So how exactly will the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic play out? CelticsBlog's writing team weighs in with its predictions and thoughts:
Jeff Clark: Celtics in 7 games. I think the Celtics match up better with the Magic than the Cavs, but they might still have a tougher time with the Magic...if that makes any sense. The Magic are killing teams right now and they are doing it largely with defense. With that said, we have a pretty nice defense as well and I think Pierce in particular will have a few Captain games in this series. Everyone will talk about Howard vs. Perkins, but the matchup I'll be interested in is Rondo vs. Nelson at the point.
Green17: Celtics in 6 games. Perk owns Duhhhwhight. TA is now the best defender in the NBA. Rondo is the playoffs MVP. Even Sheed played like someone who cares! My big matchup to look for is Big Baby facing the sad kid who lost his hat last year.
Steve Weinman: Celtics in 7 games. This team has spent the last month reviving my belief in it. But the Magic are really, really good. Which means this should be a long series.
FLCeltsFan: Celtics in 6 games. The Magic have been playing great, but haven't really been tested. Lost in all the LeBron furor, the Celtics have also been playing great with stronger opposition. I say the tougher road makes the Celtics a tougher team. Celtics keep playing tough defense and they take one of the first two games in Orlando and then win their home games.
Jimmy Toscano: Celtics in 6 games. The swagger is back and here to stay. I think this is the series Pierce really steps up in a few games. Can also see Carter having a tough time sticking with Ray. Those two, coupled with the improved play of KG and Rondo will prove too much for the Magic to handle. Also, Perk has done an excellent job defending Howard in the past. I like our matchups, but watch out for Orlando's bench.
Roy Hobbs: Celtics in 6 games. There's no question that the Magic are a deeper team than the Cavs, but they also don't have anybody who can dominate a game like Lebron, and yes, that includes Howard. I think Perk and Rasheed can keep Howard's scoring down, although I worry about the Celts' rebounding. The two guys that scare me the most on the Magic are Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. I think a rejuvenated KG will be able to contain Rashard, meaning that the key may be keeping Rondo focused on defense. I think he's up to the task. Offensively, I don't think Orlando will be able to contain all of our weapons; I think Ray Allen is going to be our leading scorer this series, with Paul Pierce going off in a couple of games as Vince Carter struggles to defend him.
Celts win Games 2, 3, 5, and 6.
Master Po: Celtics in 6 games (and let me reverse jinx myself right now). I don't see this series going 7 games. The Celtics will need to capture one of the first two games in Orlando or face tremendous odds and rested legs. If the C's can knock Orlando out of their playoff groove by taking one of the first two (preferably the first game) then I think Orlando suddenly starts to choke like Lebron on a piece of ELBOW macaroni. I would try everything I could to get Dwight in foul trouble......keep driving to the basket and do not settle for jumpers.
IndeedProceed: Celtics in 6 games. I don't think Orlando is going to be ready for the angry that is Celtics basketball. Kendrick Perkins is going to be eeee-ohhhhge this series.
tenaciousT: Celtics in 7 games. Another very tough series. Celtics prevail in 7. Vince Carter shows his unchampionship side. Sheed, Davis and Tony must play big parts in short minutes. Rondo/Celtics neutralize Nelson. Magic comes to a stop. Perkins will have a tougher time with Howard this year, and the Cs will have to help a bit more, but an awakened Rasheed will help. Like always, transition d, and defense on Orlando's three point shooters is critical and, except for fastbreak opportunities, slow the game down. Nelson will need help on Rondo and that will free someone else in green up.
Greg Payne: Celtics in 5 games. I feel like one of Orlando's main priorities is to contain Ray Allen, which is why I think this will be Paul Pierce's series. Rajon Rondo will keep doing his thing, and I'm optimistic about Kevin Garnett's chances in the post against Rashard Lewis, as well as Rasheed Wallace's overall play. But Pierce will be the guy. Make no mistake, he was severely hampered by LeBron James in the last round. But he endured, his team prevailed, and he's ready to re-assert himself. Picture a five-year old locked up in a 3X3 playpen for two weeks with nothing more than a rattle and a kazoo. Then, imagine, after those two weeks are up, unleashing that five-year old in a brand spankin' new Chuck E, Cheese. That'll be Pierce this round. Vince Carter, I have just two words for you: Good. Luck. Then, if the Magic decide to switch Matt Barnes onto Pierce, it'll be Ray Allen's time to get going. The C's just have too many weapons.
As always, please feel free to add your own predictions in the comments section.