Blakely's Celtics-Magic preview

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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.

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