Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic (+7)
Tip Off: Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 pm EST
It’s 11:15 pm on a Friday night and I’m thinking hard about the Orlando Magic (0-2). Why do I love Orlando? It’s too early to break out the advanced metrics, which I’ve grown accustomed to using to inflate any random opinion I hold about any sports team from football to cricket, but the Magic have my heart because they closed out the 2021-2022 season with strong defense and a solid young backcourt that can distribute the ball and score points.
I love Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs and the addition of Paolo Banchero, who stands to make an immediate impact as the first overall pick in the 2022 draft, make this team incredibly watchable. This is a great matchup as the Boston Celtics (2-0) travel to the Orlando for their third game of the season.
Money on the Magic
Orlando caught the Detroit Pistons (1-1) on the road for the opener and lost a close one, 113-109. They took another one on the chin in Atlanta tonight with a 108-98 loss that looked less promising than the Detroit game.
Banchero put up 27 points in the opener against Detroit, shooting 61% from the field and 71% (5 of 7) from the cherry. Suggs scored 21 points in the game, with a good contribution from beyond the three (66%). Wagner, who the team ran their offense through last season, shot 44% from the field and 2 of 6 from three point range (33%). Had Wagner heated up, the Magic might be 1-1. They distributed the ball fairly well with 21 assists, but the Magic turned it over 18 times. Wagner led the team with 5 turnovers and Banchero wasn’t far behind him with four. They’re both averaging 4 turnovers per game this year. More on those turnovers later.
Defensively, we have to start with the big men: Bol Bol (C) and Wendell Carter, Jr. (PF). Carter, Jr. is averaging 9.5 defensive rebounds per game. Bol is brining down 3 rebounds per game. 1.5 of Bol’s board are on the offensive side. Banchero has also made an impact with 10.5 rebounds per game. The offensive rebounds are an issue, but Banchero’s presence on the glass is encouraging.
Are the Celts Tired?
I’ve caught both Celtics games this season and they look exactly like they should: playoff contenders with a chance to run the Eastern Conference. They opened the season with the Sixers and beat them 126-117 and then traveled down to Miami and won another won fairly easily, 111-104. Those are two tough opponents and the Celtics handled them like they are the kings of the East. This team is for real. Jayson Tatum is a beast. Watch out.
My main concern with the Celtics in this game is the fatigue factor. The NBA season is long and after two high stakes games against important Eastern Conference foes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the Celtics’ stars have their minutes reduced. NBA teams will often take their foot off the gas against a lesser opponent in favor of resting their impact players on back-to-back nights. Nobody cares if they blow out a team. The Magic aren’t a threat.
Brown and Tatum are dominating the floor at the start of the season. Brown is averaging 31 points per game, shooting 61% from the field and 40% from three. Turnovers are still an issue for Brown, as he’s averaging 3 per game so far this season, but he’s more than making up for those in offensive production.
Tatum is averaging 32 points per game for his part, shooting 54% from the field. He’s been ice cold from three (28%), but is averaging 7.5 defensive rebounds per game. Tatum likes to be physical. He lives in the midrange and loves to crash the boards. He dominated the Heat tonight and it was a lot of fun watching him play. But how many minutes will he see against an inferior Magic team? He’s leading the Celts in most categories and is averaging 36 minutes over these last two games. Brown is averaging 37 minutes. I imagine their minutes hover closer to 28 in the Magic game, which can be great if you’re in love with the Magic and want to take the 7 points.
The Celtics boasted the most efficient defense in the 2021-2022 season. Marcus Smart won defensive player of the year and earned a reputation as a pesky point guard with a nose for steals. He’s averaging 2 steals thus far, but the Sixers and Heat don’t turn the ball over as much as the Magic do. Look for him to feast on a young backcourt and the rookie, Banchero. The Magic will run their offense through Banchero and Wagner, who have struggle to take care of the ball so far.
The absence of Robert Williams in the front court for the Celtics hasn’t seemed to hurt them yet. Grant Williams hasn’t been a huge factor through two games, but he sets the tone on defense and on the glass. He can also score when given the opportunity. The Magic’s strength is the backcourt, but I wonder if they can get Carter, Jr. and Bol going with a weakened Celtics front court. It’s worth a consideration, although it probably won’t matter.
I love catching 7 here in a tricky spot for a fatigued Celtics team. The Magic are going to have to clean up a lot of their game in order to pull the upset, but this should be an opportunity for the Celtics to rest some impact players and let the other guys run the game. Look for reduced minutes from Tatum and Brown, another big game from Banchero, and a too-close-for-comfort win for the mighty Celtics. Give me the points here.