The Boston Celtics continue their trip through Florida with a matchup against the Orlando Magic. The game features two teams heading in very different directions as the regular season comes to a close next week. The Celtics are in a position to rest their starters and get ready for the playoffs, while the Magic are trying to figure out what assets they have for next season.
In the first meeting between these teams, the Celtics pulled out a 116-110 victory in overtime as Rajon Rondo just missed a triple-double. The second meeting was all Boston as the Celtics cruised through the game with a commanding lead.
This matchup features more unknowns than the other games with the Celtics focusing on the playoffs rather than the rest of the regular season.
Doc Rivers admitted to such, according to ESPN Boston:
Celtics coach Doc Rivers lamented a need to rest bodies, but Boston appears resigned to settling for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will rest players as much as possible.
"I don't love being in that situation, honestly, I'd love not to be, but that's the situation we're in," Rivers said after Wednesday's loss to the Nets.
Time: Saturday, April 13, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Amway Center, Orlando
Team Records: Celtics (40-38), Magic (20-59)
TV Info: FSFL & CSN NE
Celtics Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PG Rajon Rondo, Knee, Out for Season
C Jared Sullinger, Back, Out for Season
SF Paul Pierce, Ankle, Out for April 12 vs. MIA
PF Kevin Garnett, Ankle, Out for April 12 vs. MIA
Magic Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PG Jameer Nelson, Ankle, Questionable
PF Glen Davis, Foot, Out for Season
SG Arron Afflalo, Hamstring, Out of Season
Key Storyline: Who Plays for Boston
The biggest storyline for the Celtics is which players suit up. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been battling injuries, and it's unclear whether or not they take the floor against the Magic. Both players are dealing with ankle issues that have hurt their already limited mobility. While the injuries are a concern, they aren't a full-blown issue yet.
The Celtics need to turn their attention toward the playoffs and a likely matchup against the New York Knicks. It probably makes sense for the Celtics to rest their aging veterans in hopes of getting their legs back for the playoffs. They will need every contribution they can get from Pierce and Garnett.
If neither Garnett nor Pierce play in this game, it could turn into a snooze fest with nothing really at sake.
Key Matchup: Nikola Vucevic vs. Celtics Bigs
Since arriving in Orlando, Nikola Vucevic has become a major threat for the Magic. The 7'0", 240-pound center has been one of the bright spots for the struggling Magic team. On the season, he's averaging 12.9 points and and 11.9 rebounds per game.
Over the last five games, Vucevic has absolutely dominated. He's averaging 19 points and 16.6 rebounds per contest, despite the Magic going 1-4 over those games. The biggest question in this game is who is going to stop the Swiss big man.
Even if Garnett plays, the Celtics will still be outsized. Their best options to defend Vucevic are Shavlik Randolph, Chris Wilcox and D.J. White. The first two are two inches shorter and weigh less than Vucevic. White outweighs Vucevic by about 10 pounds, but is three inches shorter.
Vucevic hasn't had troubles lately imposing his will and should be expected to have another big game against a small Boston team.
X-Factor: Tobias Harris
Since being traded to Orlando, Harris has threatened to become a star. With the Milwaukee Bucks, Harris was used sparingly, averaging 4.9 points and two rebounds per game while playing 11.6 minutes per night. In Orlando, he's averaging 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in 35.9 minutes per contest.
While his scoring has been quite impressive, his overall activity is his biggest attribute. Harris has been a rebounding machine. In addition, Harris is averaging 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per game with the Magic. He's finding ways to impact games in every way.
If the Magic can get a big performance from Harris, they should be able to compete in this game. If Pierce and Garnett don't play, the chances of getting a victory are even higher. Whether winning the game is worth it remains up for debate.
What will be the outcome of the game?
The Celtics seem set on getting healthy and focusing their attention on the postseason. That should open the door for Orlando to compete in this game. At the same time, the Magic don't have much to play for, other than pride, either. Winning could actually be a detriment as they might miss their chance at the first-overall pick.
As long as Jeff Green is playing, the Celtics have a good shot to win the game. Green has come into his own since being inserted into the starting lineup. In the last 10 games, Green is averaging just over 19 points, including a 34-point outburst against the Detroit Pistons on April 3.
While Vucevic and Harris will power Orlando toward being competitive, Green will shut it down for the Celtics and make sure they escape with a victory.
Celtics 92, Magic 86