The Boston Celtics find themselves once again hoping for good news on an injury to a key starter as they kick off a three-game road trip against the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
The Celtics are coming off a 119-95 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, a game in which forward Jayson Tatum exited in the third quarter with a strained right groin. Coach Brad Stevens indicated postgame that the injury didn’t appear serious and that Tatum would undergo tests.
“It just didn’t sound like it was too bad. I’m not too concerned about it,” coach Brad Stevens said of Tatum, who is listed by the team as questionable to play on Friday.
Over the past 10 days, Boston has had swingman Jaylen Brown miss two games with a thumb sprain and guard Kemba Walker sit out one with a sore knee. Both returned in a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, but Brown sustained a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter of that contest and missed the win over the Grizzlies.
Brown is listed as questionable by the team for Friday’s game, while centers Enes Kanter (right hip contusion) and Robert Williams (hip) have been ruled out.
The Magic, meanwhile, have lost three of four since an upset victory over the Lakers on Jan. 15. Orlando fell 120-114 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday to drop to 13-9 at home.
The meeting will be the first of four between the Celtics and Magic this season; they play again in Boston on Feb. 5 before two matchups in April. Orlando has won four of the last five in the series.
The Celtics’ recent rash of injuries began during a stretch of six losses in eight games, but the team has restored order of late with its big wins over the Lakers and Grizzlies. Wednesday’s game against Memphis saw Boston rattle off 23 unanswered points in the second quarter and lead by as much as 38 while being able to rest all its starters in the fourth quarter.
“Each game we try to get better as a team, but these last couple games for us, we’ve really been focusing on ourselves and our defensive game and we’ve been doing a good job,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “I’m proud of these guys. Every night we try and come down and give the best effort that we can, and that’s all we can ask for.”
The Celtics will need that kind of effort against the Magic, who lead the league in limiting opponents to an average of 104.3 points per game. Orlando plays its next four against some of the NBA’s best teams, hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday before a home-and-home series with the Miami Heat.
Against the Thunder, the Magic got within one on an Aaron Gordon 3-pointer with 4:58 remaining before fading down the stretch. Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 11 rebounds in the contest, while Terrence Ross led the way with 26 points off the bench.
“We had a chance. … Even though we had some turnovers and they made some tough shots, we still had a chance to tie or take the lead,” Ross said. “We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Orlando received a scare in the contest when Markelle Fultz left to receive an X-ray on his left ring finger. Fultz returned with his fingers taped and finished with 11 points.
–Field Level Media