It's time for a crucial three-game stretch that will test the C's mettle against some of the NBA's true elites. Boston first hits the road to take on Southeast leaders Orlando and Atlanta, followed by a return home to face the defending champion Lakers. First up, it's those pesky Magic, in a rematch of the C's impressive victory on Christmas Day.
Thursday, Jan. 28, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
Amway Arena, Orlando, Fla.
Celtics (29-13, first place in Atlantic Division)
Magic (29-16, second place in Southeast Division)
Thursday marks the third meeting between Boston and Orlando this season. The two teams split their first two contests, with the Magic winning 83-78 on Nov. 20 and the C's emerging victorious on Christmas. Strong defense was Boston's key in the last meeting: The C's held Orlando to just eight points in the second quarter en route to a 86-77 win against a Magic team that shot a season-worst 33.3 percent in the game, including 19.2 percent from 3-point range. Dwight Howard scored a season-low five points in the loss.
It hasn't been a happy new year at all for Orlando. You're looking at a Magic squad that has lost eight of its last 13 games and looks poised to fall out of serious contention in the Eastern Conference. This team isn't scoring like it used to, it's not surviving difficult road trips, it's just not winning. But then again, neither are the Celtics these days. This is a battle of two teams battling to make it through the dog days of winter but they both have the talent to come out on top when it's all said and done.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Jameer Nelson
Shooting guard: Vince Carter
Small forward: Matt Barnes
Power forward: Rashard Lewis
Center: Dwight Howard
The Celtics are 16-6 on the road this season.
They have 370 steals, third in the NBA behind Golden State and Denver.
Rajon Rondo had 12 assists in the Celtics' win over the Clippers on Monday. He now has 397, good for fourth in the NBA.
Paul Pierce's three-point percentage of 47.0 now ranks second only to the Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson.
Ray Allen took seven threes on Monday night, giving him 200 attempts for the year. He's eclipsed that 200 mark in 14 consecutive seasons.
Kendrick Perkins is averaging career highs in points per game (12.0), rebounds per game (8.5) and blocks per game (2.1).
Kevin Garnett has 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks in his first two games of 2010.
The Magic are 6-8 so far in 2010. They have one four-game losing streak and one three-game skid under their belts already.
They rank fourth in the NBA with 1,960 total rebounds.
Dwight Howard has 117 blocks. He is poised to lead the NBA for the second consecutive season.
Matt Barnes is averaging 5.8 rebounds per game, second on the team behind Howard and a personal career high as well.
Vince Carter has 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists against the Celtics in his career.
Rashard Lewis is averaging 14.7 points per game, his lowest offensive output since the 1999-2000 season.
Jameer Nelson is averaging 11.6 points and 4.9 assists per game in January.
This is Kevin Garnett's third start since making his return last Friday from a hyperextended right knee.
Brian Scalabrine has been cleared to play after missing two games with a separated right shoulder.
Marquis Daniels is about two weeks away from returning to the Celtics after undergoing thumb surgery in December.
Vince Carter missed three games earlier this month with a left shoulder injury.
Jameer Nelson underwent left knee surgery in late November, causing him to miss more than a month.
Adonal Foyle underwent knee surgery in October. He is out for the season.
On Jan. 28, 2003, Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker were both named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. It was the first time in 12 years that a pair of Celtics had been named All-Stars in consecutive seasons. Six years later, Pierce would outdo himself by becoming part of a trio of C's stars — alongside Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — to earn back-to-back All-Star selections.
"I can’t say I get worried, because it’s not like you say you’re getting traded and you have to move to Mars. I don’t look at it like that. I’ve been there before. I’ve been in a situation where I expected to be traded and I was traded. If one day I’m traded and told I have to move, then there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s the nature of this job, but the family is something I obviously have to deal with first."
–Ray Allen, in Wednesday's Boston Herald, on hearing his name in trade rumors that have surfaced this week.
Kevin Garnett makes the grade.
Ray Allen wants to stay.
How about some baby names?
The Magic lost to Memphis.
Dwight Howard wants the ball.
Are the Magic taking too many threes?
Gilbert Arenas is done for the year.
The Rockets faded late against the Nuggets.
The New Jersey Nets … won?
These next couple games will be a true test for the Celtics. Not only will they have to prove they can beat a pair of Eastern Conference titans in Orlando and Atlanta, but they'll have to do it on the road, too. Once they return home, they've got the defending NBA champions waiting for them. This is a grueling stretch but if the Celtics make it out alive, they'll be stronger in the end.
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