Orlando Magic (32-19, 14-12 away) @ Boston Celtics (37-12, 22-4 home)
2:30 PM EST, Feb 6th, 2011
Game: # 50, Home Game: # 27
Officials: Dick Bavetta, Jason Phillips, Olandis Poole
Venue: TD Garden TV: ABC Radio: WEEI
The Line: Boston is 1-1 against Orlando this season, dropping the first match-up but winning the most recent. Both teams are 2-2 over their last 4 games.
GAME THREAD | CHAT ROOM
Rivalries are a funny thing in the NBA. They're important, because the idea that two teams legitimately hate each other, and because of that will play harder, is a great selling point for a league that struggles with an image of a regular season that is at times, lackadaisical. Teams love to claim that there is a "rivalry" during a mid-February game, but that means higher ticket sales, higher TV ratings, more press coverage, just basically call it a money-gasm.
But, therein lies the issue. Teams and media outlets also like to fabricate "rivalries", because a fake rivalry can bring in just as much money as a real rivalry. See: Atlanta Hawks "rivalry". Its kind of like looking at the tabloids while you're in line at the supermarket, except instead of everybody dating Paris Hilton or something, they have a "rivalry" with the Celtics because of a playoff series 2 years ago where the C's beat them in 6 games. Sure, your entire roster has been overhauled and its completely different players, sure, you're a sub .500 team with no shot at the playoffs, but despite all that there is a "rivalry". No dice, Cleveland Cavaliers. Sorry, Washington Wizards.
I say this so you do not get confused: Today's game is legitimately between two rivals. Boston and Orlando don't like each other, and they'll be excited to see who can take the game today. They've got a lot of things going here..for one, in 08-09 the Magic became the first team to eliminate the KG-era Celtics (sans KG) from the playoffs. However, in 09-10 the Celtics completely ambushed the Magic and despite Orlando being heavily favored, the Celtics managed to slap the Magic into a 0-3 deficit, and eventually take a 4-2 series win.
There are other things that are less obvious that are at play here too. Dwight Howard, who for all intensive purposes is the face of the Magic, has basically come to be known as the most athletically gifted defensive player of the last 3-4 years or so, yet he is continually in KG's shadow on that end of the court. Howard bullies just about every center in the league, except the Celtics' Kendrick Perkins. Howard said recently at OrlandoMagic.com that: "We have much more of a rivalry with Boston, so we don’t really look at Miami as a rival..We go back and forth with the Celtics because they are always trying to get into our heads.’’
So kiddies, when you're watching league pass in March and the Celtics are playing the Bobcats or something, and the announcer says "over the past few years a real sense of animosity has developed between these two teams", try to think back to today's game. This is an actual rivalry. So before you watch some hibbly-bibbly Super Casserole Dish or something and get all hopped up on fried bean dip and twelve-layer Twinkie surprise, take a few minutes to enjoy seeing two teams that don't like each other play some basketball.
Injuries And Stuff: Shaquille O'Neal (QUEST), Jermaine O'Neal (OUT), Delonte West (CLOSE)
Injuries And Stuff: Brandon Bass (OUT), Daniel Orton (OUT)
Match-Up Of The Night: Kendrick Perkins V Dwight Howard
In 2008-2009 the Boston Celtics, with a hobbling Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and without Kevin Garnett, took the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic to a 7 game series. A lot of people throw a ton of credit Glen Davis's way for that series, because he hit some big shots and ran over a kid that thought he was cool or something.
But, the real story was Kendrick Perkins. The only reason the Celtics could even hang in that series was that they turned Dwight Howard from a force of nature to a regular ol basketball player. Kendrick Perkins took it upon himself to guard Howard 1 on 1, and by doing so left all the other Celtics players available to guard their own men without worrying too much about helping on Howard.
Over the years the Perkins/Howard thing has evolved a bit. Perkins is now known as one of if not the best 1 on 1 post defender in the NBA. Dwight Howard said some nice stuff in the newspaper about Perk. Now, it is a bit of a too-doo when these two guys face off. Its not Andre The Giant takes on Hulk Hogan or anything..but it is Iron Sheik takes on Sergeant Slaughter. If Perkins can make Howard look ordinary, this will be a laugher by the end of the third quarter.
Three Keys For The Good Guys:
1) Don't Let The Unexpected Surprise You: The Magic are without Brandon Bass, but they still have potent scorers in Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu. Beating the Magic has been the same game plan for 3 years: contain Howard, then shut down his supporting cast with solid man defense. One of the Magic's supporting cast will have a scoring outburst of 15 points or so, but it is up to the Celtics to make sure it doesn't go any farther than that.
2) No Long Distance Calls: Orlando is a mediocre team when they're missing their 3pt shots. Boston needs to make sure Orlando is mediocre today. That means close outs on every single 3pt shot taken. 1-4, from Jameer Nelson to Ryan Andersen, the Magic are a fantastic 3pt shooting team. The Celtics need to contest every one of those long range jumpers.
3) Help Us Semih Erden And Glen Davis, You're Our Only Hope: I know, I know...the Celtics signed Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal for exactly this situation, and neither is healthy when we need them. Whatever, it is what you are, or something. Today the Celtics need to somehow overcome two juxtaposed facts: 1, Kendrick Perkins is playing on limited minutes while he recovers from his injury, so he can't be out there for 35 mins, and 2, Semih Erden is the logical choice to guard Howard in Perk's stead. Now, I imagine rather than cross that bridge, Doc will let Baby have a shot at Dwight and just play Garnett big minutes, but either way its a terrible matchup for the C's. Either Glen Davis or Semih need to give the Celtics 10-12 minutes of fantastic defense at the 5 tonight.