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Game 50: Celtics vs. Magic

at TD Garden, 2:30 p.m. | ABC, WEEI (850 AM)

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH (via ESPN Boston preview)

  • Perkins vs. Howard: Get your double technicals ready, one of the league's most intriguing (and feisty) frontcourt matchups is back in place as Kendrick Perkins, six games under his belt after returning from offseason ACL surgery, gets reunited with a player he's often lauded for being able to defend 1-on-1: Dwight Howard

  • Both teams need a big-game win: A loss Sunday won't send the team into panic mode (no, let Lakers fans have that), and the Celtics boast a glossy 17-6 mark against teams above. 500. But with the tail end of a back-to-back looming Monday in Charlotte, and the Lakers and Heat prepping for visits next week, Boston wouldn't mind a win that prevents only the fourth losing streak of the season (though the Celtics haven't lost more than two games in a row).

  • Defend the 3-point line: Overall, the Celtics are a fairly solid at defending the 3-point line, something coach Doc Rivers often emphasizes. Opponents are shooting a mere 34.9 percent beyond the arc against Boston, good for the ninth-best 3-point defense in the league. But teams have had success in recent games, and that has to be a concern for the Green.

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GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

Six games may separate the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference standings, but their rivalry continues to be closely-contested. The conference-leading Celtics conclude their regular-season series with the visiting Magic on Saturday afternoon.

After facing each other in each of the last two postseasons, with Orlando knocking Boston out in 2009 and the Celtics returning the favor last year, the teams have split their first two meetings in 2010-11.

The Magic (32-19) won 86-78 at home Christmas Day while the Celtics (37-12) escaped with a 109-106 victory in Boston on Jan. 17 despite 33 points and 13 rebounds from Dwight Howard.

While Orlando is chasing Miami in the Southeast Division, the Magic consider the Celtics their biggest rival.

"I think we have much more of a rivalry with Boston, so we don't really look at Miami as a rival," Howard told the Magic's official website. "We go back and forth with the Celtics because they are always trying to get into our heads."

Boston is looking to bounce back after a 101-97 loss to Dallas on Friday. The Celtics led by six points with less than three minutes remaining, but Jason Kidd hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to give the Mavericks the lead.

Ray Allen, second in NBA history in 3-pointers made, missed a desperation shot from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded.

"I thought we got shots that we wanted," Celtics star Paul Pierce said. "We just missed them."

Allen finished with 24 points -- his third straight game with at least 20. He made three 3-pointers to move within five of Reggie Miller for first on the NBA's all-time career list.

Despite the squandered lead against Dallas, Boston still owns the best record in the East and has done a good job of avoiding losing streaks, dropping consecutive games only three times this season. The Celtics are 22-4 at home.

Kendrick Perkins will likely be given the task of defending Howard, who was shadowed by Shaquille O'Neal in the previous two meetings while Boston's usual starting center rehabbed the right knee injury he suffered during the NBA finals. Perkins made his first start in place of O'Neal (Achilles) on Friday and finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds in his sixth game back overall.

"Don't know," he said when asked if he was ready to face Howard. "We'll have to wait and see."

The Magic are trying to re-establish themselves among the East's elite, although in the last two weeks they've lost to Chicago and Miami.

"I hope we're going to get there, but right now Boston and Miami have separated themselves," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Then, Chicago has a pretty significant advantage on us and Atlanta, so there is some separation. I'm just being honest, but I think we can get there in 10 weeks – I really do. But you can't say right now that we're there with those teams."

Van Gundy's Magic bounced back from consecutive losses to win at Washington 110-92 on Friday. Howard finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, making his first 10 field goals. He didn't miss a shot until 2:20 remained in the third quarter.

Howard is averaging 24.8 points and 16 boards over his last five games.

Read the full preview HERE.