Time: 2:30 PM EST (9:30 PM Bethlehem Time), Saturday, December 25th, 2010
Venue: Amway Arena
TV: ABC, Radio: WEEI
The Line: The Celtics are currently riding a 14 game 'loss-less' streak. This is the first time the Celtics are facing the Magic since they beat them in the playoffs last spring. Last regular season, the Magic were 3-1 against the Celtics.
Game Thread | Chat
The Celtics are currently 1 and 1 in Christmas Day games during KG's reign, including a very convincing win against the Magic last Christmas. The Magic would love nothing more than to ruin the Celtics win streak and build upon their impressive win against the Spurs. Big, measuring stick game for both teams, expect high intensity from the players on the floor, but a passive interest from the rest of the world because the media darling Miami Heat and under achieving LA Lakers are playing hopscotch or something later.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Injuries And Stuff: Kendrick Perkins (OUT), Delonte West (OUT), Rajon Rondo (OUT), Semih Erden (QUEST - ILLNESS), Jermaine O'Neal (PROB)
injuries And Stuff: Malik Allen (DTD)
Match-up Of The Night: O'Neals Squared V Dwight Howard
Both of the major trades the Magic just pulled off distract from the main issue: The Magic need Dwight Howard to be a superstar to win games against contending teams. Through the month of December the Magic are 4-8, with some pretty bad losses to pretty bad teams in there. The condition is exacerbated in the current incarnation of the Magic's roster (most people agree the Magic will make another move to obtain a legit backup center), because Marcin Gortat, arguably the best backup center in the league, was traded in the recent roster renovations. The Celtics on the other hand will have two competent big men in Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq, meaning that for extended minutes tonight the Magic will be completely outclassed down low. If the Magic want a shot of building on their recent win against the Spurs, then they need Dwight Howard to maximize his minutes on the floor.
The Celtics on the other hand are nearly assured the win if they can limit Dwight's scoring and rebounding. Unfortunately that will be a tall order, as the Spurs (although it should be noted they were on the 2nd night of a back to back) allowed Howard 29 points and 14 boards.
Three Keys For The Good Guys:
1) A Gilbert Story- Gilbert Arenas is currently coming off the bench for the Magic, but his role looks like it will be increasing on a game by game basis. This is where Delonte West would really come in handy, as he's pretty much born to defend Gilbert Arenas. If he was a jeopardy question (or is it answer?) he would be "A 6'4 guard that is a little bit crazy, very passionate, and perfectly suited to defend Gilbert Arenas" While I think it is irrational to fear a backup aging combo guard with limited quickness that shoots less than 38% from the field..I do.
2) Run, Run, Rudolph..but not the Magic- The Magic beat a tired Spurs team by hustling and getting transition points. Even Hedo Turkoglu stopped partying long enough to get some lay-ins in transition. Transition points are easy buckets, and they're created by energy+turnovers. The Celtics cannot allow themselves to lack energy, or commit too many turnovers.
3) And so this is...defense?- The Magic of 2008-2009 were a stalwart defensive team with an unconventional but effective offense They had chemistry, and a supporting cast that complemented each other. That is, luckily, no longer the case.The Magic literally have nobody who can cover Paul Pierce. They used to have Matt Barnes AND Mikael Pietrus, with either one able to defend Pierce for long stretches without needing major team defensive adjustments. Heck, even Hedo used to be able to attempt guarding Pierce. Well, no none of those guys are around. Hedo Turkoglu has as much in common with his 2008-2009 season as the Karl Malone in that Skechers commercial has with 1999 Karl Malone. The team will be relying completely on Dwight Howard to fix the mistakes major defensive liabilities like Gilbert or Hedo will create while they're on the court. Boston needs to be aggressive, and getting 3 fouls on Dwight Howard before the half would be an icing on the cake