BOSTON The Boston Celtics are not going to have many games where they'll get a ton of tangible production from their bench. But that shouldn't take away from their ability to make an impact. Wednesday was one of those nights when the C's second unit, under-manned just like their fellow starters, got multiple contributions from many in defeating Orlando, 102-98.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers points out that Kevin Garnett generates a considerable amount of his offense with the second unit, so the C's count that among its bench scoring.
"But when you look at a stat sheet, it doesn't look like that," Rivers said. "Our bench is not going to give you 50 points."
Maybe not, but they can still play the role of difference-maker which was indeed the case on Wednesday with a number of backups, such as Greg Stiemsma with his shot-blocking and Keyon Dooling with his ball pressure.
The ability of Boston's second unit to impact Wednesday's game certainly worked out well for the Celtics. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually panned out in a huge win for the Celtics that clinched their fifth straight Atlantic Division title.
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.
WHAT WE SAW: Orlando looked like the Dwight Howard Orlando Magic on Wednesday as they racked up 54 points in the paint compared to just 40 for the Celtics.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery 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.
WHAT WE SAW: Jameer Nelson (21 points, nine assists) did a much better job of handling Avery Bradley's pressure defense, but you still have to give this one to Bradley who tallied a career high-tying 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting. With Rajon Rondo (back) out, Bradley spent almost the entire game playing the point guard position - something the C's would not have envisioned considering his past struggles with the position. "I don't think he could've done that early in the year," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "It's a great thing what confidence does."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul 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.
WHAT WE SAW: Paul Pierce continues to have one of those impressive, under-the-radar type seasons. With Rondo out, Pierce is no stranger to becoming more of a facilitator. He didn't disappoint, scoring a game-high 29 points to go with a career-high 14 assists. "I was just looking to be aggressive in everything I did," Pierce said.
STAT TO TRACK: If 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.
WHAT WE SAW: Orlando got Dwight Howard-like production in terms of points in the paint, and not surprisingly, it resulted in more turnovers. Orlando committed 16 turnovers which resulted in 12 points for the Celtics.