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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Orlando Versus Boston Preview

Eastern Conference Finals

#2 Orlando (59-23) vs. #4 Boston (50-32)

Season series: Orlando, 3-1

Boston can win if…Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace can guard Dwight Howard one on one in the post effectively enough that the Celtics do not have to trap Howard and go into full rotation versus Orlando's armada of three point shooters. Perkins has enough lower body strength to battle Howard for post position, while in previous years Wallace used his length, savvy and mobility to frustrate Howard at times.

Naturally, it will also be beneficial for the Celtics if Rajon Rondo can post what Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal termed "historical triple doubles." Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had some good moments versus the Cavs but were not hugely productive overall; the Celtics will need to get more out of both future Hall of Famers in order to dethrone the reigning Eastern Conference Champion Magic. Kevin Garnett still seems to be dragging his right leg defensively but he has regained enough lift to once again be effective in the post as a turnaround jump shooter and the Celtics will need for him to average at least 15 ppg with a decent shooting percentage in order to beat the Magic.

Orlando will win because…the Magic are talented, deep, defensive-minded, unselfish and focused--which is not to say that the Celtics do not also possess many of those qualities but the Magic have them in abundance. While I do think that the Celtics are better equipped--both from a personnel standpoint and schematically--to guard Howard than many other teams, the Magic are an excellent passing team loaded with great shooters, so the Celtics will have their hands full. The Celtics were a below average rebounding team during the regular season, they struggled at times at home and they gave up a lot of leads; Cleveland did not exploit any of those tendencies in the previous round but Orlando is likely to take advantage of Boston's weaknesses.

This is Vince Carter's opportunity to change some of the negative aspects of his reputation by playing a key role on a team that advances to the NBA Finals and, possibly, wins a championship; his matchup versus Ray Allen should be very interesting to watch, as either player could very well be called upon to hit a game-winning shot during this series. I think that Carter has more bounce left in his legs than a lot of people realize and that he will have a good series, though because of Orlando's balance his overall numbers may not be eye-popping.

Other things to consider: The Celtics just took out the number one overall seed in this year's playoffs. Rondo is emerging right before our eyes as a top five point guard, while Kevin Garnett had a greater impact versus the Cavs than anyone could have reasonably expected based on how he looked during the regular season. The Celtics are a former champion who should not be taken lightly and they did push Orlando to seven games last season despite being without the services of Garnett--but the Magic were also shorthanded due to Jameer Nelson's injury and the Magic have upgraded their roster since last season, adding Carter, Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass.

Did the Celtics really rejuvenate themselves versus Cleveland or did the Cavs just follow the lead of their superstar and quit when things got tough? With all due respect to Boston--and I have a lot of respect for the Celtics--I think that the latter had more to do with the result of the Boston-Cleveland series than the former. The Celtics will play hard versus the Magic and each game will likely be very closely contested but I expect that Orlando will win in fewer than seven games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:36 AM

9 comments

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9 Comments:

At Saturday, May 15, 2010 11:53:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

I agree - the Celtics are not nearly as good as the Cavs made them look.

The Magic are much better than the Celtics and will probably beat them in 5 games.

 
At Saturday, May 15, 2010 12:07:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

david,
I think the Magics performance against the Celtics in this series will prove how much superior to the Celtics the Cavs really were. As much as I like the Lakers, I would be surprised if the Magics dont win the championship. The only team that can beat them is the Suns. How ironic is that?
Magics matches up well against the Celtics and the lakers.
Lakers matches up well against the Suns and the Celtics
Suns matches up well against the Celtics and the Magics.

The Celtics are the weakest team in the final four. Which is why a lot of people were shock that the Cavs lost to them.

 
At Saturday, May 15, 2010 6:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I agree with you about Orlando versus Boston and that Cleveland had a superior team to Boston but I disagree with most of your takes on the other matchups:

1) I don't see why you believe that the Suns would win a series against Orlando, though this is a moot point since the Suns are not likely to beat the Lakers.

2) I don't agree that the Magic match up well with the Lakers. The Magic have a better overall team than they had last year but the Lakers also upgraded by adding Artest. The Lakers' bench is lousy but there are a lot of rest days between Finals games so you can expect the Lakers to play Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Fisher 40-plus mpg if necessary.

3) The Lakers match up very well with the Suns and Magic. The remaining team that would challenge them the most is the Celtics, a tough, big, defensive-minded squad that would push around Gasol, swarm Kobe and dare anyone else to beat them. Similarly, Cleveland would have matched up with the Lakers even better than the Celtics--as we saw during the regular season. Cleveland's elimination paved the way for Orlando to knock off Boston and thus helped the Lakers as much as it helped any team.

4) The Suns do not match up particularly well with any of the remaining teams.

 
At Sunday, May 16, 2010 5:57:00 AM, Blogger beep said...

Magic are defensive minded team, no questions. Well, you actually took them over Celtics and it was one of the reasons, and now you believe they match up with Lakers worse than Celtics?
Why couldn't Magic use the same tactics against Lakers as Celtics? The only reason for that would be coach Van Gundy, and I find him being X-factor during such match up. The question is if he developed gameplan against Lakers after being beaten last year.

 
At Monday, May 17, 2010 5:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Beep:

The Magic cannot likely use the same tactics versus the Lakers as the Celtics because the Magic have a different kind of roster; essentially, the Magic have two "bigs" (Howard and Gortat) surrounded by an armada of three point shooters. In contrast, the Celtics have several traditional "bigs," so they can be very physical with the Lakers and they will not be afraid to use their fouls. Cleveland GM Danny Ferry made an interesting point after the Boston-Cleveland series: he said that the Celtics came into that series with the idea of using their fouls to prevent the Cavs from ever getting into a rhythm offensively; the Celtics fouled to prevent the runouts and easy baskets that the Cavs used during the regular season to fuel big runs. Foul trouble is a constant worry for Howard, so the Magic will not intentionally use their fouls freely as the Celtics did versus Cleveland and will versus the Lakers if they meet the Lakers in the Finals. Another advantage of all of that fouling is that sometimes the refs miss calls, so you get a "free" shot. I think that Boston Coach Doc Rivers learned this approach from playing for Pat Riley in New York; back then, Riley essentially instructed the Knicks to foul five times on every play because the refs could not and would not call everything. The rules are tighter now and the penalties are stiffer but it seems that Rivers has adapted Riley's 90's tactics to fit the new millennium.

 
At Monday, May 24, 2010 6:50:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

I would like to reconsider my forecast. Instead of Magic in 5 . I now "predict" Celtics in 4...man, what went so wrong?? I am expecting a detailed post, David...

 
At Monday, May 24, 2010 7:56:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yogi:

This is a stunning turn of events and to suggest otherwise is to engage in revisionist history: the Celtics were a .500 team for the final two thirds of the regular season, they had some internal dissension, Rasheed Wallace looked out of shape and useless and the "Big Three" looked old and tired. While Rondo had clearly emerged as the best player on the team and a bona fide All-Star, the thought that he would outplay LeBron James in a seven game playoff series would have seemed delusional up until when that actually happened.

I will indeed comment about this series at greater length once it is over, which seemingly will not be too long from now.

 
At Tuesday, May 25, 2010 4:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

the celts lost night i know denver in 94 was down 3-0 and took it 7 i know 2003 portland down 3-0 and took it 7 they was on road in game 7. magic at home i think celts in 6 but game 6 is season for celts magic got 2 of 3 at home celts should of finished them off yesterday they made series lot tougher than they should of.

the droughts they have is why there not as good as 2008 team was 24 points last 17 minutes for celts at home they was 13-1 in 08 playoffs at home they 6-2 this year there better on road 5-2 why there on verge of finals.

 
At Tuesday, May 25, 2010 7:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

The Celtics seemed to get tired down the stretch in game four, resulting in execution lapses and missed shots. That said, even with all of Boston's mistakes the Magic still had to hang on for dear life just to win in overtime. The Magic are certainly capable of beating the Celtics--that is why I picked Orlando to win the series in the first place--but it is very difficult to win four games in a row against a high quality opponent. The Magic have no margin for error now.

Of course, as you suggest, if the Magic happen to push this series to a seventh game in Orlando then the Magic would be in good shape: the older Celtics would be tired, dispirited and on the road, while the Magic would be rejuvenated and at home--but we are still a long way from game seven right now. The Celtics are a tough, gritty team and have proven that they are capable of going into Orlando and winning.

 

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