WALTHAM -- Call it Friday Night Fights: NBA edition.
The Celtics' schedule is anything but forgiving on Fridays during the 2009-10 season. Already this young campaign, the Green have hosted Chicago, Phoenix and Atlanta to cap the workweek (well, most people's workweek). Next up: a visit from Dwight Howard and an Orlando Magic squad that knocked Boston out of the playoffs last season.
Informed the Celtics are 0-2 on Fridays in November, Kevin Garnett didn't seem worried about the losing trend; their attention is focused on Orlando.
"I didn't even know what day it was to begin with," Garnett said before turning to Celtics media relations czar Jeff Twiss and asking, "Did you know that, Twiss? We're 0-2 on Fridays [in November]? Fridays feel like Mondays, Mondays feel like Saturdays, and Sundays feel like Sundays. We're just trying to be better."
While the previous Friday nights this season have featured marquee matchups -- particularly the Bulls on Oct. 30, a rematch of last year's memorable first-round playoff series -- this is by far the grandest of them all, carrying lingering emotions from last year's playoff matchup, one in which Garnett did not participate.
Not only is this a chance for the Celtics to exact revenge against the team that dashed their dreams of defending their NBA crown, it's an opportunity to strengthen Boston's claim as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
The Magic didn't just beat the Celtics last year, they won the final two games of a seven-game series at the Garden, routing Boston, 101-82, in Game 7.
With a healthy roster -- everyone besides Glen Davis practiced Thursday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint -- and back to their winning ways -- the Celtics looked like the team that started the season 6-0 in the second half of Wednesday's 109-95 triumph over Golden State that snapped a two-game skid-- the Celtics are looking forward to meeting the Magic.
Here's a sampling of what players said about Friday's game (ESPN, 8 p.m.):
Coach Doc Rivers: "It'll be nice to play them, they're the team everyone is chasing in the East. They won the championship, they're the favorite. Cleveland is the second favorite and we're the third, going by the results of last year. It'll be good to see where we are at."
Kendrick Perkins: "They beat us in Game 7 at our house -- blew us out. We've got to come back. They were the Eastern Conference champs, we've got to come back and kind of get that back from them. We have something to prove."
Ray Allen: "The Cleveland game, the first game of the season, whether it was a statement game or not, it was on. Whatever comes of it, makes no difference at this point. Each corner we turn, there's new obstacles, new challenges, new ways for us to test ourselves. This is another [statement game]."
Paul Pierce: "This is no different than the Bulls game. It's a big game for us, we're trying to make a statement against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. A team that's going to be there at the end with one of the best records in the league. If we're playing for home-court advantage, this is a team we have to beat."
The Friday schedule doesn't let up any time soon for the Celtics, at least not before the new year. Next week, the Celtics host Toronto (Nov. 27). December features a trip to Oklahoma City (Dec. 4), a visit from Philadelphia (Dec. 18) and a Christmas Day rematch with the Magic.