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Magic vs. Celtics preview: Two shorthanded teams return to the court (hopefully)

The walking wounded Magic take on a Celtics team that may have only eight players

Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

The Magic return to the court tonight (we hope) having had more than one day in between games for the first time since Christmas.

In a truncated season, with a team that has a lengthy injury list and little to no time to practice, the unexpected three days off must have felt like an All-Star break.

Unfortunately, it came at the expense of the Celtics dealing with health and safety protocols, with the first game of the Orlando-Boston matchup having been postponed on Wednesday.

It was the third straight postponement for the Celtics, who have now gone a full week without playing. Who exactly will be available for the Celtics could remain a mystery up until gametime, but we do know that they will be without Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Romeo Langford, Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. Questionable for Friday’s game are Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye and Javonte Green.

The Celtics very well may take the court with the minimum eight players required to play, led by the likes of Marcus Smart, Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson. It could also mean an extended look at Tacko Fall, much to the delight of Central Floridians. Our friends over at CelticsBlog took a look at what the strategy could be for the eight-man Celtics.

The Celtics, who enter on a four-game winning streak, boast the league’s 11th best offensive rating at 113.6 points per 100 possessions, when healthy.

The playing field will be somewhat leveled with the Magic having a rather extensive injury report of their own. Orlando, on a three-game losing streak, will be without Evan Fournier, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams, Chuma Okeke, Mo Bamba, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac.

The Magic have not won a game since Fultz went down with a torn ACL on Jan. 6, and are yet to reach the 100-point plateau in their three games without him, shooting just 41.3% from the field and 27.5% from deep. Cole Anthony, since assuming the starting role, is averaging 11.7 points and 2.3 assists, while shooting just 34.3% from the field, including a dismal 16.7% of his 4.0 three-point attempts per.

One saving grace last game was the play of Aaron Gordon, who has played 35 minutes in each of the last two games after being restricted while recovering from a hamstring injury. Against Milwaukee, Gordon had 21 points and a season-high 8 assists as he embraced his new role of point-forward in light of the Magic’s lack of point guard depth and productivity.

“At the end of the day, I’m a ballplayer,” Gordon recently told reporters. “I’ve been there. If the team needs me to step up and carry some of the load of initiating the offense, I’ve got to take it on myself and my own shoulders to get us more organized.”

That will include a healthy dose of paint touches for Nikola Vucevic, coming off a 28-point performance and 30-point performance in his last two games, as the Magic focus on running their offense through the middle, having lost Fultz’s ability to penetrate in the paint.

After the battle of two shorthanded teams, the Magic road trip continues in Brooklyn on Saturday. That’s where they will take on the Nets in what is expected to be James Harden’s debut.

Who: Orlando Magic (6-5) at Boston Celtics (7-3)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: TD Garden - Boston, Massachusetts

TV: Fox Sports Florida