Celtics-Magic: Five things you might not be thinking about tonight
Five things you might not be thinking about tonight
The Celtics (7-2) have been getting lots of love for how well they have defended teams this season. Still, as well as they have played at that end of the floor, the Celtics have to some degree benefited from their early-season schedule.
Tonight’s game at Orlando will be only the second time this season the Celtics have faced a team ranked among the league’s top-half in scoring (the opener at Cleveland was the other).
Orlando (6-3) comes in averaging 111.3 points per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA. The Magic’s 105-83 loss at Chicago on Friday was the first time they scored less than 100 points.
Celtics players are well aware of the challenge awaiting them tonight.
“Everyone who gets in the game has a job to do defensively, and I think we’re all doing a good job so far,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “Orlando’s a good team so we’ll definitely have our hands full.”
Here are five below-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s matchup between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference thus far this season.
Brad Stevens might want to bottle up whatever he’s telling his guys at halftime because the Celtics have been at their best in the third quarter of games this season. They are outscoring opponents by 8.0 points per game in the third which is the highest plus/minus by any team in that quarter. The key has been Boston’s defense, which seems to ratchet up its play in the third. Opponents are shooting just 36.6 percent from the field, and 23.0 percent from 3-point range in the third.
THE 3-BALL FACTOR
Like most NBA games these days, the 3-point shot will be a major factor in tonight’s outcome. But unlike most teams, Orlando has been an elite team both shooting and defending 3-pointers. Orlando’s 42.1 percent shooting from 3-point range is tops in the NBA. And defensively, teams are shooting a league-low 30.9 percent against the Magic on 3's. Meanwhile, Boston has shot 37.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks ninth in the league.
REBOUNDING, SCORING BECOMING TRENDY
A big part of Boston’s surprising success defensively has been their rebounding and timely scoring. They come into tonight’s game having outscored and out-rebounded each of their past five opponents. The last time Boston achieved that daily-double in five consecutive games was Nov. 30- Dec. 8, 2010. If they can do it again tonight, it would match the six-game stretch they had in January of 2009.
OFFENSE ON THE RISE
Boston’s offense has taken a little more time to get it going, but there are clear indications that progress is being made. In the past three games, Boston has an offensive rating of 113.8, which ranks third in the league in that time. In addition, the Celtics’ effective field goal percentage (.545), assists (25.7) and 3-pointers made per game (13.7) all were among the league’s top-10 during that time.
DEFEND ABOVE THE BREAK 3
One of the keys to Orlando scoring a ton of points this season has been their ability to connect from 3-point range above the break. In fact, they are shooting a league-best 42.7 percent this season in above-the-break 3’s. Meanwhile, Boston has been one of the league’s best when it comes to defending above-the-break 3’s with opponents connecting on just 31.6 percent, which ranks third in the league.