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Celtics Can Advance to NBA Finals With Game 4 Win Over Magic

Boston Celtics (11-3) vs. Orlando Magic (8-3)

Monday, May 24, 2010



Venue: TD Garden

Game Thread [] Chat War Room

The general consensus said these Eastern Conference Finals would be a long, grueling affair, spanning at least six games, with the full seven-game tilt not entirely out of the question. Two defensive-minded teams, both with recent NBA Finals experience, would clash for another shot at the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Just over a week later, that laborious affair has not come to fruition, as it has become apparent that the Celtics are the ideal team, with the necessary roster talent, to effectively limit Orlando's weapons. Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis have served as quality low post defenders, capable of handling Dwight Howard one-on-one, which has lessened Boston's need to double-team him in the paint, which, in turn, has allowed the Celtics to stay home on Orlando's perimeter shooters. The Magic are incredibly reliant on the three-point shot, but have so far managed to knock down just 28.6 percent of their shots from the nation - a demoralizing number, to say the least.

Tack on Boston playing with a physicality that the Magic have not been capable of competing with, along with a greater display of effort (Rajon Rondo's dive for that loose ball in the second quarter of Game 3 comes to mind) and it's no wonder the Celtics now boast a 3-0 series lead, and sit on the verge of a sweep of one of the league's best teams.

So how exactly will tonight play out? Game 3 was a bloodbath, with the Celtics thoroughly dismantling the Magic, 94-71, and it wasn't even that close. No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 series deficit, but if we relied solely on history, there wouldn't even be a game tonight. Will the Magic roll over and die? Or, will they stand up and fight, be it just for pride and a scrap of dignity?

Regardless of the tone in Orlando's locker room, the onus lies solely on the shoulders of the Celtics to slam the door shut, and advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in the last three years.

Similar to when the Celtics went up 3-0 on the Miami Heat, they have so far proven that they are a better team than the Orlando Magic, and should win this series. With that in mind, any games beyond tonight's might seem...unnecessary. Why do in Game 5 or even 6 what they can do in Game 4, tonight? An extension of this series would only take away from valuable rest and preparation time for what is, in all likelihood, a return trip to the NBA Finals.

With that said, the Magic still boast the talent to steal a game in this series, so if we do not see the same tenacity from the C's that has been present through the first three games, this series could very well be extended.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Magic: Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard

Keys to the Game:

Defense, Tenacity, Hustle: Three things that have been utilized throughout the first three games, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

Togetherness: Six players scored in double figures for the Celtics in Game 3, in what was one of the better total team efforts of the season. All five starters, with the exception of Kendrick Perkins scored 10+ points, but Perk was instrumental in containing Howard, and nearly equalized Howard's 7-point, 7-rebound effort with six points and six rebounds of his own. Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis combined for 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul Pierce tied his series-high in rebounds with nine.

Keep Rashard Lewis Down: Credit Kevin Garnett for making Lewis a non-factor in this series - something the Magic were not prepared for and have been unable to overcome. He's averaged a mere five points over the course of the first three games, but seeing as Games 1 and 2 were fairly close, if such a situation unfolds tonight, a "breakout game" from Lewis (which would technically qualify as anything sniffing double figures at this point) could very well put the Magic over the top.

Keep Rebounding: The Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league throughout the entire regular season, but we've learned as these playoffs have rolled on that we can throw out most of what we saw through the first 82 games. Boston has out-rebounded Orlando in two of the three games so far, and it's been a team-wide effort on the glass. Kevin Garnett leads the team this series with 8.66 boards per game, but Paul Pierce is right on his heels with a 7.66 rebounds per game average of his own. Add in Ray Allen pulling down five per game, and Rajon Rondo taking away four per game and it's no wonder the Celtics have had as much success on the glass as they have had. Garnett's nearly equalized Dwight Howard on the glass all by himself, as Howard has averaged just nine rebounds per game - a far cry from the 13.2 rebounds per game he averaged over the course of the regular season.

Keep your brooms close by.

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