Boston Celtics (1-0) @ Orlando Magic (0-1)
Time: Tuesday, May 18th, 8:00 PM EST
Venue: Amway Arena
TV: ESPN Radio: WEEI
Officials: Joe DeRosa, Marc Davis, Bill Kennedy (Click for Full Report)
The Line: The Celtics were 1-3 against the Magic during the reg (fake) season
but the mean Green stole game one. Orlando up to that point were on a 14 game win streak.
I hope everyone enjoyed the roller coaster ride on Sunday, because (stuff) just got real. Orlando today is faced with the possibility of heading up to Boston down 2-0, which while it is not a death sentence, it would make the chances of the Magic advancing to the finals decidedly less likely. It is for that reason that the Magic are going to come out with more energy than Robin Williams, circa 1980.
The Magic have not lost back to back home games all season, and one has to imagine that they're stinging pretty hard from the loss on Sunday, and are looking for some payback. Doc Rivers said as much before shoot around this morning:
"I think they'll play harder, they'll play with more energy, and they're going to be better. Just from the time off, the rust they had, they will shoot the ball better."-Via ESPN
Now if you're like me and you have a day job that lets you read extraordinary amounts of internet basketball articles you've probably seen the mainstream media reach the same bull-hockey consensus. Basically it boils down to one or all of three fundemental reasons. One, the Magic were "rusty", because they hadn't played in six days. Two, the Magic were used to a lower level of competition, because they ran though the previous two playoff opponents and had not faced an elite team yet. Three, the Celtics defense did a good job through three and a half quarters. Notice, if you will, that only one of those has ANYTHING to do with Boston's actual play.
Not a single one of those is because Boston is flat out the better team. Nobody believes that is even in the discussion, which is why Orlando, despite all their alleged fire and angst and cell phone commercials and terrible...TERRIBLE half time interviews...
Just for one second, allow us to talk about that ridiculous halftime interview. Dwight Howard interviews himself, but oh no, he's not himself, he's his 'alter ego' Clark Kent, who just looks like Farnsworth Bentley on steroids, interviewing his other 'alter ego' Superman, who just looks like Dwight Howard in a basketball uniform. Number one, that is completely idiotic without hope of turning out well. Number two, how do you ask YOURSELF softball questions.My good god I hated that interview.
Sigh......but anyways,it is because nobody sees this series as anything but Orlando's to lose, that Orlando, might in fact, lose tonight. The Celtics don't care about perception. They don't care about Hollinger's playoff odds, or statistics, or Charles Barkley.
We, or a large part of us (we and us being Celtics fans), spent a large part of the regular season learning how to temper expectations. We all had different coping mechanisms. Some of us chose frustration. Some chose anger. Some (yours truly) chose distanced and sarcastic apathy, but that is all over. After seeing our boys steal yet another game on the road, I not only concede that a win is possible tonight, I expect one.
To borrow from Marv, a character in the movie Sin City,
This is blood for blood and by the gallon. These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They're back! There's no choice left. And I'm ready for war.
Lets see you fly now, Superman.
Game breakdown and bad puns about 'Magic Tricks' after the jump.
Probable Starting Lineups
Injuries and stuff: Kendrick Perkins (knee, but very probable)
Injuries and Stuff: Matt Barnes (back, but very probable)
Match-up Of The Night: Vince Carter V Ray Allen/Paul Pierce
Now I know, I know, Dwight Howard is the key of all this. He'll be my '1a' match-up of the night. But regarding Vince Carter, hear me out. Vince Carter is the most potent scoring threat on the court for either team. He is still an All-Star talent. We joke about him, we say he's got no heart, that he doesn't come through in the clutch, that he's never won anything, and that all has kernels of truth in it. But, that does not take away from the fact that he managed 23 points against the Green on Sunday, and it wasn't all in a flurry. It was 2 pts here, 2 pts there, all game. He didn't have more than 3 made FG's in any one quarter, that means that while he didn't 'explode' for 23 points, we couldn't shut him down either.
However...and this is the good, he can't stop us either. When Carter is paired with Matt Barnes, Barnes takes Pierce and Carter takes Ray Allen. Now Barnes is a physical defender that can on some nights give people fits, but Carter, despite hype to the alternative, is not a good defender. End result: Pierce and Allen combine for 11 of the first 17 points. 2nd quarter, Vince Carter enters game paired with Mickael Pietrus against Ray Allen and Tony Allen. Pietrus takes Tony Allen, Carter takes Ray Allen, and the two Allens combine for 6 of the next 12 points.
Vince Carter cannot cover either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. Ray Allen's commitment to movement without the ball and hustling back after a bucket or rebound on the defensive end forces Carter into a level of activity on defense he is not comfortable with. Pierce's wily vet savvy, strength, and quick first step paired with a three point shot that finally seems to be falling means that Carter cannot cheat at all when Pierce has the rock. Both guys make him work harder than he is used to on defense.
The guy to cover Ray Allen is probably JJ Reddick. The guy to cover Paul Pierce is a healthy Matt Barnes or Mickael Pietrus. People can talk about Vince Carter's increased awareness on the defensive end all they like, but beyond a highlight play here or there, Carter did not show up like he needed to in game one. Look for the C's to continue to exploit that.
Other (Highly) Notable Match-up of the Night: Kendrick Perkins V Dwight Howard
This is the match-up everyone is talking about, but it is not my match-up of the night because I've come to expect this out of Perkins night in, night out. Perkins by Dwight Howard's own omission is the best in the league at guarding 'Superman' man on man. Perkins will continue to put forth fantastic effort on the defensive side and hopefully keep Howard in check. The real test is not what Perkins does on D though, but whether or not he stays out of foul trouble, and whether or not he can stop being a liability on the offensive end.
Perkins attempted six field goals on Sunday, and while I admittedly cannot remember all of them, I remember clearly two that made me cringe. One was a jump shot from approximately 19 feet at the top of the key. Perkins gets the ball out there a lot, but he simply passes it 99% of the time. He facilitates the offense, he's like a placeholder. This time, he just fired away, and the ball clanged like it ought to. The second shot that made me cringe was when Perkins got the ball on the baseline with Howard roughly about a step from him, daring him to make a move. Perkins is not unskilled in the post. He's not Hakeem the Dream or anything, but he's got a fundamental tool set of (one or two) post moves. That's all well and good to use when he's facing Dan Gadzuric or something, but Dwight Howard is the reigning defensive player of the year. He trades blocks as currency. Why on Earth would you go right at Dwight Howard if you're Kendrick Perkins? He's got to pick and choose his moments more carefully. Howard is tasked with help defending the entire paint, I'm sure Perkins can amass four buckets from just being aware and available for the dish.
Three Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:
1) That's What Sheed Said.- Rasheed Wallace not only got inside Dwight Howard's head on Sunday, he signed a lease and had a house party. Rasheed had Howard crying to the refs, to Stan Van Gundy, Tyra Banks, heck anyone who would listen. When Perkins isn't in there to play immovable object to Howard's (alleged) unstoppable force, Rasheed needs to be in there to antagonize, annoy, and distract Howard. I'm pretty sure Sheed is pinching him when they jockey for rebounds. That's how serious it is.
2) This Sounds Pretty Obvious, But Stop Giving Them Open Looks- While I am first in line to say the Celtics won on Sunday because they were a better team that played suffocating defense, Orlando missed a LOT of open shots. Shots they will not miss tonight. The interior defense on Sunday was solid, but there needs to be a better job done on closeouts.
3) We need Rajon to Rondo.- Rondo dictated the pace of game 1 pretty well. He didn't make an outrageous amount of mistakes, he shot a respectable but not awesome 40%. Basically a 40 degree day from Mr Rondo. Now we don't need 28 points 13 assists and 18 rebounds. We just need you to stop thinking that Dwight Howard is going to block every one of your shots. If Rondo can get into the paint, and force the defense to collapse, then more and more shots will open up, and we can keep Orlando reeling.
Well, that's all I got. Big thanks as always FLCeltsFan for the GT and Officials Report, and big ups to War Room user 'ThatsWhatSheedSaid' for having an awesome name. It's going to be tough to weather the four hours between now and tonight, but somehow we'll make it though. Hope to see everyone in the War Room (not the Game Thread. I heard they're removing asbestos tonight), jokes are half-off and blind faith is free. I will leave you all with an image: