A Daily Babble Production
One of the bonuses of the NBA playoffs for fans is getting to know each playoff opponent more intimately than we did during the regular season. Even for those who monitor the entire league over the breadth of the year, watching one's beloved team spend consecutive weeks focusing on playing and preparing for one squad (and thus reading, watching and perhaps even writing hours worth of speculative analysis) offers a new level of familiarity with the enemy du jour.
Tonight, for the fourth time in six series over the past two postseasons, the Celtics will take that relationship to its maximum length as they enter a decisive seventh game. As we noted in a similar situation 15 days ago with the Chicago Bulls, by the time midnight comes around in the East, emotions, knee-jerkiness and revisionist history are all likely to be running hot no matter the outcome of tonight's contest. So as we did with the Bulls in the first round, we present you today with ten parting thoughts on the team the Celtics will meet for the final time in the 2008-09 campaign tonight, the Orlando Magic:
- Dwight Howard is the best rebounder the Association has to offer. We brought this particular stat up earlier in the week, but it's ridiculous enough to note once more: In addition to leading the NBA in rebounds per game and rebound percentage for the second consecutive season, D12 is pulling down 26.8 percent of available rebounds in this postseason. More than one out of every four caroms ends up in his hands. Mind-boggling.
- Dwight Howard is a very good shot-blocker who will become a great shot-blocker when he realizes that there is more value in trying to keep the ball in play and direct it to a teammate than there is in trying to hit the highlight reel home run into Row Q.
- Rashard Lewis is a terrific athlete with a versatile set of basketball talents, and that makes him the type of guy who is consistently good to very good but would always leave me wanting a bit more if I were a Magic fan.
- Mickael Pietrus doesn't defend as well as James Posey, doesn't have the same knack for the big-moment shot as James Posey (but their career field-goal and three-point percentages are nearly identical), doesn't give bear hugs or pursue loose balls with the "I'll kill you" streak that Posey does and is a flat-out bad foul shooter. But with the exception of the bear hugs, he does a nice job doing a bit of everything off the bench, namely defending multiple positions, shooting the three at a decent clip (his 28.9 percent mark for the playoffs belies a 35.9 percent figure for the season) and attacking the rim a bit. He will be doing those things through this season and the three that follow for a total of $21.2 million.
- Courtney Lee is going to be a thorn in the side of shooting guards in this league for a long time to come.
- Marcin Gortat is headed toward receiving a semi-significant sum of money from someone other than the Magic, and we'll get to find out just how well his high shooting efficacy and per-minute rebounding and block production carry into a bigger role.
- Hedo Turkoglu is a fine offensive player mired in a two-rounds-long shooting slump. He isn't the first to experience that.
- Stan Van Gundy is a successful regular season coach with a few playoff series wins on his resume who provides animated sound bites and does a good job preaching defense but may need to reshape his relationships with several of his players in order to avoid a quicker-than-expected discharge from the home of Disney.
- Rafer Alston is a miserably inefficient shooter and a mediocre point guard.
- Nobody on this Magic team has anything on his face that comes close to posing reasonable competition to John Salmons' killer goatee.
Good (but not too good) luck to the Magic and their fans tonight, especially the fine group over at Third Quarter Collapse. I've chatted plenty with editors Ben Q Rock and Eddy Rivera, and I can't say enough good things about the work they do and the community they have built over at 3QC.
But that won't make me any less thrilled to (hopefully) see their team's season end tonight. Go green!