We had a good result siding with a Florida NBA team a week ago as the Miami Heat covered in last Thursday’s TNT opener against the L.A. Lakers. So we’ll again go with the opening game this week when Boston visits Orlando in a potential playoff preview. In a scheduling quirk, it’s the second game in a row for the Celtics against the Magic, but this can’t be considered a true home-and-home because Orlando had a matchup at Indiana on Tuesday sandwiched in between this rematch.
Celtics at Magic: How the Teams Enter
I’m not sure I have seen a team be such a polar opposite in back-to-back games than the Magic did to start this week.
On Monday in Beantown, Orlando was totally embarrassed in an 87-56 loss, easily the worst showing of any NBA team this year. The Magic, who were seven-point favorites, set franchise lows for points and field goals (16), with the latter also an NBA mark for futility. Orlando’s 24.6 percent field goal percentage also was a season-low and the fourth-lowest by any NBA team in the past 25 years. The Magic also had a season-high 25 turnovers, including a whopping 20 in the second half when they totaled all of 20 points and shot 18.6 percent from the field with five field goals.
What made that result even more stunning was Boston played without its entire starting backcourt in All-Stars Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen; their backups, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus; and reserve center Chris Wilcox. Those five had, entering Monday night, accounted for 40 percent of Boston’s scoring this season. The C’s had arguably the worst starting backcourt in Boston, if not recent NBA, history on Monday: Avery Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic.
Yet somehow Orlando bounced back very impressively on Tuesday night in stunning an Indiana team that had been one of two remaining unbeatens at home, 102-83. Dwight Howard was held to 14 points because of foul trouble but became the Magic’s all-time leading scorer. This time the Magic shot 49 percent from the field and became only the second team to reach triple figures against Indiana in 2012. The Pacers actually led 21-11 during the first quarter yet still lost by 19. Indiana had suffered only one larger margin of defeat in any game over the last decade in which it led by at least 10 points.
As mentioned above, Boston has been off since Monday.
Celtics at Magic: Betting Story Lines
The Celtics may be a little less battered for the rematch. For sure out again is Allen (ankle), who didn’t even travel to central Florida. Also out is the swingman Pietrus, a former Magic player. Questionable is center Jermaine O’Neal, who didn’t practice Wednesday. He has a knee problem. O’Neal played 18 minutes on Monday but didn’t score and fouled out -- he did have nine rebounds. Kevin Garnett could slide over to center and former Magic player Brandon Bass could start at power forward.
It’s possible that Dooling and Wilcox could return – Dooling likely would start for Allen if so. Wilcox normally wouldn’t be very relevant, but with O’Neal possibly out his value would increase to help contain Howard. But in the best news for Boston, Rondo is expected to play barring a setback. He has missed the past three games with a wrist injury.
Rondo should feast on struggling Magic counterpart Jameer Nelson, who has been nothing short of terrible most nights this season. Throw out a solid showing against the Lakers last Friday and in the past three games Nelson has totaled 11 points, 13 assists and shot 5-for-26 from the field. The Magic aren’t going to contend for anything if that continues.
Shooting guard Jason Richardson also is in a slump. In the past two games, he has seven combined points on 3-for-11 shooting and has missed all five three-point attempts. J.J. Redick has been consistently outplaying Richardson and the time might come soon that Redick moves into the starting lineup.
Health-wise, the Magic are in good shape for this one. Last season Orlando hosted Boston just once and won by eight.
Celtics at Magic Betting Odds and Key Trends
Orlando opened as an eight-point favorite with the total at 176 on NBA odds. The Celtics are 8-8 ATS overall this season and 4-2 on road. Magic are 10-7 ATS overall and 4-4 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: BOS 5-10-1, ORL 6-11.
Boston is 0-4 ATS in past four road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The C’s are 1-6 ATS in past seven after allowing 75 points or less in previous game. The Magic are 1-7 ATS in past eight following a win of more than 10 points. The under is 5-1-1 in Boston’s past seven vs. Eastern Conference. The under is 5-1 in Magic’s past six vs. teams with a losing record. The home team is 5-0-1 ATS in past six meetings.
NBA Picks: Celtics at Magic Betting Predictions
This could well be Howard’s last game against the Celtics as a member of the Magic. The teams only play once more, April 18 in Boston, and that’s obviously well after the NBA trading deadline. I think the whole Magic team wants to make a statement after that stinker on Monday night. Plus, obviously, Orlando has the health advantage. And without Allen to worry about on the three-point line, the Magic can just pack it in and not allow any points in the lane.
In addition, Boston’s only victory this season over a team with a winning record was that Monday nighter. It was a fluke result in many ways. I don’t think this one is close. Take Orlando and give the points. Also the ‘under’.
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