struggled so far this season, owning the league’s seventh-worst offense, scoring an average of 98.8 points per game. Nikola Vucevic, the team’s leading scorer, is the third-lowest scorer among NBA team leaders in scoring with 16.7 points per game, ahead of only Memphis’ Marc Gasol (16.6) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (15.7). What the Magic lack on the offensive side of the ball, they make up for on the defensive side. The team allows just an average of 99.6 points per game, good for seventh in the NBA.
The C’s Eastern Conference-leading offense will look to put the Magic’s strong defense to the test when over the next two games and as they attempt to keep up their winning ways.
Tickets for tonight’s Celtics-Magic showdown, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m., at TD Garden are still available here. Sunday’s second-leg of the home-and-home is set for an unusual 6:00 p.m. tip-off from Orlando. Both games can be seen on CSN New England, with Ace Ticket Celtics Pregame Live 30 minutes before tip.