Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference in part because of their ability to remain poised under pressure.

It is a quality trait that Orlando center Dwight Howard recognizes not only in the Celtics, but his own club as well.

They certainly played that way on Christmas when they rallied from six points down to start the fourth quarter before defeating the C's 86-78.

In that game, Orlando kept the Celtics without a field goal for the final 3:21.

"We know how to win," Howard said. "With the guys we brought back, Hedo (Turkoglu) and the new guys, we just know how to play. We didn't get frustrated that we were down. We just played. That's what good teams do."

One of the keys to tonight's game will be how Howard handles Shaquille O'Neal.

When the two teams met on Christmas, O'Neal was a non-factor with just two points in 13 foul-plagued minutes.

Howard had foul problems of his own, but still managed to play 33 minutes and score six points to go with 11 rebounds.

"He's a big guy," Howard said of O'Neal. "You have to meet him early, don't let him get good position. That's about it. He doesn't move like he used to. You just don't want him to catch it under the basket."

If O'Neal can play more and the Celtics get Kevin Garnett back following a nine-game absence because of a lower right leg injury, the C's will be well-positioned to exact revenge on their Christmas day loss.

"It should be a good game," Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu told CSNNE.com. "They have a lot of experience, good players. It won't be easy beating them again."

Howard echoed similar sentiments.

"They're a great team," he said. "They're smart; they're veterans. They know how to win. That's the challenge right there. You never see those guys flustered or worried about what's going on around them. They just continue to do what they do."

Boston is hoping "to do what they do" with Kevin Garnett in the lineup.

Garnett has missed Boston's last nine games with a muscle strain in his lower right leg. He was able to go through all of Boston's practice on Saturday, which was among the things head coach Doc Rivers was looking for.

Following practice, Rivers said Garnett would probably play unless something unexpected happens with his body.

Although the C's have managed to win without Garnett, it was clear that the injuries were starting to take a toll on the team.

"Kevin's our it's like losing your best defensive player, your best talker and your quarterback," Rivers said.

He quipped, "outside of that, it's not that big a deal."

The same isn't necessarily true about when these two teams meet.

While Rivers acknowledges that it is just another regular season game, "there's history between us and all that stuff; you always want to win. The games don't literally have meaning, but guys get fired up for games like this or at least I hope they do. I like games like this. It's good for us."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Has Isaiah Thomas proven that he deserves a max deal?

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Gary Tanguay, Lou Merloni, Michael Felger and Bob Ryan debate if Isaiah Thomas has proven that he deserves a max deal with the Celtics.

Bulls' point guard counsel spun to Isaiah Canaan in Game 4

Bulls' point guard counsel spun to Isaiah Canaan in Game 4

CHICAGO – The point guard carousel continues to swirl for the Chicago Bulls who will now give Isaiah Canaan a try as they continue to search for a suitable replacement for Rajon Rondo (right thumb) who is out indefinitely.

Canaan, a seldom-used backup this season, came off the bench and provided a major spark for the Bulls in 34 fairly productive minutes. 

He led all Chicago bench players with 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting which included a 3-for-7 showing from 3-point range. 

More than anything, Canaan looked like a serviceable playmaker which is a huge, huge upgrade to what Chicago got out of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams. 

Grant, who struggled mightily in Game 3 as well, was not ready for the moment. He couldn’t make shots, slow down Isaiah Thomas or impact the game other than negatively for the Bulls which is why Fred Hoiberg benched him after less than five minutes of court time. The dude had a plus/minus of -10 in less than five minutes (four minutes, 41 seconds to be exact).

The Bulls will need better play than that to have any shot at winning, which is why Hoiberg named Canaan the starter and not Michael Carter-Williams who like Grant, struggled in Games 3 and 4. 

“I really thought he (Canaan) did a good job picking up the ball and pressuring the point a full 94 feet," Hoiberg said. "I thought his initial ball pressure was good. We have to get off to a much better start if we want to have any chance of winning another game in this series. That’s two games in a row now we’ve gotten ourselves down 20 points and fought all the way back. Game 3 cut it to 1. Last night we took the lead and then had five empty possessions in a row where they scored on the other end. You spend so much energy digging out of that hole. We need to do a better job of using that energy in a better start."

Playing with energy may become an issue for Canaan who readily admits that not being in the regular rotation while racking up a bunch of DNP-CDs this season made it more challenging for him in Game 4 to get into a good flow. 

"The way I play, I was more worried about my wind,” Canaan told reporters. “God helped me out as much as possible. I’m looking forward to that next game and getting that rhythm back."