The Boston Celtics (1-4, 0-3 away) visit the Orlando Magic (3-2, 3-0 home) at the Amway Center on Friday night (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
MAGIC MAN: After winning a mere 20 games last season, the Magic have started strong (winning three straight against the Pelicans, Nets, and Clippers). Brad Stevens thinks rookie Victor Oladipo is a big reason for that success. "If he wasn’t the best player in college basketball last year, he was one of them," said Stevens. "When we played against [Indiana], the play that I remember most vividly last year was, our guys were still diving on the loose ball that he had already picked up and laid in. He’s pretty impressive athletically. The thing I love about Victor Oladipo, one of the many reasons why Orlando continues to make great strides, is he’s an energy giver. That guy raises the energy level in the room, he’s a great teammate. He’s a hard-worker. When you’re most ballyhooed players act like that, it’s a pretty good thing."
PUTTING THE D IN ORLANDO: The Magic rank third in the league in defensive rating through five games. What's more, they rank third in points allowed per possession (0.846 per Synergy Sports data). Boston must find a way to generate consistent offense, especially in halfcourt sets. For the Celtics, it's another young and talented opposing frontcourt with Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic leading that defensive charge. The Magic have been vulnerable to cutters, something Boston is hoping it can exploit, particularly with a second unit that now features Gerald Wallace running with excellent passing bigs in Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger.
BACKCOURT IN FOCUS: The Celtics started slow Wednesday night against Utah, but Brad Stevens plans to go back to a new-look starting group that features Jordan Crawford sharing point guard duties with Avery Bradley. "I thought [Crawford] did a great job, especially in the second half," said Stevens. "I thought, at the end of the day, he controlled the end of the game when we needed a calming presence. He did a good job with that. One thing about Jordan, and I said this [Thursday] in our staff meeting, when Jordan’s not playing basketball any more, he’ll probably find a game somewhere on [any given] night. That’s what you know about him. He’s going to show up every time he there’s because he loves the game." The Celtics hope Crawford's presence can also allow Bradley to thrive in a more natural shooting guard role.
WHAT ELSE?: The Magic are playing without Tobias Harris (ankle) and old friend Glen Davis (foot). ... Stevens loosed his rotation last time out, playing both Phil Pressey and Kris Humphries as part of an 11-man rotation. He keeps telling his players (like little used MarShon Brooks) to stay ready for their opportunity. ... The Celtics play the Magic twice in the next four days as Orlando visits TD Garden on Monday.