Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 247

May 18

Sneak Preview: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, Game 2

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Orlando] Magic coach Stan Van Gundy decided before the series that he would use [Vince] Carter to defend Paul Pierce and [Matt] Barnes to defend Allen — the opposite of how the Magic began games against the Celtics during the regular season. Pierce scored 22 points, and Van Gundy said Monday that he didn’t know whether he’d continue with the new defensive assignments. He just knows that the Magic can’t allow both Allen and Pierce to shoot 50 percent or better from the field tonight. Van Gundy was more definitive about something else: He wants his team’s energy level to improve.”
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Boston Celtics’ defense is no mystery. The man behind it is. His name is apparently Tom Thibodeau, Doc Rivers’ associate head coach. He’s all but a rumor, perhaps a figment of Rivers’ imagination. He might be a hologram or an animated robot that Doc winds up at game time, yelling instructions from the bench and mimicking the movements of his defenders like a dance instructor. It’s no wonder the Orlando Magic’s mighty offense didn’t know what hit it in Sunday’s Game 1 loss. This Thibodeau guy is like the phantom punch.”
  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: “Ray Allen, who torched the Magic for 25 points in Game 1, said he wasn’t aware that the man who was guarding him, Orlando’s Matt Barnes, had any kind of injury. Barnes played just 15 minutes and complained of back pain after the game. […] Allen made a conscious effort to drive to the basket more in Game 1 (he took the ball to the hole nine times), but he said it was more of a result of what the defense gave him than trying to take advantage of Barnes.”
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: “The focus of the Celtics’ resurrection can be attributed to the revival of Kevin Garnett, the evolution of Rajon Rondo, and the sparkling play of the bench. Largely ignored has been the increased execution of the defense, which was critical in containing the Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday. The Celtics have earned the reputation as one of the league’s stingiest defenses the past three seasons, but that mind-set was missing most of this season. The Celtics allowed 100 points or more in 30 games, their defense slashed and overwhelmed by young, eager opponents who capitalized on their age. It wasn’t that coach Doc Rivers and associate head coach Tom Thibodeau adjusted the defensive sets or stressed help any less than two years ago. The problem was focus. Although the Celtics worked feverishly on defense every day, the players lacked the fervor to execute.”
  • Michael Vega of The Boston Globe: “The Magic were an inside-out team this season, with a squadron of perimeter scorers surrounding Dwight Howard in the low post. That identity was reinforced in the first two rounds of the playoffs when the Magic swept the Bobcats and Hawks, hitting 37.5 percent of their treys against the Bobcats and 39.3 percent against the Hawks. But when the Magic converted just 5 of 22 attempts from behind the arc Sunday, missing nine in a row before Jameer Nelson knocked down Orlando’s first trey 25 seconds into the second half, it had become apparent there would be little inside threat from Howard, who had to fight his own battles underneath, without much help from the perimeter players.”
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: “Sheed has his set of ethics, and beyond that he just doesn’t care what anyone thinks, so don’t even bother. He steadfastly refused to yield to public pressure and, you know, play during the regular season. And he’s willing to put his wallet where his mouth is, spending a cool $100,000 in fines for sharing his opinions on the state of NBA officiating – and this doesn’t include more than $20,000 in automatic hits for technicals. But the figure on everyone’s mind during the first 82 games (and, notably, Game 1 of the Cavaliers series) was the $5.8 million the Celtics were paying him. That the return on investment now is coming to light puts Wallace in the awkward position of being forgiven for something for which he never apologized.”
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “This is what Doc Rivers has to deal with. The Celtics might be a maddening team at home. Their Game 3 loss to the Cavaliers was so dispiriting, the crowd booed. But they were the dominant team in Quicken Loans Arena, with the Cavs crowd poised to jump from the upper balcony on two of those three nights. Nor is this strictly a playoff phenomenon. The Celtics had the second-best road record (26-15) in the NBA during the regular season, behind only Cleveland. The Celtics were two wins better on the road than at home (24-17). Even more than the 2008 championship team, which didn’t win a playoff road game until the conference finals in Detroit, these Celtics seem to enjoy a harsher environment.”
  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: “In Sunday’s Game 1 win, Perkins and associates Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis caused Howard to miss more shots in one game (seven) than he missed in Orlando’s entire four-game second-round sweep of the Atlanta Hawks (five). Howard shot a ridiculous 84.4 percent (27-of-32) in the Hawks series, but just 30 percent against Perkins in Game 1. This was no fluke. Perkins may well play Howard better than anyone in the NBA because he uses a simple formula: Hold your ground like an oak tree in a blizzard and, if they let you, hold your man, too.”

May 17

Florida Hospital and Community Leaders Rally to Support the Orlando Magic

Gary Bassing, Orlando Magic

Via the Orlando Magic:

In support of the Magic’s quest for an NBA Championship, Florida Hospital, the official hospital of the Orlando Magic, held a pep rally on Monday, May 17, during which Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Richard T. Crotty issued a proclamation encouraging everyone in Orlando and Orange County to wear blue and white to support the hometown team. Florida Hospital also unveiled its limited edition blue hair during the event. For $10, clip-in blue hair can be purchased at the Amway Arena during Magic home games, at the Official Magic Playoff Headquarters at the Altamonte Mall and in all Florida Hospital gift shops. Proceeds from the blue hair sales will benefit the Florida Hospital for Children and the Orlando Magic Foundation.

May 17

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Matt Barnes ran before and after practice today, trying to recover the some of the conditioning he lost after back spasms kept him from running for nearly week. He did a workout on an exercise bike after last night’s game, too, attempting the same result. […] Barnes went through a full practice today with the team, but Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said they didn’t do full contact. Pain hasn’t been a problem for Barnes for the last two days, he said. Yesterday’s issue, in addition to fatigue, was that his back felt tight as he played.”
  • Matt Barnes, ladies and gentlemen: “Being 8-0 in the playoffs – I can’t speak for everyone – but we may have been feeling ourselves too much. They kicked our (butts) last night, and now we have to get back to work.”
  • Several players for the Boston Celtics comment on how they don’t choose to pick a poison when defending the Orlando Magic.
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Assuming that [Dwight] Howard doesn’t fall prey to Boston’s shenanigans in the paint, the Magic have plenty of playing time left in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. It starts Tuesday night, with a renewed focus and understanding that the playoffs officially start now. Charlotte and Atlanta were gnats, squatted away with ease. Now comes the nasty. Boston fired the first haymaker. Now Orlando needs a counter-punch.”
  • Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com states that the Magic will be ready for Game 2.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook takes a look at Orlando’s first half three-point shooting and clock management in Game 1. As they say, it’s not a pretty picture … but you’ll learn something.
  • Dwight Howard: “Our main goal was to win every quarter and play harder than the other team. The Celtics played harder than us on Sunday and that’s how they won the game. I know we’ll respond and am not worried one bit. We always find a way to bounce back; I’m confident that we’ll do it again. We understand what we have to do and have already talked about what we need to do to win Game 2. We have to put this game behind us, learn from it, but put it behind us. Trust me, we knew from experience that this was going to be a really tough series. Boston played great against Cleveland and the Celtics are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are full of vets who know all the little tricks. We had a tough time with them in the playoffs last season and they were tough every time we played them this season, so we knew this series was going to be a dogfight.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop constructs a must-see video to describe and show, with the help of David Thorpe, as to why Howard struggled to score against the Celtics yesterday.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post offers his opinion after watching Arnovitz’s vid: “For me, the biggest point Thorpe makes is that Howard is too deliberate with his moves against Boston’s Kendrick Perkins. The video shows that moving slowly against Perkins gives him time to establish a low base and knock Howard away from where he wants to be. It also lets Perkins get away with more physical activity. But when Howard’s on the move, and Perkins is giving him the business? Much more obvious for the officials. So the advantages of moving faster are twofold: Howard will score easier and, at least in theory, draw more fouls.”
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com examines the Magic’s low assist total after the first game of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

May 17

Orlando’s Rally Falls Short

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As seen on ESPN’s Daily Dime.

The Orlando Magic relinquished home-court advantage with a loss to the Boston Celtics by the score of 92-88 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, but not before rallying back in the game after being down by as much as 20 points in the second half. After Ray Allen made a 3-pointer to increase the Celtics’ lead to 13 points with 5:33 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Magic went on a 13-4 run after being thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the game.

One of the spark plugs for Orlando during the comeback was J.J. Redick, who saw minutes at shooting guard as Vince Carter slid over to the small forward position. It was a calculated choice by head coach Stan Van Gundy, given that Matt Barnes was struggling on the floor and having some trouble defending Ray Allen. Perhaps Barnes’ troubles running around could be attributed to the fact that he’s been suffering from back spasms lately. In any case, Redick was able to provide a jolt of energy the Magic needed on both ends of the court — especially on offense, where Redick was able to influence better ball movement and floor spacing for Orlando.

The Magic defense did much to help the cause against the Celtics, too. Many times during the game, Orlando would go on a scoring spurt and cut into the deficit, but almost every time, Boston would respond with a bucket or two. However, in the final period, the Magic were able to string together stops defensively. Dwight Howard, who struggled on offense, was able to make a few key blocks to keep the Celtics from scoring. Redick did an effective job of chasing Allen around screens and running him off the 3-point line whenever possible. There are more examples of Orlando’s defensive efforts but these are some of the sequences that stood out the most.

Fast-forward to the end of the game: the Magic were able to trail by as little as two points with eight seconds left after Carter purposely missed his second free throw attempt and Jameer Nelson, somehow, maneuvered his way into the lane to make a layup off the miss. However, Allen was able to make his free throws and that was essentially the ball game. It was an excellent effort by Orlando, to not give up after trailing by double-digits for the majority of the game, but it wasn’t enough.

May 17

A Closer Examination of Dwight Howard’s Struggles on Offense in Game 1

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via ESPN Stats and Information:

During the first two rounds of the playoffs, Dwight Howard was a dominate force in the post. Howard entered Sunday leading the playoffs in field goal percentage on post-ups at 71.1 percent (27-38) (minimum 10 plays), scoring 78 points on 78 post-up plays. On Sunday, Superman was shut down by the Celtics as Howard shot 25 percent and scored 9 points on 13 post-up plays.

Post-up plays:

First 2 Rounds Sunday
Plays/game 9.8 13.0
FG Pct. 71.1 25.0
Pts/Play 1.00 0.69

May 17

Second Look: Boston Celtics 92, Orlando Magic 88

Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The worst thing that was required from the last playoff perfect team on Sunday was that they were forced to play perfect. The Orlando Magic were so far behind that a late comeback needed to be error-free, every shot had to fall and every stop defended. Even the beer vendor couldn’t spill a drop. You can perhaps pull off that against lesser teams, but not against the Boston Celtics, who wrote the handbook on how to win titles. The fact is, the Magic had to mount a furious, fourth-quarter rally just to make their 92-88 loss seem respectable in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals at Amway Arena.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Now we get to see. Now we get to find out. Now we finally learn if the Orlando Magic really and truly are championship material. We know what the high-flying, free-wheeling Magic can do when opponents lay down and play the role of frustrated foot wipes in the playoffs. Now let’s see what the knocked-down, beaten-up Magic can do when they get punched in the teeth during the playoffs.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Boston coach Doc Rivers threw one big man after another at [Dwight] Howard. With so much depth on the side, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen “Big Baby” Davis never hesitated to batter the Orlando center. The trio’s defense helped the Celtics open the series with a 92-88 win over the Magic. […] They limited Howard to 3-of-10 shooting from the field, a statistic that doesn’t include the times Howard missed a close-range shot as he was fouled. Indeed, the Celtics’ big men made certain to hammer Howard when he received the ball in position for an easy dunk or a layup. Howard didn’t record a single dunk Sunday. Heading into the game, Howard said he wanted to use his quickness to force Perkins to move his feet. That rarely occurred in Game 1. Celtics players barely gave Howard any room to maneuver.”
  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Celtics’ shooting guard Ray Allen and small forward Paul Pierce combined for 47 of Boston’s 92 points in a 92-88 win over the Orlando Magic. Heading into the series, the Magic made a defensive adjustment on Pierce and Allen. During the regular season forward Matt Barnes guarded Pierce while guard Vince Carter guarded Allen. Just the opposite was true during Game 1. But Barnes struggled through spasms in his lower left back, a remnant of an injury he suffered in Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks, which made his task that much more difficult.”
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “James Naismith’s grand old game can be broken down into simple components: The teams with favorable matchups usually wins. The Celtics aren’t a good matchup for the Magic because they don’t have to double-team Dwight. Simple deal. There’s plenty more bounces left in this series. It hardly means the Magic are toast. But it does mean they will need to take more purposeful steps to win four games. The Magic will have to adjust to the Celtics because they Celtics aren’t going to switch anything up, and those old legs have no intention of cramping. They are now full of life, having drop-kicked the Cleveland Cavaliers into a summer of turmoil, and looking lively in Game 1 against Orlando.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “A Magic squad that had rolled through runaway sweeps of Charlotte and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the playoffs and hadn’t lost a game of any kind in 44 days got slapped and shoved around by the Celtics. When Boston smothered Dwight Howard inside, shut off Orlando’s 3-point shooting outside and made everything else in between difficult, the Celtics were able to beat the Magic 92-88 and steal away homecourt advantage. Off the past five days after dominating Atlanta in the most lopsided four-game series in playoff history, the Magic looked to be shocked at times on Sunday with the white-hot intensity with which the Celtics defended. The Magic trailed by as many as 20 points and failed to lead in the game at any point for just the second time all season. And when a furious fourth-quarter rally fell short, the Magic were left to search for answers as to the impetus of their sluggish start.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Credit the Celtics for executing a great game plan throughout. I do think we have to call the Magic’s strategy into question here. Over the last 3 seasons, the Celtics have very well established that they can shut Howard down one-on-one; posting him up isn’t a sound idea, yet Orlando kept pounding the ball inside to him. Going forward, the Magic have to get Howard involved as a pick-and-roll finisher, and he can help himself by creating opportunities on the offensive glass. Expecting him to score consistently and efficiently against Boston’s bigs isn’t realistic. It simply baffled me to watch the Magic consistently clear out for Howard.”
  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: “The NBA’s second most prolific 3-point shooter of all time, Allen took what the defense gave him in the first quarter, pacing all scorers with 8 points without attempting a three. His two field goals and four free throws in the quarter came on a variety of drives and pull-up jumpers, and for most of Game 1 Allen torched the Magic on something other than his bread-and-butter outside shooting. […] Allen kept driving, finishing with 12 points in the first half. When the Magic were making a run in the second half, the old Ray Allen surfaced. Two clutch jumpers — one with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and the other with 5:34 remaining — ended Orlando runs and silenced the “defense’’ chant from the crowd. The second shot — a 3-pointer — put the Celtics ahead by 13 just as the Magic were threatening to cut the deficit to fewer than 10.”
  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: “Leads come and go in the NBA, where great shooters reside and where the 24-second clock eliminates the idea of holding the ball. Funky stuff happens at the end of games. Who makes or misses free throws usually seals the deal. But what people so often dismiss when a team such as the Celtics gets ahead of a team as powerful as the Magic by 20 points in the third quarter, and then hangs on to win by a 92-88 score, is how tremendously efficient and dedicated to the task they were in order to acquire that 20-point lead. Sure the Magic made a run. But it wasn’t good enough. The hill was too big to climb.”
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: “There were two Bud Lights waiting on the top of Rasheed Wallace’s locker following the Celtics’ 92-88 win over the Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. It’s Wallace’s postgame beverage of choice and someone in the Celtics organization added an additional frosty bottle as a reward for his contributions yesterday. Wallace’s preference for the occasional adult beverage following games raised eyebrows in the Celtics locker room. That ritual was one of several that caused his teammates to challenge his focus and dedication this season. And Wallace’s answer was to continue to function as he had the previous 14 years — headstrong and defiant.
  • Michael Vega of The Boston Globe: “By the end of Boston’s 92-88 victory over the Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Howard, a pretty imposing specimen himself, couldn’t help but feel inundated, out of synch, and clearly frustrated with having to tangle with Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, and Rasheed Wallace in the low post. Howard came prepared to box, to stick and move, to land his punches, and to score his points. But Orlando’s 6-foot-11-inch, 265-pound center wound up getting dragged into a melee.”
  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: “The Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a 16-point advantage. Then, they seemed to start trying to play out the clock and start preparing for tomorrow night’s Game 2. In the fourth quarter, only three players did not have a shot attempt — Pierce, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, and the Magic’s Marcin Gortat. There are few better indications of how overly dependent the Celtics used to be on Pierce’s offense and how much more varied their attack has become in the last three years.”
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “The Celtics took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals with yesterday’s 92-88 win against the previously flawless Magic, and in one sense not much had changed from their previous series against Cleveland. Just as they closed down the paint well enough to demoralize LeBron James, they came in with every available foul yesterday and left Dwight Howard looking at the referees in quizzical dismay. The Magic center made only 3-of-10 shots on the way to a hollow 13-point, 12-rebound double-double.”
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: “Yesterday the three-man tag team of Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis drew first blood against Dwight Howard, making him work for every inch of his 13 points. After shooting 84.4 percent in a four-game sweep of Atlanta, Howard struggled to hit three of his 10 attempts from the floor against the Celtics, who attacked his sculpted frame as if they were pigeons. Big, strong pigeons.”
  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: “In professional sports, business is business, but it might not be as good business as some think to just let Allen walk out the door when this interminable NBA season ends. Allen reminded both the Celtics and the rest of the NBA of that by showing again what he brings to the arena on so many nights – reliability, adjustments to the night’s problems and coolness in the face of mounting hysteria around him. Allen responded to Orlando’s early efforts to take his shot away by driving to the basket for all 12 of his first-half points, not hitting his first jumper – fittingly a 26-foot 3-pointer – until 6:12 of the third quarter. But when the Celtics needed him to put down shots from long range he did in two of the game’s most critical moments of the fourth quarter – at a time when his teammates were unable to make a shot.”
  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: “You can almost picture the scene: The Celtics bunkered down for film study at their practice facility, coming off an intense six-game series with the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, and watching tape of the Orlando Magic essentially waltz through the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA playoffs. But what stands out most is how the opposition offers little in the way of resistance against Dwight Howard, allowing Orlando’s uberathletic center to get to the rim uncontested and convert an array of dunks and layups. The Celtics are half appalled, half salivating. It won’t come that easy against them, they promise each other.”

May 16

Recap: Boston Celtics 92, Orlando Magic 88

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

The Boston Celtics were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 92-88 in Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals and as a result of the victory, gain home-court advantage in the series. The loss was the Magic’s first since April 2nd, when they were defeated on the road by the San Antonio Spurs, and snapped a 14-game winning streak dating back to the regular season. The Celtics were led by Ray Allen, who had 25 points and seven rebounds, and Paul Pierce, who had 22 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. The Magic were led by their starting backcourt, as Vince Carter finished with 23 points, five rebounds, and two steals, and Jameer Nelson ended up with 20 points and nine rebounds.

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May 16

Preview: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, Game 1

3:30 EDT | ABC
50-32 @ 59-23
Pythagorean Record: 52-30 Pythagorean Record: 61-21
Pace: 91.6 (22nd) Pace: 92.0 (18th)
Offensive Rating: 107.7 (15th) Offensive Rating: 111.4 (4th)
Defensive Rating: 103.8 (5th) Defensive Rating: 103.3 (3rd)
Amway Arena | Magic won season series 3-1

May 16

A Look at How the Boston Celtics’ Starting Lineup Fares Against the Orlando Magic

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via ESPN Stats and Information:

Boston’s starting five of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins destroyed opponents this season, posting the highest +/- of any 5-player combination in the regular season (+298). Against [the Orlando Magic], however, this lineup was far from dominant.

Vs. Orlando Vs. All Others
Points per 100 poss. 101.2 114.2
Opp. Points per 100 poss. 113.2 100.0
Net Points per 100 poss. -12.0 +14.2
Net Points -27 +22

May 16

Sneak Preview: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, Game 1

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “If their chance to construct a championship era was any grander, it would be lit up in blinking neon and announced by blaring horns. Surely, the Orlando Magic have taken a look around the shifting league landscape below them and admired the view. […] If the Magic can’t see an opening here to run through, they are wasting 24-year-old Dwight Howard‘s muscles and 33-year-old Vince Carter‘s motivation to come home. They are old enough now to know better, seasoned with veterans who are in their primes or clinging to them, hardened by last season’s failed trip in the NBA Finals. The time is right and the field is ripe for the taking, or so it seems.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Today, the championship march truly begins against the Boston Celtics — the most renowned, revered franchise the NBA has ever known. This time it won’t be so easy. “It’s a war from here on out,” Magic forward Matt Barnes says. “There are not going to be any sweeps or blowouts. The hard hats are on, and we’re going into battle.” Nothing like an overstated military analogy to get pumped up for the Eastern Conference finals, huh? I’m just wondering: Did the Celtics come to Orlando by airplane or did they drive their M60 infantry tank? Make no mistake about it, the Celtics mean business. They’ve already knocked the top-seeded Cavaliers out of the playoffs and probably ran LeBron out of Cleveland in the process. And now they are coming into Amway Arena today in their quest for yet another championship banner to hang with all the others.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic have an injury concern heading into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals this afternoon against the Boston Celtics. Matt Barnes has been bothered by muscle spasms in his lower left back since the latter stages of Game 3 versus the Atlanta Hawks. The starting small forward said the pain has intensified in recent days, and team medical personnel held him out of practice Saturday to prevent the injury from worsening. Barnes said he plans to play in Game 1, but at times, he didn’t sound quite so sure. […] He expected to receive treatment after he left the Magic’s practice facility on Saturday and pledged he would arrive at Amway Arena early today to stretch and get a pregame massage to loosen up his back muscles.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Point guards Jameer Nelson and Rajon Rondo have been two of the biggest stars of this postseason – Nelson leading the Magic to consecutive sweeps with his dynamic play running the controls and Rondo threatening to post triple-double type of numbers every game with his scoring, rebounding and passing. Nelson, the Magic’s little man playing with the proverbial chip on his shoulder, welcomes the challenge that Rondo brings. He has put to rest his uninspiring play in The NBA Finals last spring by being the Magic’s most consistently dynamic player this postseason, averaging teams highs in points (20.5 ppg.) and assists (5.3 apg.). Like the block-lettered tattoo across his shoulder blades that reads, “ALL EYES ON ME,” Nelson relishes a role where his play could ultimately decide the fate of the Magic.”
  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: “Kendrick Perkins’s battle with Shaquille O’Neal could just as easily have been in a steel cage. […] He took an elbow to the neck in Game 5 that frustrated him to the point that he and O’Neal drew technicals, and Kevin Garnett had to calm him down. In Game 6, O’Neal lost his footing and tumbled to the parquet, with Perkins breaking the fall. His reward for surviving the six-game Texas death match? A paint battle with the well-rested Dwight Howard, the pseudo 7-footer known to devour rebounds, swat away layups and floaters, and crush opposing big men like a movie monster does to small cities. The Magic haven’t played since finishing a sweep against Atlanta last Monday.”
  • Jarrod N. Rudolph of The Boston Globe: “Point guard play has been big for the Celtics and the Magic. Their All-Star point guards elevated their games en route to an Eastern Conference finals rematch. Jameer Nelson has silenced his critics and created a fan base, and Rajon Rondo has taken over the floor for the Celtics. With a return trip to the NBA Finals on the line, Nelson will try his best to put out Rondo’s fire and stop the budding star from leading his team to the championship.”
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “Rondo looked like Wes Welker in Game 4 against Cleveland, with his ability to catch long rebounds on a sprint and get the ball behind the scrambling Cavs. Orlando has even more of a penchant for deep shots, which can lead to long rebounds when the misses start to mount. This may be Rondo’s best chance to reach the paint without fear of Howard.”
  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: “Orlando has more than the Cavs. It is not just about Dwight Howard. Although he is critical, he does not stand alone. He comes armed with a legitimately dangerous power forward in Rashard Lewis, a dangerous point guard who is playing well in Jameer Nelson, plus a solid and productive bench (all Cleveland had on its bench were towels) and a very good, if often whiny, coach in Stan Van Gundy. A year ago, the Magic had most of the same elements and were pushed to the brink by a Celtic team playing without Kevin Garnett. So, is there some reason to believe the C’s won’t be better this spring with a healthy Garnett playing near his optimum? No, there is not. Might Orlando, which is the betting favorite for the series, find a way to beat the Celtics? It might, but understand this: The team it’s facing is not the one that limped through the winter and early spring. The team it’s facing now is the best of the Celtics.”
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: “Stan Van Gundy keeps looking at video from the Magic matchups with the Celtics this season, but by now the performances must seem to the Orlando coach like old Hollywood “B” movies. Considering how the Celts are acting these days, the four games are more like a remake of 1943’s “I Walked with a Zombie.” The Green nights with the living dead have been replaced by three straight convincing wins against the team with the best record in the game and advancement to these Eastern Conference finals.”
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