Celtics-Bucks has playoff implications

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Celtics-Bucks has playoff implications

BOSTON The NBA season is still relatively young, but it's never too soon to think about the playoffs right?

Especially when you consider tonight's game between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks will be their fourth and final matchup of the season.

The game should have even more significance for the Celtics who come into the game having lost two of the three previous meetings.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that there is some thought given to the playoff implications after facing a team as many times as the C's have the Bucks.

"But really, I don't think about (it) that much anyway," Rivers said. "Obviously we know if we win, it's a 2-2 tie. But at the end of the day, you have to be playing well."

And that remains an issue for the Celtics, whose play tends to look like the basketball equivalent of the cha-cha slide - one step here, another step there, but never a lengthy string of steps forward.

Former Celtic and current Milwaukee Buck Marquis Daniels understands that tonight's game will give the Bucks a leg up on the C's in case both teams finish with an identical record which isn't out of the question when you consider the C's (13-12) and the Bucks (13-11) are separated by mere percentage points now.

"It would be nice to have that advantage, but our focus right now is more on us and just continuing to improve as a team," Daniels said. "We can't really think about the playoffs now. Our focus has to be on just trying to get better."

Boston's Courtney Lee had similar thoughts on the importance of tonight's game.

"We have to start winning games, first of all," Lee said. "That's our main focus now, try to get more than a two-game winning streak. Whether it's Milwaukee or whoever, we just have to starting beating teams, period."

The C's actually had one three-game winning streak this season, one that began with tonight's opponent, Milwaukee.

"Let's start up another one, a longer one," Lee said.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Magic in Orlando. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Magic's poor offense gives C's chance to rebound

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.