Watch It! - Celtics at Magic

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Amway Center.

Can the Real Avery Please Stand Up?

Avery Bradley missed a game on Dec. 12 due to a stomach illness. Since then, he just hasn’t been himself at the offensive end.

Bradley has been back in the lineup for four games and has struggled mightily to put the ball through the basket. He shot just 32.0 percent from the field over that four-game span while firing up 12.5 shots per contest. Compare that to Bradley’s 44.5 percent shooting on 12.3 shots a game over the first six weeks of the season and you’ll find a big issue for the C’s.

Boston needs Bradley to score the basketball, and to do so efficiently. He is this team’s starting shooting guard, and he stands as one of Boston’s best 3-point shooters. He hasn’t looked like either of those things over the past four games, but he’ll have an opportunity to reverse that trend tonight.

Sullinger’s Aggressiveness

One could accurately use the word “efficient” to describe Jared Sullinger’s recent stretch of play. The word “aggressive”? Not so much.

Boston’s starting power forward has shot 60.0 percent from the field over his last three contests. The problem is that he hasn’t shot the ball often enough. Sullinger attempted just 10 shots per game over the past three matchups, and that number drops to just 8.7 attempts per game over his last nine.

Simply put, the Celtics need Sullinger to be more assertive. His talent level warrants far more than just eight to 10 shot attempts per game.

Not So Magical Moments

The Celtics and Magic were two of the better stories of the season heading into their matchup last week. Not so much anymore.

Boston continues to compete at a high level and has won three of its last four games. Orlando, however, is in the midst of a brutal stretch during which it has lost six of its previous seven games. The most recent of those losses came at the hands of the woeful Philadelphia 76ers, who have logged just three wins on the entire season.

Orlando has struggled to put the ball through the basket during this rough patch of play. It has averaged just 89.4 PPG over its last seven games. That type of offense isn’t going to cut it against the high-powered Celtics.

Bench Advantage

We pointed out last week that Boston’s reserves had a great advantage over Orlando’s. That fact played a major factor in the C’s 109-92 win over the Magic.

Four of Boston’s five reserves who appeared in the game scored at least eight points. The bench combined to score 50 points. On the other side of the ball, only one of Orlando’s reserves (Kyle O’Quinn, 11 points) notched more than six points as the Magic bench totaled just 24 points.

Unfortunately for tonight’s home team, it appears that this disadvantage has become even greater since last week. Boston’s trade with Dallas deepened the roster, with Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder now coming off of the bench as well. With this in mind, expect more of the same tonight when it comes to bench scoring.

Another Step Forward

By the time tip-off arrives, only five days will have passed since the Celtics pulled off their major trade with the Dallas Mavericks. Suffice to say, they’re still adjusting.

Sunday’s loss in Miami marked the team’s first contest with its new players, Nelson, Wright and Crowder. They combined to log only 40 minutes of action during the game. The new group then got together for its first practice on Monday to prepare for tonight’s game.

It takes a while, usually a few weeks, for players to become integrated into a team following a trade. The Celtics hope that they can speed up that time frame, and tonight is the next step in that process.

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