Sports

Celtics shift focus to visiting Magic

(SportsNetwork.com) - The suddenly-hot Boston Celtics will shoot for three consecutive victories Friday night when they welcome the Orlando Magic to TD Bank Garden.

The C's have won two straight, four of five and 11 of the last 17. Boston is very much alive in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth seed, currently held by the Miami Heat.

On Wednesday, the Celtics picked up a signature victory, a 95-92 home triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Marcus Smart's three-point play with 52.2 seconds left put Boston ahead and the Celtics held on for the great win. Back from a three-game absence caused by an elbow injury, Avery Bradley put up 17 points and buried a key jumper that put Boston up by three with 7.9 seconds left.

After Mike Conley badly missed a 3-point try on the other end, the surging Celtics inched closer in the Eastern Conference playoff race with their seventh win in 10 games.

Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Celtics.

What made Wednesday's victory all the more impressive was that Isaiah Thomas missed the game with an ailing back and elbow. He's not expected to play Friday, or Saturday.

"The doctors said they've never really seen a bruise like that in that area," Thomas said after practice Thursday, a practice for which he was not a participant. "I was scared it was something, because I've never felt that pain before. When I watched the video, my body just freezes up."

The Magic have lost two in a row and nine straight on the road. Orlando's last victory as the visitor came on Jan. 12 in Chicago.

The skids were extended on Wednesday thanks to a 97-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Nikola Vucevic ended with 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Magic, while Tobias Harris scored 17 points and Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo each tallied 14 points.

"I want to feel a win right now for our group, it always helps," said Magic coach James Borrego. "I'm proud of our guys, their effort, I thought they played really well tonight."

Milwaukee's Michael Carter-Williams sank a pair of free throws to break a 91-91 tie. After Harris missed a layup at the other end, Giannis Antetokounmpo threw down a dunk. Khris Middleton added two free throws following a missed 3- pointer by Harris.

The final frame had seven lead changes and two ties.

The teams split two meetings this season with the host prevailing each time. Including the postseason, the Celtics have won nine straight against Orlando in Boston.