- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Garnett, who turns 34 next week, is back at full strength and in full throat. He led a 50-win Celtics team to a surprising 4-2 elimination of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished the season with the best record in the league. Now it’s the [Orlando] Magic who have inherited best-record status and home-court advantage through the NBA Finals, should they make a return trip. While Garnett’s return has reunited the Celtics’ 2007-08 championship team, the Magic have three different starters from last season’s lineup against Boston: [Jameer] Nelson (trade-deadline acquisition Rafer Alston filled in), shooting guard Vince Carter (J.J. Redick was the starter) and small forward Matt Barnes (playing Hedo Turkoglu’s old position). Next to Nelson’s assignment of corralling triple-double threat Rajon Rondo, Lewis, 6-feet-10, 230 pounds, has likely the next-toughest task of defending a rejuvenated Garnett, 7-feet, 254 pounds.”
- Tickets for the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Amway Arena sold out in nine minutes.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy has respect for the Boston Celtics.
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com reminisces to the time when the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Orlando defeated Boston three times in four meetings during the regular season. The Magic twice won in Boston, beating the Celtics 83-78 in November and 96-89 in February. The Magic won 96-94 in Orlando on a last-second layup by Rashard Lewis, but lost 86-77 at Amway Arena on Christmas Day to the Celtics. It had been assumed for months that the Cavs and the Magic would meet once again in the Eastern Conference Finals as they did last spring when Orlando won the series, 4-2. But instead it will be the Magic and Celtics to decide who goes to the NBA Finals. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he wasn’t one bit surprised that the Celtics are back in the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Cavaliers in three consecutive games.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post previews the Magic’s series against the Celtics and takes a look at the numbers, courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology, to see if Matt Barnes and Vince Carter will succeed cross-matching defensively against Ray Allen and Pierce: “Pierce gets most of his offense initiating the pick-and-roll, which happens to be Barnes’ biggest weakness defensively. He’s also not much of an isolation defender. His biggest strength, covering players coming off screens, also happens to align with how Allen gets most of his offense. So Barnes on Allen–or, if you prefer to word it differently, Barnes off Pierce–makes sense, though the low frequency with which he’s had to cover shooters coming off screens might be cause for concern. But what of Carter? Can he hope to cover Pierce? The answer appears to be “yes.” Here’s how Carter covered the pick-and-roll and isolation plays this year. [...] So although Barnes is a better defender overall, Carter’s skill set better equips him to cover Pierce. And Barnes’ tools counter Allen’s quite nicely.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference likes Orlando to beat Boston in 6 games.
- Shaun Powell of NBA.com: “The Magic took three of four from the Celtics during the season when Vince Carter had three big games and Dwight Howard averaged 14 rebounds. But for the most part, those contests were close, which means we might be spared another Orlando sweep this series. Also, the Celtics will be motivated to squeeze out a second championship in what is very likely the last run for K.G.-Ray Allen-Paul Pierce. The most interesting plot doesn’t involve those three players, or Howard, but Rajon Rondo and Jameer Nelson. This has the makings of being a very intense and entertaining matchup. Rondo had a breakout season (All-Star) and was terrific against the Cavaliers. Jameer, injured through much of last year’s postseason, is leading Orlando in scoring, assists and steals. And just think: They’ll actually see a quality point guard across the floor, for the first time in these playoffs.”
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “Howard is just 24, yet already a three-time All-NBA first-team center, winning Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons. He became the first player in league history to twice lead the league in both blocked shots and rebounding the same season. Russell might have turned that double for all 13 years he played — except for two things: Wilt Chamberlain was a more prodigious rebounder, and the NBA didn’t keep track of blocked shots back then. Russell was the first NBA player who literally controlled a game by his defensive prowess, blocking and changing shots with his athleticism, instincts and desire. Howard has more than just scratched that same surface.