Watch It! – Celtics at Magic

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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

Opposites Detract

Boston and Houston, which matched up Monday night, are both top-10 offenses this season. It was no surprise that the teams went back and forth and went down to the wire while they each scored well into triple-figures.

That was a great matchup between two teams with similar strengths. Tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and the Magic will be quite different, because these two teams have opposite strengths.

Boston continues to sizzle at the offensive end and ranks ninth in the league in offensive rating. Its defense, however, ranks only 17th in defensive rating.

Orlando is at the other end of the spectrum. It ranks fifth in the league in defensive rating and 28th in offensive rating.

The Magic struggle to put the ball through the basket, which forces them to lock down at the defensive end in order to compete. That fact could make for an ugly, low-scoring game between these two teams tonight.

Quite the Rotation

Brad Stevens has been known to have a very lengthy rotation during his young NBA coaching career. Frank Vogel, Orlando’s new head coach, has not had the same reputation, but he’s developing one this season.

Orlando enters tonight’s game with 10 players who have played in at least 17 games and are averaging at least 12.1 minutes of action a night. An 11th player, Jodie Meeks, just returned to action Friday night and he is averaging 16.0 minutes of action in three games since.

With these facts in mind, you might want to keep each team’s roster handy while you watch tonight’s game. You’re almost certain to see more than 20 players log more than 10 minutes of playing time.

Continue the Upswing

Many media members have been discussing the Celtics in a negative light of late. In reality, though, the team is on the upswing.

Boston hasn’t lost consecutive games in nearly a month, dating back to Nov. 6 and Nov. 9, when it fell to the Nuggets and the Wizards, respectively. The C’s have gone 9-5 in their last 14 games, including two one-point losses and four losses of seven points or less. Despite Monday’s defeat, they are on the upswing, and the hope is that they’ll continue that trend tonight.

Picking up for IT

Isaiah Thomas, the second-leading scorer in the Eastern Conference, grimaced Monday night after a driving layup attempt. He finished the game, but it has since been released that he suffered a pulled groin on the play.

Thomas did not practice Tuesday afternoon and Brad Stevens said Wednesday morning that Thomas flew home and will not play tonight. With that being known, it is likely that Marcus Smart will get the start in his place, although Terry Rozier could slide into the starting rotation so that Stevens can keep his second unit intact.

The bigger question, however, is how will the C’s replace Thomas’ 26.0 points per game? The candidates most likely to see an uptick in scoring are Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk.

Amir Back in Starting Role

Jonas Jerebko stepped into the starting rotation Monday night in Houston in place of Amir Johnson. Those two players are likely to return to their standard roles tonight.

Johnson, who has started 20 of Boston’s 21 games this season, is one of the team’s better interior rebounders and defenders. The Celtics need those skills tonight, as they face off against an Orlando team that starts a very large and athletic frontline of Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, all of whom stand in at 6-foot-9 or taller.