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NBA Basketball

Irving questionable as Celtics host Magic

BOSTON -- There is a second pro sporting event in the Boston area Sunday.

Two hours before the New England Patriots, seeking the sixth championship of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era, host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC title game, the Boston Celtics host the floundering Orlando Magic at TD Garden.

The Celtics, in danger of suffering a third straight loss -- all at home -- for the first time all season, face a team that has lost eight of its last nine and 17 of its last 19.

The Magic (13-32) were coming off a big home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, rallying from 23 points down at Cleveland on Thursday night, only to suffer a last-second defeat.

"I'm disappointed for our guys," Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. "I felt like they deserved the victory. We didn't get the breaks down the stretch."

On the same night, the Celtics, playing without Kyrie Irving, had their worst offensive game of the season and fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on the parquet court.

"We were very sloppy, dribble didn't take us anywhere, not moving the ball, not getting to spots," coach Brad Stevens said. "And when Kyrie's out, you've got to be even better at those things."

Boston guard Marcus Smart called the loss "unacceptable."

The Celtics won the first two games of the season series with Orlando and has captured six straight over the Magic. More importantly for Sunday, Boston has won 14 straight and 17 of the last 18 against the Magic at TD Garden.

There was no word on whether Irving, who runs the Boston offense, will return for this game, the last before the Celtics head out for a four-game western trip. Irving, however, did practice Saturday, and Stevens said positive things. Irving said he was "ready to go out there and play."

The Celtics, who have been struggling on the offensive end -- even with Irving -- this month, added shooting small forward Jarell Eddie to a 10-day contract. Eddie has played in 31 NBA games with the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns.

Stevens said Eddie, who had a brief two-day stay with the Celtics three years ago, was added for the trip because of injury and illness (Aron Baynes was out sick Saturday) on his roster.

"Obviously, as we went through this past week, as the flu has gone through our team, Kyrie and his shoulder," Stevens said, "we wanted to make sure as we get ready to head west that we had a full complement of guys."

Orlando's Arron Afflalo will miss the second game of his two-game suspension for throwing a punch at Minnesota's Nemaja Bjelica.

The loss Thursday night came on a controversial foul call on Shelvin Mack against Isaiah Thomas. The NBA ruled that the call was correct and Thomas hit two free throws with 11.2 seconds left for the winning points.

The Magic's rebounding problems, which have been worse the past 11 games without the injured Nikola Vucevic, remains a season-long struggle for a struggling team.

"I still think there's a lot of room for improvement on the defensive glass," Vogel told the Orlando Sentinel. "We continue to hit the guys over the head with the concept of wiping out crashers (opponents who try to collect offensive rebounds) and making them like an offensive lineman, trying to clear a path for a running back. That's got to be the goal. We too often watch the ball when we're under the rim and let the opposing teams get a running jump to the glass. So we're still improving there."

Updated January 20, 2018

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