Boston Red Sox

Blakely's Celtics-Magic preview

737374.jpg

Blakely's Celtics-Magic preview

BOSTON It was a rough night for the Boston Celtics and their 3-point defense which allowed the New York Knicks to drain 19 3-pointers which set the stage for a 118-110 loss for the C's. And now 24 hours later, it won't get any easier against the Orlando Magic.

In fact, the challenge may very well be even greater tonight.

You think the Celtics spend too much time shooting jumpers?

They have nothing - nothing - on the Magic, who have to rely on their perimeter game even more now that Dwight Howard (back) won't return during the regular season.

Even with him, Orlando looked to score from the perimeter more than most teams.

Despite ranking in the bottom-10 in scoring (No. 21 with 94.4 points per game), Orlando leads the NBA in 3-pointers made (10.2) and attempted (26.8) per game.

How Boston handles the perimeter-oriented Magic will factor heavily in the C's getting the victory which would clinch their fifth straight Atlantic Division title. Here are some other keys that will likely come into play tonight as the C's face off against the Magic and former Celtic Glen Davis.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Without Dwight Howard and Glen Davis (knee) questionable, the Magic will have a hard time getting points in the paint tonight. Although Orlando ranks third in the NBA this season with 43.7 points in the paint per game, that number has taken a significant dip since Dwight Howard's back injury. In the last five games minus Howard, Orlando's points-in-the-paint numbers dipped to 33.4 per game which ranks 20th in the league during that span.

MATCHUP TO WATCHAvery Bradley vs. Jameer Nelson: This is the matchup that just a few short months ago, launched the emergence of Avery Bradley as a top-flight defender. Nelson took quite a beating in the press for how Bradley thoroughly overwhelmed him. While Rajon Rondo will see time guarding Nelson, don't be surprised if Nelson appears more aggressive when paired with Bradley.

PLAYER TO WATCHPaul Pierce is coming off a season-high 43 points at New York. You have to wonder how much did that game take out of him. Couple that with a sore left big toe and some soreness to his hamstring after taking a knee from Tyson Chandler, you have to expect the Captain won't be nearly as productive a scorer tonight.

STAT TO TRACKIf there's one positive for the Magic since Dwight Howard went down with a back injury, it's how the team's turnovers have dropped considerably. For the season, Orlando averages 14.2 turnovers which ranks 17th in the NBA. But in the five games without Howard, the Magic average 11.2 turnovers which trails only the Los Angeles Clippers (10.6 turnovers) for fewest turnovers in that span. The C's have benefited greatly from forcing turnovers. Teams average 15.6 miscues per game against Boston, which ranks sixth in the NBA.

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

BOSTON — The minutiae starts to fade now. Steal a few wins, rattle off a gorgeous run when people didn’t expect you to — what should or shouldn’t happen doesn’t matter.

Are the Sox really this good? At a certain point, it’s irrelevant how many wins were lucky (Friday’s, arguably), or against bad teams (the White Sox), or anything else. Those victories are cinderblocks in the standings that the Yankees are will find increasingly difficult to budge.

There’s simply no challenging the value of banked wins, no eliminating them.

Look, you didn’t need Friday night’s 9-6 Red Sox win over the Yankees to realize the Sox are resilient. All of August has been a coming out party: for a pitching staff that’s making due without David Price, for an offense liberated by a 20-year-old third baseman who homered again Saturday, Rafael Devers, as the team adapts smoothly to the absence of Dustin Pedroia.

“We miss them,” Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night. “There’s no question we miss those two guys, and [are] really looking forward to their return. But it speaks volume to the team we have, the depth and talent that’s here. 

“What Raffy has done by coming up, and Eduardo [Nunez’s] arrival here at the time when Pedey goes down, they’ve been instrumental in the way we’ve played. I don’t know if you want to call it the next-man-up mentality, but we have not skipped a beat and guys are beginning to flourish and shouldering a greater burden.”

But what, beyond this sense of resiliency, have you learned since the trade deadline? What can you tell about the Sox’ future from watching them reach a season-high 19 games over .500? 

That discussion is more complicated. The Sox are of the best anywhere, just as they were projected to be entering the year — albeit with some different personnel fulfilling those predictions. They’re just the second AL team to reach 70 wins.

Yet, it’s fair to wonder how many times a reliever like Tommy Kahnle — one of the Yankees’ significant trade additions — will let Mitch Moreland come through with a go-ahead hit on an 0-2 count in the seventh inning. 

It’s fair to wonder how many times Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can fall into trouble without swing-and-miss stuff and be bailed out. Or how many times Farrell can keep holding back guys like Addison Reed, as the skipper did on Friday, until he really has no other choice — and be let off the hook for those choices.

The Red Sox are homer-happy right now, with multiple long balls for the 9th time in 14 games. Those home runs could be long overdue, or it could be a cluster and an aberration.

Again, those questions start to diminish in importance. Because in the same way we talk about time running out for Price’s return from injury, time also starts to run out for other teams.

There’s a cushion of five games in the AL East going into Saturday’s middle game of three with the Yankees, one of just four remaining head-to-head match-ups between the Sox and Yanks this season. The last time the Sox and Yankees were playing each other as the top two teams in the division this late in the year was 2011, a reminder of how quickly leads can dissipate. 

This isn’t a suggestion the Sox should be foolhardy, or have anything wrapped up. It’s a reminder that whether you believe Eduardo Nunez will keep up his .361 average down the stretch, or whether you find anything dubious about some of these Sox wins — they’re still in the bank, appreciating in value from now until October.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

0:43 - Drew Pomeranz left Friday’s Yankees game with back spasms. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still waiting for David Price to come back. Evan Drellich checks in from Fenway Park to talk about this bullpen situation. 

08:03 - Rookie defensive end Derek Rivers is out for the season with a torn ACL. Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Phil Perry decide if it’s time for the Patriots to look elsewhere for backup.

13:38 - Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is not happy with the performance of his quarterbacks. Giles and Curran discuss whether Jimmy Garoppolo could end up in Jacksonville. 

18:15 - Holley and Curran take a look at the top free agents in the NBA right now and if the Celtics should be exploring any of them.