Last year, the C's played host to the Lakers on Christmas Day, and it didn't go well, with L.A. snapping Boston's 12-game winning streak at the TD Garden. This year, there's pride on the line again — it's the last two champions of the Eastern Conference going head-to-head, with the winner getting not just bragging rights but also frontrunner status in the conference playoff chase. The top spot in the East standings would be a nice gift this holiday season.
Friday, Dec. 25, 2:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.
Celtics (22-5, 1st place in Atlantic Division)
Magic (22-7, 1st place in Southeast Division)
The Magic got the best of Boston last month, with Vince Carter putting up a 26-6-6 and Orlando winning its fourth straight game, 83-78, on Nov. 20. Last season, the two teams split 2-2 in the regular season, but in the playoffs the Magic came back from an early deficit to defeat the C's in seven games and advance to the East finals. The Celtics are still looking for revenge for that one.
Once again, these two teams are the class of the Eastern Conference. The Magic are a different team, no doubt — Carter is their new leading scorer, and three-fifths of their starting five from last year's playoffs are gone. But the Magic are still a formidable opponent — Howard is still a beast in the middle, and Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick continue to give Orlando some firepower on the perimeter. This ballclub is a championship contender yet again.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Tony Allen
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Jameer Nelson
Shooting guard: Vince Carter
Small forward: Mickael Pietrus
Power forward: Rashard Lewis
Center: Dwight Howard
The Celtics are 12-1 on the road this season.
They are third in the NBA with 242 steals.
Kendrick Perkins is shooting 63.9 percent from the field, best in the NBA.
Ray Allen is shooting 92.7 percent from the free-throw line, second-best in the league.
Rajon Rondo leads the league with 2.7 steals per game.
Kevin Garnett is averaging 19.5 points and 12.6 rebounds against Orlando in his career.
Rasheed Wallace is averaging 4.2 rebounds per game this season, a career low.
The Magic are 15-4 against Eastern Conference opponents.
They lead the NBA with 305 threes.
Dwight Howard leads the league with 72 blocks.
Vince Carter leads the Magic with 18.6 points per game.
Jameer Nelson has 5.1 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game.
Mickael Pietrus has 11.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game against the Celtics in his career.
Rashard Lewis is averaging 15.0 points at home.
Celtics Kevin Garnett has a bruised right thigh. He missed Tuesday's win over Indiana but is expected to start Friday.
Glen Davis is out with a broken thumb. He hopes to return in early January. Magic Adonal Foyle was activated from a knee injury of his own on Dec. 16.
Paul Pierce may miss the next two weeks after complications developed from minor right knee surgery Wednesday.
Kevin Garnett has a bruised right thigh. He missed Tuesday's win over Indiana but is expected to start Friday.
Glen Davis is out with a broken thumb. He hopes to return in early January.
Adonal Foyle was activated from a knee injury of his own on Dec. 16.
In 2008, the L.A. Lakers halted the Celtics' 12-game winning streak, ruining Christmas with a 92-83 victory at the TD Garden. Kobe Bryant had 27 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who beat Boston for the first time since the Celtics won the '08 NBA Finals over L.A. in six games.
"He looked great, he'll be fine, so that's the best news. Honestly, I told Kevin if I didn't think he was moving well today, I was going to set him tomorrow, too. We're looking for the long term. Tomorrow is a great game and all that, but we have bigger plans than tomorrow. We want to win tomorrow, we want to win every game we play, but we want to be healthy."
—Doc Rivers, on Boston.com on Thursday, on the improving health of Kevin Garnett.
Two-thirds of the Big Three is on the mend.
Paul Pierce could be back soon.
Jameer Nelson hobbles back into action.
Magic spouses share magic moments.
Pau Gasol has a new contract. Is Kobe Bryant next?
Elton Brand questions the Sixers.
Gilbert Arenas may be armed and dangerous.
Is there anything better than a great holiday and a great matchup between two of the league's best? This is a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, and win or lose, it's sure to be a great game. The C's will have an uphill battle, though — they're on the road, they're coming off a loss in their last meeting, and they're without their captain, Paul Pierce. This one won't be easy. But if the C's come away with a win, they'll have earned their perch atop the Eastern Conference standings. No better holiday gift than that.
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