BOSTON – The last time Boston and Orlando met, the Celtics absolutely ran them out of the gym on the way towards a 30-point win which is still their most decisive victory this season.
Not a lot has changed since then for either team.
The Celtics (27-18) continue to trend between solid and spectacular most nights, while the Magic -- a team that loaded up this summer for what they anticipated would be a run towards the playoffs -- continue to rank among the worst teams in the East.
That’s why tonight’s game is indeed a battle between two teams, two franchises for that matter, heading in opposite directions.
Boston is coming off its best win of the season, a 120-109 victory over the Houston Rockets who came in with the third-best record in the NBA. Meanwhile, Orlando (18-29) has lost its last two games and 11 of its last 14.
And yet as bad as the Magic have played, first-year coach Frank Vogel isn’t anywhere close to throwing in the towel on his team’s season.
Vogel, a former Celtics video coordinator, spoke to reporters in Orlando prior to the team departing for Boston Thursday afternoon.
“Everybody’s writing us off,” he said. “We can’t write ourselves off. We can’t quit on it. We’ve got to keep driving, keep driving, stay in it, keep going and see what we make happen.”
Regardless of what his players may think of their chances at the postseason, Orlando has the potential to give Boston problems because of their length and size in the frontcourt.
Orlando’s probable starters for tonight’s game are Aaron Gordon, a high-flying 6-foot-9 runner-up in last year’s Slam Dunk contest during all-star weekend; 6-10 Serge Ibaka and 7-0 Nikola Vucevic who ranks among the league’s best point-rebound, double-double performers. And coming off the bench they have shot-blocking specialist Bismack Biyombo.
The Celtics are coming off an impressive +18 (48-30) rebounding performance against Houston. But rebounding that well has been a rarity for the Celtics this season.
And their rebounding struggles have been particularly problematic on the defensive boards where their defensive rebounding percentage (.739) is dead-last in the NBA.
“We’re going to have to get, get bodies on people every night, and there’s some nights where we’ll get rebounded over the top,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We just can’t get killed, and that’s the bottom line. We just can’t get killed on the glass.”