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.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."