Celtics-Magic preview: C's hope for repeat performance

Celtics-Magic preview: C's hope for repeat performance

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.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press