BOSTON The Boston Celtics are already reaping one of the benefits that comes about with smaller lineups - more free throw attempts.
With so many attacking ball-handlers on the floor, the C's more diversified offense puts more pressure on defenses which has in turn led to a much-needed improvement in free throw attempts.
After ranking among the bottom 10 in free throw attempts the last two seasons (27th last season and 25th in 2011), the Celtics are now averaging 24 attempts per game which ranks ninth in the NBA.
The increased free throw attempts could not come at a better time for the Celtics.
While much attention has been paid to the new faces and their familiarity with the team's defensive schemes and principles, the challenge of improved continuity is a factor in the team's offensive struggles as well.
Despite what most would agree is a vastly improved team offensively, Boston ranks 20th in the league in scoring (96 points) per game.
Having the ability to generate easy points from the free throw line, takes some of the pressure off the C's as they continue to build towards what they believe will be another title contender.
"This is a process," said C's guard Jason Terry. "For us, it's about playing 48 minutes of Celtics basketball."
And part of that involves continue to maximize every chance to score which for a change, includes from the free throw line.
Keeping a steady stream of bodies going to the free throw line will be on tap tonight for the Celtics as they host the Philadelphia 76ers. Here are a few other keys to keep tabs on as the C's go for a third straight win.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Generating points in the paint needs to be a priority for the Celtics tonight. Philadelphia, playing without centers Andrew Bynum (knee) and Kwame Brown (calf), are indeed ripe in the middle. The numbers bear this out, with Philadelphia ranking 20th in points-in-the-paint differential (-3.3).
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Celtics starting power forward vs. Thaddeus Young: This is where Boston's lineup versatility should help. Young is too quick for Jared Sullinger, so don't be shocked to see Brandon Bass or possibly Jeff Green in the starting lineup tonight.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has been on a subtle, but impressive nonetheless start to this season. In addition to increasing his scoring average (career-high 16 points per game) while shooting a career-best 57.4 percent from the field, he continues to rack up a consistently high number of assists. By reaching double figures tonight in assists, it will be his 29th straight regular season game which would tie him for third all-time with John Stockton for the most consecutive regular season games with 10 or more assists.
STAT TO TRACK: Doc Rivers might want to bottle up whatever he says at halftime, and make it part of his pre-game spiel to his players when it comes to scoring the ball. The Celtics have proven thus far to be a much better team generating offense in the second half of games, compared to the game's first 24 minutes. The C's rank No. 22 and No. 29 in the league in first and second quarter scoring, respectively. It becomes a completely different Celtics squad in the second half with the C's ranking ninth and 10th in third and fourth quarter scoring, respectively.