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When it comes down to it, the NBA playoffs are all about matchups and adjustments. For head coaches, and even assistants in different situations, this is their chance to prove their mettle against each other. One of the main storylines that has surfaced in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics is the fact that head coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau have constructed an excellent game-plan, more so defensively than anything else.
The Magic have struggled to score, at times, against the Celtics because their options are being limited on offense. Boston has made it their priority to limit the amount of three-pointers (specifically, from the corners) Orlando attempts, let alone makes. The Celtics are wary of the devastation the Magic can cause when they’re making threes in bundles. One of the reasons why Boston has been so successful on defense is that they have the personnel to single-cover Dwight Howard and hound Orlando’s shooters on the perimeter. Open looks have come at a premium for the Magic and unfortunately for them, the problem is being exacerbated given that the Celtics are doing an excellent job of limiting the amount of three-point shots being attempted. For example, even though Orlando shot a good percentage from beyond the arc in Game 2 (38 percent), the number of threes they attempted (18) was less than their average during the regular season (27).
However, one way the Magic can combat this phenomena is to put more efficient shooters on the floor against the Celtics whenever possible. The rationale behind this thinking is if Boston is going to continue to limit three-point attempts as much as possible, Orlando simply needs to improve their efficiency when shooting threes … which invariably leads me to bring up J.J. Redick. This topic has been covered by other people, but it’s clear that Redick needs to see as much time on the floor as he possibly can because he’s been one of the few players for the Magic that has made a positive impact on both ends of the court in the series. Especially on offense, where he’s been able to make three-pointers.
There’s no question that Redick is Orlando’s best three-point shooter (40.5 percent during the regular season), which is why Matt Barnes hasn’t been as effective in the series as he normally is against other opponents, his issues with his back notwithstanding. One of the main reasons why is that Barnes can’t make Boston pay to the degree Redick can on the perimeter. Yes, Barnes was an efficient player offensively this year during the regular season (.576 True Shooting Percentage), but he’s not the shooter that Redick is. And in a matchup like this, where the Celtics are forcing the Magic to make their threes when they count, Redick becomes a very valuable player.
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It’s true that Van Gundy won’t alter the starting lineup. The thing is, Van Gundy doesn’t need to. Van Gundy simply needs to continue to play Redick a lot, even if he’s coming off the bench and Barnes is starting. Again, other angles have been covered with this scenario (Redick’s impact defensively is undeniable, for example) but it can’t be understated how much this move matters to Orlando because Barnes, for all the positive intangibles he brings to the table, was their worst three-point shooter statistically (31.9 percent) during the regular season. It wasn’t close, either, when comparing Barnes’ proficiency at shooting threes to the other players in the Magic’s rotation.
Efficiency means a lot in the league, but it means more than anything against Boston. Orlando can’t afford to have one non-shooter on the floor with Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis. The Magic’s margin for error is too small, especially since Lewis has been shut down so far. That’s one of the reasons why Redick should, and will, see more minutes against the Celtics. Normally Barnes’ perimeter shooting isn’t much of an issue because Orlando is a volume-shooting team when it comes to the three-pointer. But in a series where the Magic need to be more efficient from the three-point line, given that they’re not shooting them as much, having a player like Redick will come in handy in that aspect.