Celtics-Magic preview: Seconds helping

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Celtics-Magic preview: Seconds helping

ORLANDO, Fla. What was supposed to be a strength for the Celtics this season -- their bench -- is finally starting to flex some muscle.

There are many factors that come into play when the Celtics are successful, and bench scoring is near the top of that list.

Boston's second unit has outscored their counterparts in three of the C's last four victories. That includes Friday night's 108-100 win over Oklahoma City, a game in which Boston's backups outscored the Thunder's second unit by a decisive 35-13 margin.

But it's not just their point total that shows how the C's second group is starting to play with more cohesion. Leandro Barbosa, an instant offense-type player for years, has developed some Avery Bradley-like tendencies defensively -- something the Celtics had no idea was even in him.

Chris Wilcox, just months removed from heart surgery, is the Celtics' sixth man most nights while coming into the game for Kevin Garnett.

And then there's Jeff Green, a player who is trending toward playing with the kind of consistency that the C's will need in order to be successful.

"I don't think most people realize how difficult it is to get on the same page when you have a lot of new guys," Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "It's not like guys are trying to not play good together. It just takes time, that's all. We're not there yet, but we're getting there."

The second unit will get another chance to make an impact tonight against an Orlando Magic team that, like the Celts, is also figuring out how to play well with one another.

Here are some other keys in tonight's game as the Celtics try and build off of arguably their best win of the season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's always a delicate balance that has to be struck by the Celtics in generating points but not getting into a shoot-out. It would certainly bode well for Boston to take advantage of an Orlando team that's next-to-last in scoring (90.2) this season. But consider this: The Magic are 4-0 this season when scoring 100 or more points in a game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Glen Davis. It's one thing for childhood friends to make it to the NBA. But to be traded for one another? Small world indeed. Bass' scoring numbers are down this season, but that's in part because of the C's need for him to do more work defensively. Meanwhile, Davis is getting plenty of shots which as the Celtics know all too well, isn't necessarily a good thing.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green was impressive with a season-high 17 points against his former team (Oklahoma City) on Friday night. But can he do it against an opponent where there's no added motivation to play well? His versatility makes him a tough cover for the Magic, and you can bet the Celtics will do what they can to take advantage of this.

STAT TO TRACK: One day of rest is apparently all the Boston Celtics need this season. They come into tonight's game with a record of 4-1 this season when there's a day off in between games. To give that some perspective, consider this: The 2007-2008 championship team won 75.4 percent (49-16 record) of its games played with one day off in between games.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs top Raiders 21-13, take AFC West lead

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs top Raiders 21-13, take AFC West lead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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