Kevin Garnett should be back in the lineup Monday night after missing nine games, but the Boston Celtics' injury woes haven't completely gone away.
While Garnett would give the Celtics a boost if he returns as expected, Shaquille O'Neal - coming off arguably his best game in a Boston uniform - may miss the Orlando Magic's first visit to TD Garden since losing in the Eastern Conference finals.
Garnett had a game-high 22 points in Orlando on Dec. 25, but nothing else went right as the Celtics (30-9) felt the absence of Rajon Rondo. Boston had a then-season-low 15 assists, shot 29.7 percent in the second half and blew a 10-point halftime lead in an 86-78 loss that snapped its 14-game winning streak.
Orlando (26-14) won despite a six-point, five-foul effort from Dwight Howard, as the Celtics did nothing to take advantage. They had just 24 points in the paint, including two from O'Neal, who fouled out in 10 minutes.
"There was no question they were using Shaq to try to get Dwight in foul trouble," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
O'Neal didn't look anything like a veteran on his last legs against Charlotte on Friday. He played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting and blocking five shots as the Celtics improved to 6-3 without Garnett in a 99-94 win.
"I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I've been in foul trouble and haven't really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired," O'Neal said. "I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do."
Garnett - out since Dec. 29 - should return after going through a full practice Sunday, but O'Neal sat out with a leg muscle he claimed to have strained by slipping on ice. He's questionable to face the Magic.
Rondo is healthy for this rematch, but Boston's frontcourt will be depleted even if Garnett and O'Neal can go. Backup center Jermaine O'Neal is looking at possible season-ending knee surgery, while Kendrick Perkins has yet to debut.
Perkins practiced Sunday and should be back by the time the teams meet for the third and final time Feb. 6.
Orlando has won its last three visits to Boston in the regular season, and a victory Monday would allow it to wrap up its road trip at 3-2.
Down by 15 in the first quarter Saturday against Minnesota, the Magic controlled the final 36 minutes, with J.J. Redick and Jason Richardson each finishing with 21 points in a 108-99 win.
"J.J. has been playing well. He's always ready to play and so is Jason Richardson," Van Gundy said. "Those guys always play hard. You can count on their energy."
The two players combined for just 16 points in the first meeting with the Celtics, but Brandon Bass' 21 points and nine rebounds gave the Magic a big boost as Howard struggled.
Monday's meeting could hinge on how well Jameer Nelson fares against Rondo. The Magic are 10-4 against Boston - playoffs included - when their starting point guard scores at least 12 points.
Nelson, however, has averaged 9.6 points and shot 36.1 percent in his last eight road games.