A Daily Babble Production
Clarification: In the event that the Magic and Celtics can avoid the eruption of complete chaos on the New Garden floor tonight, nobody will actually be fighting Dwight Howard. The rhyming nature of fight-a-Dwight just makes it fun to write. I am wondering, however, if Doc Rivers will look to send Dwight Howard to the foul line more often in Game 2, particularly through the use of Mikki Moore.
I wrote heading into the series on Monday that I expected to see an expanded role for Mikki Moore against Orlando over his minutes last round versus the Bulls simply out of the necessity caused by Howard's presence. The Celtics have only four available players who possess something even close to the size or style needed to play Howard for even short stretches: Kendrick Perkins, the Infuriated Infant, Brian Scalabrine and Moore. As the worst defender (and overall player) of the bunch, Moore is the last option of those four - but he remains an option with six fouls to give. Against the player who led the league in free throw attempts over each of the last two seasons and is currently doing the same this postseason, the Celtics will need all the bodies they can use.
Monday night's game presented a couple of situations that may prove more the exception than the rule for this series. Kendrick Perkins, who defended D-12 well, did a fine job of staying out of foul trouble. He picked up only three for the game, which allowed him to stay on the floor for 36 minutes. The Celtics also avoided foul trouble from a team standpoint for the most part. They did not wind up in the penalty in the first quarter, didn't pick up their fourth team foul until the final 10 seconds of the third quarter and didn't use their last foul to give until the final minute of the fourth quarter.
This is significant because it reduced the opportunities to make a habit of intentionally fouling Howard, who shot 59.4 percent from the line this season. That's no aberration, as he is a 60.1 percent foul shooter for his career. He checks in at 57.3 percent in his three postseasons, though he is posting a better-than-normal 67.7 percent so far in the 2009 tournament.
Howard didn't dominate Game 1 offensively, and he did make his foul shots, knocking down four of five attempts. But he also commanded plenty of attention inside and forced the Celtics to bring double-teams on a couple of occasions, which led to the Magic getting the ball back outside and whipping it around the perimeter for open looks. While Perk in particular defended Howard well, I don't know if we can expect him to do it with so little foul trouble throughout the series - or for Howard to knock down 80 percent of his foul shots.
All of this brings me to the point The Guru made during our customary postgame chat on Monday: Though Mikki Moore does few things well on a basketball court, he is without question capable of inspiring the officials to blow their whistles. Getting him on the floor for short stretches at a time if and when the Celtics enter the penalty late in quarters would allow the Celtics to repeatedly foul Howard away from the ball early in possessions. This would avoid the concern of giving up a three-point play to the beast while taking the ball out of the hands of the Magic's group of potent outside shooters. Perk gets a chance to rest for a few minutes and avoid picking up any extra late-quarter fouls, and the Celtics force Orlando to confront one of its bigger offensive weaknesses this way. Meanwhile, the Celtics don't risk losing one of the bigs responsible for playing significant rotation minutes.
This is about bringing the guy in for two or three possessions at a time. If Howard misses a bunch from the stripe, great. If he makes the Celtics pay the first few times, returning to standard defense is a makeable adjustment. Either way, it's hard to imagine an attempt at the fight-a-Dwight would go much worse than the end of the second quarter did last night: After running the Celtics out of fouls to give at the 4:05 mark, the Magic converted on six of their last eight possessions for a total of 13 points.
All that said, the Celtics do defend Howard well as a group, and if they can avoid having to double too often, they have the ability to get out on shooters and get stops defensively without giving away the extra fouls or having to use their emergency big man before it is absolutely necessary. But at the very least, the fight-a-Dwight seems worth a thought, and one can only imagine that Doc has mulled it over a bit.
So, will the Celts use the fight-a-Dwight tonight or in this series? Should they?