Boston Versus Orlando PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#2 Boston (62-20) vs. #3 Orlando (59-23)
Season series: 2-2
Orlando can win if…Dwight Howard is dominant offensively (25-plus ppg while shooting .550 or better), the Magic's three point shooters perform well and if the Magic keep Rajon Rondo out of the paint, force Paul Pierce away from his midrange sweet spot and chase Ray Allen off of the three point line.
Boston will win because…even without Kevin Garnett the Celtics still have two future Hall of Famers in Pierce and Allen, a quick and versatile point guard in Rondo and a couple of young, underrated big men in Kendrick Perkins and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. The absence of Garnett means that things will not be easy for the Celtics but over the past two years the Celtics have a good record sans Garnett. Although the Bulls pushed the Celtics to the limit in the first round, don't forget that last year even though the Hawks extended a fully loaded Boston team to seven games the veteran Pistons eventually bowed in just six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls bothered the Celtics with their youth and athleticism--much like the Hawks did in 2008--but the Magic are not as athletic overall as the Bulls or Hawks.
Other things to consider: Howard has yet to prove that he is a Shaquille O'Neal or Hakeem Olajuwon type of big man who will score 35-40 points consistently in playoff games if he is not double-teamed. Expect the Celtics to frequently single cover him--or double him late, after he puts the ball on the floor, taking advantage of the fact that he is not a great passer--and dare the other Magic players to create good shots for themselves. It will be interesting to see if the young Magic come into this series with an overconfident attitude because Garnett is inactive and the Celtics needed seven games to beat the Bulls; the Magic have not proven that they can beat an elite, tough minded team in the playoffs, so overconfidence would be a serious mistake on their part.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:11 PM