The Celtics will make their first home appearance since Dec. 2 when the Orlando Magic come to Boston for the first game of a two-game set between the teams on Friday night.
Game 2 will be Sunday, also in Boston.
The Celtics still hold the NBA’s top mark (22-7) after a 4-2 trip that included a victory over Phoenix and losses to Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers. Tuesday’s 122-118 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers was a positive finish to the Celtics’ long swing.
“Every time we lose a game it can’t be, like, the end of the world,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said after his team’s 113-93 loss to the Clippers on Monday.
The message was received as the Celtics improved to 1-3 in overtime games.
After finishing strong out west, Mazzulla’s team will look to build its league lead entering a seven-game homestand to finish the 2022 calendar year.
“This trip taught us a lot in the sense of what we need to do to win games in different ways,” Mazzulla said.
Center Robert Williams (knee surgery) is expected to be back in Boston’s mix this weekend for the first time this season.
“He’s definitely made huge strides, especially in the last week and a half or so,” Mazzulla said in a recent Boston radio interview. “Just kind of getting (him) back into a simulation of what that season is like.”
Center Al Horford also is expected to rejoin the Celtics on Friday. He missed three games on the just-concluded six-game road trip while in health and safety protocol, then missed consecutive games at Los Angeles for personal reasons.
Star forward Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 44 points vs. the Lakers, including seven of Boston’s last 12 points in regulation to finish the highest scoring effort ever by a Celtic on the road against the Lakers.
Tatum was just 7 of 20 from the field against the Clippers on Monday, though he did have a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“It took everything: clutch steals, rebounds, stops, baskets from everybody, everything we had to go the right way and give ourselves a chance,” Tatum said.
Orlando has had a season full of streaks, as its current run of four wins in a row follows a nine-game skid that spanned more than two weeks.
The Magic will begin a four-game trip after Wednesday’s 135-124 win over Atlanta, which extended the team’s longest win streak since early in the 2020-21 season.
“These guys are just continuing to learn to trust each other,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “The rhythm that they’re finding, the continuity, being willing to make the open pass.”
Against the Hawks, Franz Wagner scored 24 points to lead an offense that had a 50-point first quarter, the highest-scoring period in Magic history.
Bol Bol had 21 points, Paolo Banchero added 20 points and six rebounds, and Markelle Fultz finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
“I think it just shows how talented this team is,” Fultz said. “What we’re capable of when we’re locked in on both ends of the floor. Being unselfish and again, we’re just out there competing and having fun, and that’s what you see.”
–Field Level Media