Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

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Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

ORLANDO, Fla. Wow!

The Boston Celtics only needed two - not four - quarters of good play to beat the Orlando Magic. After trailing by as many as 27 points in the second quarter, the C's put together a wickedly effectively stretch of play in the second half to come away with a 91-83 win.

"Everybody was big tonight," said Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 24 points which included 19 coming in the second half. "We needed each and every guy, to give everything they got. Especially with us being in a hole so deep."

There were a handful of factors we highlighted prior to the game as being important in determining the game's outcome.

Let's see how they played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston's pressure defense not only took Jameer Nelson totally out of his game, but it also generated 25 turnovers which led to 24 points for the Celtics. Avery Bradley, who will start again for an injured Rajon Rondo, was the key to Boston's defensive success on Monday. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy praised Bradley for his defensive prowess leading up to tonight's game.

"It's generally those guys who don't have to play 3,000 minutes in a year who can come in and use that energy," Van Gundy said. "So you're not used to seeing it a lot. You might see it a possession or two, but that full-game thing I give him (Bradley) a lot of credit. It's the best job of anybody doing it, I've seen in a lot of years in this league."

WHAT WE SAW - Jameer Nelson wasn't nearly as rattled by Bradley's on-the-ball pressure as he was on Monday. Still, it was good enough to keep Nelson from making much of an impact on the game's outcome. He had 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting, with five rebounds and five assists.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Dwight Howard: With Jermaine O'Neal (left knee) out, Garnett will begin tonight's game attempting to guard Howard. Garnett's ability to hold Howard in check will likely come at the cost of him scoring as much. But the C's know all too well, that's the price you have to pay if you plan on beating the Magic.

WHAT WE SAW - This battle was a lot closer statistically than many expected. In fact, one could argue that Garnett outplayed Howard. And that is always a good thing for the C's when facing the Magic. Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Howard had a fairly typical Howard-type game with 16 points and 16 rebounds but he only had one blocked shot.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Ryan Anderson: The Celtics held him to zero points in more than 23 minutes of action on Monday. Look for Anderson to play significantly better than that tonight, especially with him beginning the game matched up with Brandon Bass instead of Garnett.

WHAT WE SAW - Anderson didn't waste much time getting into the scorer's column, as he scored 12 points in the first quarter. Here's the problem. He didn't score a single point the rest of the game. So in eight quarters of play against the Celtics, Anderson has gone scoreless in all but one of them.

STAT TO TRACK - Points off turnovers is an area that the Celtics are improving in, and it was one of the main reasons why they easily defeated Orlando when the two played on Monday. If the C's can continue to cash in on Orlando's mistakes, the Celtics will be well positioned to hand the Magic another loss.
WHAT WE SAW - It wasn't so much the amount of turnovers on Monday, but the timing of them, that ultimately became a factor in Boston's favor. Boston forced Orlando to turn the ball over 10 times in the second half, which led to 12 points for the C's. Compare that to the first half when Boston had only forced three turnovers which it converted into just three points. It's clear that the C's ability to get a few points off Orlando's mistakes, was part of the second half rally by the Celtics.

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.