ORLANDO, Fla. What was supposed to be a strength for the Celtics this season -- their bench -- is finally starting to flex some muscle.
There are many factors that come into play when the Celtics are successful, and bench scoring is near the top of that list.
Boston's second unit has outscored their counterparts in three of the C's last four victories. That includes Friday night's 108-100 win over Oklahoma City, a game in which Boston's backups outscored the Thunder's second unit by a decisive 35-13 margin.
But it's not just their point total that shows how the C's second group is starting to play with more cohesion. Leandro Barbosa, an instant offense-type player for years, has developed some Avery Bradley-like tendencies defensively -- something the Celtics had no idea was even in him.
Chris Wilcox, just months removed from heart surgery, is the Celtics' sixth man most nights while coming into the game for Kevin Garnett.
And then there's Jeff Green, a player who is trending toward playing with the kind of consistency that the C's will need in order to be successful.
"I don't think most people realize how difficult it is to get on the same page when you have a lot of new guys," Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "It's not like guys are trying to not play good together. It just takes time, that's all. We're not there yet, but we're getting there."
The second unit will get another chance to make an impact tonight against an Orlando Magic team that, like the Celts, is also figuring out how to play well with one another.
Here are some other keys in tonight's game as the Celtics try and build off of arguably their best win of the season.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's always a delicate balance that has to be struck by the Celtics in generating points but not getting into a shoot-out. It would certainly bode well for Boston to take advantage of an Orlando team that's next-to-last in scoring (90.2) this season. But consider this: The Magic are 4-0 this season when scoring 100 or more points in a game.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Glen Davis. It's one thing for childhood friends to make it to the NBA. But to be traded for one another? Small world indeed. Bass' scoring numbers are down this season, but that's in part because of the C's need for him to do more work defensively. Meanwhile, Davis is getting plenty of shots which as the Celtics know all too well, isn't necessarily a good thing.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green was impressive with a season-high 17 points against his former team (Oklahoma City) on Friday night. But can he do it against an opponent where there's no added motivation to play well? His versatility makes him a tough cover for the Magic, and you can bet the Celtics will do what they can to take advantage of this.
STAT TO TRACK: One day of rest is apparently all the Boston Celtics need this season. They come into tonight's game with a record of 4-1 this season when there's a day off in between games. To give that some perspective, consider this: The 2007-2008 championship team won 75.4 percent (49-16 record) of its games played with one day off in between games.