By A. Sherrod Blakely
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."