Celtics and Magic will play the second game of three between the two clubs this season. Boston is coming off an inspiring win against Houston on Wednesday. While Orlando is coming off a loss to Chicago on Tuesday. Game starts at just after 7:30.
Orlando continues to struggle with their rebuild
The last time the Magic were a winning basketball team was in 2011-2012. Since then they’ve put together four losing season, and look to be adding a fifth this year. They have some talented young guys in Gordon, Hezonja, and Payton. They have spent money on free agents like Jeff Green and Biyombo. They’ve also traded for an All-Star caliber player in Ibaka. Even with all that effort, they still struggle to win games over the course of a season.
First year coach, Frank Vogel is a quality coach. So, it is a little surprising to see the Magic struggle to put things together. One of the problems may be Vogel trying to use Aaron Gordon similar to how he used Paul George in Indiana. Gordon’s skills seem to be best suited at the PF position, but the roster as constructed forces Gordon to play the SF position. Ibaka is playing well this season at PF, but he’s also a free agent this summer. His pending free agency may encourage management to look to trade Ibaka, and move Gordon back to PF.
For now, Orlando’s size does matchup well against Boston
With Gordon at SF, Ibaka at PF, and Vucevic at C, the Magic have a lot of size. They’ve also started Jeff Green at SG recently with the absence of Fournier. Augustin was another starter that has recently missed time, which led to reinserting Elfrid Payton back into the starting lineup. Basically, the Magic’s starters may have a combined foot-and-a-half or more height advantage on the Celtics starters. It will be interesting to see how that plays out early on, and if adjustments are made from either side.
Speaking of the Celtics’ Starters
Coach Stevens made a couple big changes to the starting rotations against Houston. He started Jaylen Brown and Jonas Jerebko in place of Amir and Smart. The results were a little shaky early on, but proved to be positive as the night progressed. The key to that lineup change was getting Smart back to running the point with the second unit. Smart’s playmaking ability has taken a big step forward this season, and it was sorely missed while he was starting in place of Bradley. It will be interesting to see what Stevens’ starting rotation will be against Orlando tonight.
Rozier is returning to form
Terry Rozier can be a major asset coming off the bench. In the offseason, and early on in the regular season, Rozier was performing at a high level. Offensively, Rozier is a serious challenge to guard. He’s quick, athletic, has great length, and can create space easily. Defensively, his length and footwork allows him to get steals, and disrupt plays. The challenge for Rozier is decision making. He can create the space to get an open lane to the hoop, but doesn’t always make good decisions once the defense collapses. Rozier can get space to get off a jump shot, but it’s usually an isolation play, and outside of the normal offense.
Terry’s confidence has been rising, and he’s been making better decisions. After a long stretch where he was mostly ineffective, Rozier seems to have taken a step forward. His outside shot looks very confident, and he’s draining threes in the clutch. He still needs to make sure he plays within the team’s offense, and reduces the offensive possessions where he dribbles around for fifteen seconds, only to shoot a step back jumper. Right now, the only thing holding Rozier back is his ability to get in the flow of the offense. Once his feel for the game maturates, he will be a valuable two way player for Boston, and make the team that much tougher to play against.
The Offense feeds off the Defense
The Celtics play so much better when they focus on defense. Last year’s Celtics team was all about using their defense as a catalyst to spur their offense. Whether it was getting steals and beating the opposition’s defense down the floor, or just wearing the opposition out, the defense was the fuel. This season, it seems as though the Celtics thought they were good enough to win with less effort on defense. Like they could just out-shoot their opponents, and win games that way. That may have worked here and there, but it’s also led to some embarrassing loses. On Wednesday, against Houston, the Celtics looked much better on defense. It will be interesting to see if they continue to be more focused defensively tonight against Orlando.