Watch It! - Celtics at Magic
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic meet at 6 p.m. tonight at the Amway Center.
Boston’s Bench Punch
The Celtics are coming off of a game in which their bench provided one heck of a punch. Boston’s reserves had a clear advantage over Los Angeles’, and it showed on the court.
Three different Celtics reserves finished with at least 10 points Friday night against L.A. Kelly Olynyk put together the most electric performance of the group, as he poured in career highs of 25 points and seven assists, all while grabbing five boards and two steals.
Olynyk was great, but we can’t forget about Gerald Wallace and Phil Pressey. Wallace put forth what may be his best effort as a Celtic, logging 14 points, four boards and five assists. Pressey notched his second consecutive game of at least nine assists with no turnovers.
Orlando has more overall talent than Los Angeles but the Magic’s depth isn’t great. Boston’s reserves will have another opportunity tonight to alter the course of the game.
Winning on the Road
Boston’s last four wins have come at home. It’s a great thing to be able to win at home, but in order to make a run at the playoffs, the Celtics must also be able to win on the road.
Believe it or not, the C’s haven’t notched a road victory since their 114-73 annihilation of the Knicks on Dec. 8. That’s nearly six weeks ago.
A trip through Florida might be exactly what Boston needs to get back on track on the road. The last time they took a trip through Orlando and Miami, the C’s snapped a three-game Magic win streak and then knocked off the Heat in what may be the best finish of an NBA game this season.
These two teams have met twice this season. The first meeting was played on Nov. 8 in Orlando, with the C’s coming out on top 91-89. Boston also won the second meeting, played on Nov. 11 at TD Garden, 120-105.
No one should read into those victories as these teams prepare to collide again tonight. Both rosters look much different than they did in November, particularly when it comes to the starting lineup.
Orlando is currently starting only two of the players (Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo) that it had on the floor for tip-off back in November. Glen Davis and Tobias Harris have joined them in the starting lineup after coming back from injuries and Victor Oladipo has also made his way into the starting five.
The Celtics will also have three new starters on the floor tonight in comparison to their November games against the Magic. Rajon Rondo is back from injury, while Jared Sullinger and Kris Humphries are holding down the starting power forward and center spots.
Yes, these two teams have met twice this season, but the final result of both of those games has been rendered meaningless.
Bradley Checking Afflalo
Many people around the league believe that Afflalo is playing at an All-Star level this season. He has certainly played like one against Boston.
Afflalo was the best player on the floor during these teams’ first meeting on Nov. 8. He tallied a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting that night while also pulling in five rebounds. When they met three days later, Afflalo was at it again. He scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and filled up the box score with four boards and seven assists.
Jeff Green may also see minutes against Afflalo if Nikola Vucevic doesn't play, because Orlando would likely play a small lineup featuring Victor Oladipo at the 2-guard. For the most part, though, the responsibility of slowing Afflalo down falls nearly entirely on the shoulders of Avery Bradley. He is Boston’s defensive ace and he defends the opposing team’s top perimeter player. For Orlando, that player is Afflalo. The C’s will have a much better chance at winning this game if Bradley can slow Afflalo down.
Knocking Down Shots
Now that Rondo is back in the fold, the Celtics have two pass-first point guards whose best skill is setting teammates up. Rondo is a two-time assist champion and may be the best passer in the world. Phil Pressey, meanwhile, is in the midst of one heck of an impressive assist stretch during which he’s dished out 19 consecutive helpers without committing a single turnover.
Rondo and Pressey are going to do their jobs and set their teammates up for great shots. Now their teammates need to do their jobs and hit those shots with regularity, which has been a rare occurrence of late.
Boston is in the midst of a brutal shooting stretch over its last 11 games. It has made only 41.2 percent of its field goals and only 28.2 percent of its 3-pointers during that stretch. They have shot below the league average in seven of the 14 shooting locations on the floor during those games, according to NBA.com/STATS. Those types of numbers will not win you many games.