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Game 7: Deja Vu All Over Again

gamethreadrd2 by celticsblog.

Orlando Magic (3-3,7-5) at Boston Celtics (3-3,7-6)
Round 2, Game 7
Postseason game #14 Home Game #8
Sunday, 5/17
8:00 PM ET
Pre/Post Game: CSN HD 7:00 PM ET/After the Game
TD Banknorth Garden

For the second time in as many series, the Celtics are facing a must win game 7 at the Garden. The Celtics franchise is 32-0 in game 7's after they led the series 3-2. But, history really doesn't guarantee a win. Each team is different as is each opponent. But the fact that this team is 1-0 in game 7's this season may give them an edge over the Magic who haven't played in a game 7 as a team.

The Celtics have a couple things going for them in this game. One, they are playing at home where they have been very strong this season. Second, this team has been in this position before both last season and in the first round this season. This Orlando team hasn't faced the pressure of a game 7. Third, the Celtics have had 2 days off between games and they have played very well on two days rest.

Doc has guaranteed that Ray Allen will snap out of his slump in this game. Let's hope that Doc's instincts are right. The Celtics have been able to win with Ray struggling, but they need Ray's offense, especially in a must win game.

The Celtics have not yet played well in this series. Pierce and Ray Allen have struggled. The team hasn't played defense for an entire game. Hopefully they will put everything together in this game. It's win or go home. The Magic hasn't gotten their perimeter game going in the series either and hopefully with some good defense from the Celtics, they will continue to struggle.

This is about as must win as games get. It's win or go home. The Celtics can't depend on history or home court to win this game. They have to come out focused and play for 48 minutes and most importantly play defense.

Referees: Steve Javie Scott Foster Derrick Stafford

Probable Starting Matchups
Each of these matchups is a key to this game.

Rajon Rondo vs Rafer Alston
As it has been in every game, as goes Rondo, so go the Celtics. Rondo has to be more aggressive. He didn't go to the rim in game 6 but settled for stopping midway in the paint for the runners or teardrop jumpers. He has to get to the rim and either finish or draw the foul or kick the ball out to the open man. When he gets to the hoop, the defense will collapse on him and there will be someone open. But, that doesn't happen when he pulls up. Also, he has to run the plays. Too many possessions in game 6 ended up with Rondo holding the ball as the shot clock ran down.

Kendrick Perkins vs Dwight Howard
Perk has been doing a great job defending Howard 1 on 1. He was limited in game 6 by foul trouble and so he has to play smart and try to avoid picking up early fouls. Of course, some of that goes on the refs who have been less than consistent in this series. The Celtics will need another strong game from Perk in order to win game 7. His defense on Howard will be crucial as will his ability to finish inside and grab offensive rebounds.

Paul Pierce vs Hedo Turkoglu
The Celtics need Paul Pierce to step up and lead the team. He has been inconsistent, disappearing for some periods and hitting big shots at others. The Celtics need the Paul Pierce who drives to the hoop and draws fouls, the Paul Pierce who hits those midrange shots but doesn't force shots and finds his teammates when he is doubled and tripled. If that Paul Pierce doesn't show up, the Celtics' chances of winning go way down. The Celtics need the Captain to show up.

Ray Allen vs JJ Reddick
Van Gundy has been starting Reddick and bringing Lee off the bench. Ray should once again see a combination of these two players at the two. To say that Ray has struggled in this series is a major understatement. The Celtics absolutely need more out of Ray than 5 points. He has to figure out a way to get open and hit his shots.

Big Baby Davis vs Rashard Lewis
Big Baby was in foul trouble much of game 6 and never got on track. It also seemed like Big Baby was forcing things and trying to do too much. The biggest key for Big Baby is to avoid picking up quick fouls. Again, the refs may determine this more than Big Baby will, but he has to play smart. This matchup is one of the toughest for the Celtics but it is also a tough one for the Magic since Lewis hasn't been that effective in stopping Big Baby either. Big Baby has to stay in his role and not try to force his shot and to find the open man when he is doubled.

The Bench matchups are also going to be key to the win.
The keys off the bench for the Celtics are House, Scal and Marbury. The Magic have been blanketing House with defense and not giving him any room whatsoever to get his shot off. When he does get a sliver of light, he is still hitting his shots. We need Eddie to find a way to get free and give the second unit some offense.

Scal may be the most important player off the bench simply because the Celtics have so few bigs. Scal has alternated between being successful and invisible. The Celtics need Scal to step up to the task on defense to keep Lewis off balance and he also must hit his shots to spread the floor and keep the defenses honest.

Marbury has to be able to run the offense when Rondo goes out. He has been successful when he is aggressive going for his shot and taking it to the hoop. He can't let himself be too unselfish (did I really say that about Marbury?) and he can't force it either and must find a medium between the two.

For the Magic, their biggest players off the bench have been Pietrus, Johnson and Gortat. Pietrus has hit some really big 3's for them and has defended well. Johnson showed that he is very capable of coming up big for the Magic when he started in place of the suspended Alston. Marbury must keep him from getting in his groove. And Gortat is more of an offensive threat than Howard, but doesn't provide the intimidation inside that Howard does. When Gortat is in, the Celtics must take advantage and get to the hoop.

Keys to the Game
The Celtics obviously have lost focus at times in this game allowing the Magic to build big leads and most recently, turning the ball over 19 times in game 6 and allowing the Magic to come back and win the game. They won't win game 7 with 19 turnovers. The Magic are too good at turning those turnovers into points. They scored 28 points off the Celtics 19 turnovers in game 6. At times they have stopped running their plays and have run out the shot clock without getting a good shot. They have also gone for long periods without their defensive focus. The Celtics must come into game 7 focused on both ends of the court and keep that focus for 48 minutes.

Limit Turnovers
The Celtics committed 19 turnovers in game 6. This goes hand and hand with the first key and that is focus. Most turnovers result from a lack of focus on the part of the players committing them. They make careless passes, shuffle their feet, fail to see the defenses, etc. The Celtics must keep their focus and cut down on their turnovers because the Magic will surely make them pay if they don't.

It was true last year and is just as true this year. Defense wins games. It was the Magic who buckled down on defense in game 6 and came up with the stops needed down the stretch. The Celtics have proved that they are capable of clamping down on defense but have not stayed with that defense for an entire game. They must come into game 7 with a defensive mindset and make that their priority. The team that plays defense, especially in crunch time will be the team that comes out on top.

Leaders Must Lead
The Celtics need Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to show up. Paul Pierce has been inconsistent. At times he is dominant and at others he disappears. Pierce must show up for Game 7 and lead this team to a strong start and keep them focused right to the end. Pierce must lead this team and set the tone. He is the Captain and must play like it. Ray Allen on the other hand has been consistent, but consistently bad. This would be a great time for Ray to come out of his slump and hit some big shots. The Celtics need his offense.

Crashing the boards is very important in this series because of how dominant Howard is with put backs once he gets the rebounds. The Celtics must limit Magic second chance baskets by rebounding the ball. Effort, energy, and desire will show up in the rebounding stats. The team that wants the game more will win the rebounding battle. Hopefully, it will be the Celtics that want it more.

Run the Offense
The Celtics must run their offense. They have to move the ball and find the open man. They have to run their set plays and make their shots when they are open. In game 6, too many possessions, especially down the stretch, ended up with Rondo taking a desperation shot at the end of the shot clock. That should never happen. If they are running their plays and their offense is working, there should always be someone open for a shot before they get to that point.

X Factors
Home Court Advantage and an Extra Day
The Celtics beat out the Magic for the privilege of hosting game 7 if it came down to it in the playoffs. It has come down to it. The Magic have been a good road team all season and closed out the first round on the road. They proved they are capable of winning in Boston with their game 1 victory. Home teams have won 80% of game 7's over the course of NBA history. This may have more to do with the fact that the better team has the better record and thus home court advantage than it does with the venue.

The Celtics can't come into the game assuming they will win it because they are at home. Hopefully they will get a lift from what should be a very loud and rowdy crowd, but they still must put forth the effort to outplay the Magic, especially on the defensive end.

The game will be played after 2 days off. The Celtics have been playing every other day and fatigue has been a factor, especially with such a short bench. The Celtics are 15-3 this season in games that they have at least 2 days rest going into the game. That extra day off could pay big dividends.

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