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Game #71 - Celtics vs. Magic Preview

This is the third meeting between the Celtics and the Magic this year, with Orlando victorious in the previous 2.  The last time they met Tony Allen had 7 steals and the Celtics fell, kicking off an 18 game losing streak.  Memories.  While Boston has lost by respectable margins both times (3 points and 8 points) I got the impression at the time that the Magic coasted and did just enough to get the W.  Since then Orlando has gone from being one of the surprises of the season to a John Hollinger style "I told you so" squad.  And it's too bad.  Their failure to move Grant Hill's expiring contract to get back an impact player struck me as A) a poor decision and B) frightening because that type of thing does not seem to be happening anymore and that was one of the alleged benefits of the Telfair/Ratliff acquisition.  The thought that Theo Ratliff might never play another game in the NBA and spend his final season under contract with the Celtics will keep me up at nights.  On to the starting 5s:

Orlando

Jameer Nelson - I'm about to do something that people who report on sports love to do: "Nelson played his college ball with Delonte West..."  Okay we can move on now.  Nelson is a bit undersized and I don't fear his defense.  But he has shredded the Celtics in the past, particularly in the first meeting of the season (24 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds).  It would be great if the Bob Cousy showed up to screw up his name.  In fact, as far as I can recall, the last Orlando game was the Cooz's final appearance of the season.

Grant Hill - It is difficult to feel bad for a guy who has millions and millions of dollars.  But it does at the very least make basketball people wonder what could have been.  I remember it fondly when he was mistakenly being compared to MJ, rocking the Fila sneakers, and gliding all over the court.  Speaking of what could have been, remember this video?  Tiger Woods was not an assassin yet, Urkel was still on the scene, the Jerry Maguire kid was still the Jerry Maguire kid, Tyra Banks was more concerned with being a model than having a talk show, Chris Rock was still on his comedic rise, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Penny Hardaway himself had not been robbed of some ridiculous seasons.  Alas.

Hedo Turkoglu - For some reason I miss the days of him playing with Vlade Divac.  Meanwhile, Paul Pierce missed the last meeting with that foot injury.  This is the match up the C's have to exploit tonight.  Turkoglu can't handle the Truth.  And since I mentioned Vlade - does anyone else feel that the whole Divac for Kobe trade does not get ridiculed enough?  People knew Kobe was ridiculous when he was holding his own with NBA players at age 16.

Tony Battie - The fact that Darko has not made it absolutely clear that he deserves this starting spot does not bold well for everyone's favorite Serbian gangsta.  

Dwight Howard - It' all about the big fella as Celtics.com is selling this as him versus Big Al in a meeting of Clifford Ray's pupils.  It will be an interesting match up as Howard is powerful, a demon on the boards, and a force of nature.  Jefferson will have to use his quickness.  Also Kendrick Perkins will probably be assigned to Howard.

Other players of note:

J.J. Reddick - If he plays it will be his first action against the C's.  I hope the hometown crowd is ready to boo vociferously.

Darko - There is a petition floating around Orlando to legally change his middle name to "inconsistent".  

5 Quick Points about the Celtics:

Rajon Rondo - Has to prevent Nelson from driving at will into the paint.

Delonte West - I'd love to see him outscore his college teammate.

Paul Pierce - Has to dominate Turkoglu.

Kendrick Perkins - Make his fouls count, bang bodies with Howard, and make the young phenom work.

Al Jefferson - Does he want to be good or one of the elite young big men in the game?

Analysis

Things are not going well for the Magic.  With a record of 33 wins and 38 losses they are fighting for their playoff lives.  As always I have no clue which team will win.  The Celtics are a classic enigma wrapped inside a riddle.  I just want a close game.