Following their longest losing streak in six seasons, the Boston Celtics are unbeaten since their star point guard went down.
The Orlando Magic, meanwhile, can’t seem to stop their losing ways. Now they could be without two key starters.
The Celtics will try to get back to the .500 mark and win their third straight without Rajon Rondo on Friday night when they host the reeling Orlando Magic.
With Rondo sidelined with what the team believed was a hyperextended right knee, Boston snapped a six-game losing streak with a 100-98 double-overtime victory over Miami on Sunday.
The Celtics (22-23), however, learned Rondo had a torn ACL that will keep him out the rest of the season before winning their second in a row, 99-81, over Sacramento on Wednesday.
To make matters worse, Boston learned Friday that it would be without another member of its rotation for the season. Jared Sullinger, averaging 7.7 points and 7.1 rebounds since Christmas, had lumbar disc surgery and won’t be ready until training camp.
That’s just another blow to a team that figures to have its hands full holding its three-game lead over Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to play overall, just simple, good basketball,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Pass the ball. Move the ball.”
Without Rondo, Rivers has moved Courtney Lee, normally a shooting guard, into the starting lineup the past two games. Lee has totaled 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting with five assists in those starts.
Four players, however, had at least three assists against the Kings as the Celtics totaled 22, giving them 45 in two games – just shy of their 23.0 season average.
The Celtics’ bench has also stepped up, outscoring opponents’ reserves 89-54 the past two contests. Substitutes Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jason Terry combined for 36 of the group’s 50 points on Wednesday.
“It has to come from a number of people,” said forward Paul Pierce, who led six players in double figures with 16 points. “A lot of people have opportunities to step up. The way we move the ball, the way we spread the court, that’s the way we need to play.”
The Celtics should able to find some open looks against the struggling Magic (14-31), who allowed one of the NBA’s highest assist averages (25.9) in January. They have lost 18 of 20 since Dec. 19 and will try to avoid their eighth straight loss on Friday.
Making matters worse, former Celtic Glen Davis, who has averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, broke his left foot in a 113-97 loss at New York on Wednesday.
According to the team’s official website, the forward could be lost for the remainder of the season. The Magic lost 10 of 11 after Davis went down with a shoulder injury in December.
“We have played without him before and we just have to continue to roll with the punches, and guys are going to have to step up,” guard JJ Redick said.
After combining for 14 points on 5-of-25 shooting in a 97-77 loss at Brooklyn on Monday, the backcourt of Redick and Jameer Nelson teamed up for 50 while hitting 17-of-31 from the field against the Knicks.
The Magic, though, could also be without leading scorer Arron Afflalo, who is day-to-day after missing the last two contests with a strained left calf.
Orlando has especially struggled on the road lately, scoring just 88.8 points per game while losing by an average of 20.0 points in their last four away from home.
It doesn’t figure to get easier against a Boston team that has limited opponents to 84.0 points per game in its last two.
The Celtics have won six straight in the series, including a 116-110 victory in Orlando on Nov. 25 behind 47 points from Pierce and Kevin Garnett.