Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

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Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

BOSTON Who would have thought no Rajon Rondo (wrist), Ray Allen (ankle) or three key reserves, would somehow equate to the Boston Celtics most impressive win of the season, an 87-56 blowout against Orlando. While many were expecting the game to be a blowout, few would have anticipated it being so lopsided in favor of the injury-riddled Celtics?

To win a game like that so emphatically, a lot has to go right.

We'll take a look at the keys we outlined prior to the game, and how those keys played out in the game's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Three-point shooting should be a major factor in tonight's game, with the Celtics and the Magic ranking No. 1 and 2, respectively, in 3-point shooting percentage. However, the C's will be significantly challenged in that are with their best 3-point shooter, Ray Allen, out with an ankle injury.

WHAT WE SAW: The 3-ball was not nearly as big a game-changer for either team, on Monday. Orlando connected on just four of its 16 3-point attempts. The Celtics were even worse, misfiring on 11 of their 13 3-pointers.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Ryan Anderson. You've got the perennial all-star battling the all-star wannabe right here. Garnett is coming off a solid game at Washington, but Anderson is coming in with what has been a breakout season for the fourth year pro. He's averaging 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game which has been a big part of Orlando's impressive start to this season.

WHAT WE SAW: This was Anderson's moment to shine. Instead, he shrunk like a worm in salt water. Not only did he not come close to matching his season averages, he didn't even score or grab a single rebound in 23-plus minutes. Meanwhile, Garnett was part of the three-headed monster (Jermaine O'Neal and Greg Stiemsma were the other heads) charged with trying to limit Dwight Howard. Garnett did a solid job on him, and even managed to chip in 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce. He's coming off a huge 34-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound night at Washington. With so many Celtics out of the lineup, Pierce might have to be even better than that just for the Celtics to have a fighting chance.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce wasn't as good statistically on Monday as he was on Sunday, but his ability to fill up the stat sheet didn't go unnoticed. He shared game-high scoring honors of 19 points, with teammate Brandon Bass. Pierce also managed to dish out seven assists to go with five rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Tonight's game features the NBA's active leaders in 20-point, 20-rebound games. No. 1 on the list is Dwight Howard, who has 37. Behind him is Kevin Garnett, who has 27. Howard's chances of getting another one tonight? Very good. KG? Not so much.
WHAT WE SAW: Neither player came within striking distance of adding to their 2020 resumes, but both provided a much-needed lift for their respective teams. Howard had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Magic while Garnett chipped in with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup