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Celtics vs. Magic Series Preview with Howard The Dunk

Posted by B-PAUL on May 14, 2010 at 4:52 PM

 

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Series Schedule

Game 1 - Sunday, May 16 - Boston at Orlando - 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Game 2 - Tuesday, May 18 - Boston at Orlando - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 3 - Saturday, May 22 - Orlando at Boston - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 4 - Monday - May 24 - Orlando at Boston - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 5 - Wednesday - May 26 - Boston at Orlando - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 6 - Friday - May 28 - Orlando at Boston - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 7 - Sunday - May 30 - Boston at Orlando - 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

 

Earlier today I recieved an email from Andrew Melnick, lead blogger at Howard The Dunk, in regards to doing a Q & A swap about the upcoming series between the Celtics and Magic. I figured there is no better way to give our readers insight on the Celtics next opponent than from a guy who covered the Magic all year, so I accepted the offer. After exchanging emails here is what we came up with.

 

Questions for Andrew:

 

Brandon: For the first two rounds of the playoffs the Magic really haven't gone up against a big man that can match up with Dwight Howard. Are you worried about this now that he will be going up against one of the most physical big men in the league in Kendrick Perkins?

 

Andrew: The Bobcats were able to throw a few Centers with good defensive skills at Howard so he’s had a somewhat of a test, but you’re right, none of those guys are the kind of defender that Perkins is. It’s a little worrisome because Perkins and backup Rasheed Wallace are guys that have traditionally had some success in defending and frustrating Howard.

 

What Howard really needs to do is avoid that frustration and stay out of foul trouble. In other words, he needs to stay on the court. The Magic were able to sweep the Bobcats without getting much production from Howard but the Celtics are a different animal. Howard doesn’t necessarily have to stay on the floor for scoring purposes. The Magic have had success against the Celtics when Howard’s scoring has been limited, but they absolutely have to have Howard in the game to free up their shooters, be a force on the glass and a dominating presence on the inside.

 

It would also not surprise me to see backup Center Marcin Gortat get time at the Four to counter Boston’s size. It worked well against the Celtics earlier this season.

 

Brandon: Everyone around the league has been amazed at the constant improvement from Rajon Rondo, how do you feel he will matchup against Jameer Nelson, who has also been terrific in the playoffs so far?

 

Andrew: This matchup is going to be a lot of fun. Despite both players making the All-Star team (Rondo this season and Nelson last season), it seems like both players have been undervalued by the basketball community. Both players are finally getting their due with outstanding playoff performances in 2010 and are currently playing at the highest levels of their careers.

 

This is obviously going to be a difficult matchup for each player defensively and I think each player is going to get the best of the other one on the offensive end. Defensively, I think Nelson and the Magic will do what the Magic did with Rafer Alston last year – play off Rondo and try to prevent him from getting into the paint in an attempt to make Rondo beat them with their jumper. The Magic don’t want Rondo setting up the Celtics’ bigs with easy jumpers or kicking the ball out to their shooters. The same can be said for the Celtics, who know they can’t win if Orlando is consistently getting open looks from beyond the arc. The Magic will try to take advantage of Rondo with the pick-and-roll and Rondo will have to defend the play better.

 

Brandon: Does the fact that the Magic have not lost a game in the playoffs worry you?

 

Andrew: It’s something you think about but like Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said, “What are we supposed to do, lose on purpose?” It’s pretty much inevitable the Magic are going to lose a game somewhere along the line and when they do, they should have the mental capacity to bounce back. Although the Magic do have a much different team this season, plenty of these players were on last year’s team that lost four times on buzzer beaters during the 2009 postseason and rallied from a 2-1 series deficit in the First Round against Philadelphia and a 3-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston.

 

I don’t think we have to worry about the Magic being overconfident either. They know how good the Celtics are.

 

Brandon: What have you noticed about Vince Carters progression since he arrived in Orlando? Should we be worried or will he help out the Celtics by trying to be a one man show?

 

Andrew: Vince Carter went through the worst month of his career in January and wasn’t playing as well he should before then either. He was taking too many inefficient shots and making some poor decisions with the ball in his hands. Since February 1st, it’s been a different Carter. He’s taking better shots and working harder on both ends of the court. His shooting percentage is way up and he has done a better job of getting his teammates involved.

 

I think Carter was trying to do too much and at times was trying to be a one-man show. Since then, he’s relaxed and learned how to play with a team as good as Orlando. For the first time in his career, he doesn’t have to be “the man.” He has teammates that are more than capable of getting the job done. He’s become much less concerned with his numbers and more concerned with the success of the team.

 

That’s not to say that Carter can’t still take over a game (see his 48-point performance against New Orleans or his huge second half performance in a tight Game 2 against the Hawks), he just can’t do it nearly as often, but he doesn’t need to.

 

Carter just needs to play smart – get his teammates involved, slash to the basket and knock down his open looks. Despite some of the more interesting matchups in this series, Carter may be the key for the Magic. I’m not sure the Celtics can contain him if he is in “attack-mode,” driving to the basket and getting good looks for himself and setting up his teammates with good looks. If Carter plays like that, then yes, the Celtics should be worried.

 

Brandon: Has there been any memo to Magic fans to make sure that kids stay off the sidelines when Big Baby is in the game?

 

Andrew: I’m not sure that memo will be nearly as important now that Garnett is back. I don’t think we’ll see the ball in the hands of Big Baby for the last shot again.

 

Brandon: What's your predicition?

 

Andrew: I expect this series to go down to the wire. During the regular season, the Magic defeated the Celtics in three of their four meetings, but the average score was 88-87.

 

It wouldn’t surprise me to see either team win this series. It’s going to be another grind-it-out, defensive series with most of the scores staying in the low 90s. Both teams have solid depth, but if each team gets into foul trouble, I think the Magic are better prepared to handle it. I like the advantages Nelson and Carter can create for the Magic when they drive to the basket. I’ll take the Magic in seven.

 

Questions for Brandon:

 

Andrew: The Celtics went 27-27 in the final 54 games of the regular season and were left for dead by many in the media. How have the Celtics been able to turn it on in the postseason?

 

Brandon: I wish I honestly knew a straight forward answer to this. All season they were saying that they were just trying to prepare for when it really matters. Going into the playoffs they began to start getting healthy again and each individual has accepted their role for the better good of the team. We used this cliche' "flip the switch" all season long and now they have finally "flipped the switch" and are starting to look very similar to the team we saw in 2008.

 

Andrew: The Celtics' big men (especially Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace) historically been able to limit Dwight Howard and although Howard has played better this season, they Celtics have still held him to just 12.3 points per game in their four meetings. Considering Perkins has only played 18.0 minutes per game against the Magic this season, how have the Celtics been able to limit Howard on the offensive end? Can they keep it up?

 

Brandon: Although it's Perkins and Wallace that are ultimately guarding Howard it comes down to a total team effort. Just like with LeBron, the C's are going to have to work as a team to limit Howard. There is no doubt that he is the best center in the game today. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, a defensive specialist, will throw multiple strategies at Howard hoping to limit his effectiveness.

 

Another thing that helps with defending Howard is that the Celtics have one of the most physical big men in the league in Kendrick Perkins. Perkins can really rough up Howard down low and get him frustrated. The key this season and moving on in this series however will be getting Howard into foul trouble. He can't score if he's on the bench.

 

Andrew: The Magic were third in defensive rating and first in defensive field goal percentage. Boston has really struggled against good post defenses and Orlando has the best interior defender in the NBA. How are the Celtics going to attack Orlando’s defense?

 

Brandon: I think they will attack it the same way they have attacked defenses all season long. Since day one Doc has not altered his strategy and I don't think he plans on doing so eight games away from winning an NBA championship. Unlike with Charlotte and Atlanta the Celtics have a point guard who can completely take over a game without scoring a point. Like it has all season the offense will flow through Rondo.

 

 In transition and in a set offense the Celtics are much more successful when things start with Rondo. He can penetrate to open up players on the perimeter and he has great instinct in finding open big men down low for easy baskets. I also expect Doc to go to KG early in this series in hopes that he carries momentum over from the Cleveland series. If he can be as successful against Lewis as he was against Jamison it could be scary. We also have this guy named Paul Pierce who has the potential to take over a game if need be.

 

Andrew: The Celtics trapped LeBron James on Cleveland’s pick-and-roll but they will probably have to find a different way to contain the Magic when Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter run the play with Howard (and with each other for that matter). Is this a big concern for the Celtics?

 

Brandon: Not really. When it comes to defense in the playoffs I am 100% confident in the Celtics coaching staff. Following the Game 6 victory over Cleveland I am sure they are right back into the think of things watching film, breaking down Orlando's offense, etc.

 

 I am more worried about defending the perimeter and making sure Orlando does not catch fire from behind the arc. It is scary when you look at their lineup and see that 1-4 (even 5 in the all-star game) are all three point shooters. The key for the Celtics defensively will be to make sure they run all of the Magic shooters off the three point line. Otherwise it could get ugly quick.

 

Andrew: If the Celtics are going to win series, how are they going to do it and what are the keys?

 

Brandon: Keep doing what they are doing so far in the playoffs. In my opinion they matchup eye to eye with the Magic. Watching and analyzing this team all year I can tell you that the one key to success is limiting the Magic to under 90 points a game. When they do this their record is astonishing. Like the commercial says, it's all about the defense.

 

Andrew: What’s your prediction?

 

Brandon: If you asked me before the playoffs started, I'd probably say Magic in 5 or 6. Now that I have seen flashes of 2008 and have seen this team play to their potential I'm predicting Celtics in 6. I like our chances, the roller coaster is riding high right now in Boston.

Categories: Boston Celtics

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