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
- 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.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Matt Barnes missed practice on Saturday with spasms in his lower left back, but expects to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. Barnes will arrive at Amway Arena early on Sunday to get treatment on the injury. The rest of Orlando’s active roster practiced. The [Orlando] Magic will play the Celtics at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, their first game since Monday’s Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks. […] Barnes said he will have two or three more treatments today.”
- Dwight Howard thinks the Orlando Magic should win the series against the Boston Celtics. Sign of overconfidence? Not if you ask Howard.
- Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com picks the Celtics to beat the Magic in 7 games.
- Sean Deveney of The Baseline has the C’s in 6.
- Kendrick Perkins sat out practice today with a sore knee but will play in Game 1.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “On Friday, the Magic worked primarily on swinging the ball from side to side to keep Boston’s defense on the move. The Magic also want to try and get all-star center Dwight Howard more looks than just traditional post-ups because Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett have traditionally guarded him well. Howard averaged just 12.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting – numbers well below his season averages – this season against the Celtics. His low point of the season came on Christmas Day when Howard was held to just five points and afterward both he and [Stan] Van Gundy agreed that he didn’t see the ball nearly enough. Howard got better against the Celtics as the season progressed by using his smarts and speed against Perkins. ‘He does play me tough. The big thing playing against him is that in past years I’ve tried to get in a big wrestling match with him,’ Howard said of his battles with Perkins. ‘But I think if I want to play to my advantage I have to use my quickness and my finesse to get around him instead of trying to overpower him.‘ ”
- I’ve long held the opinion, and I re-affirmed my position on this topic with Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post in my Q/A with him yesterday, that Howard needs to beat Perkins with his athleticism and speed, not his strength. For Magic fans, it should be encouraging to see that Howard realizes that.
- Benjamin Hoffman of Off the Dribble lists a few surprising players that have a chance at winning their first championship.
- Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk comments on head coach Stan Van Gundy: “Ours is not a very positive society, in terms of the media, in case you haven’t noticed. So when the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics, the turn from all over, including from this blog, revolved around the failure of LeBron James and the Cavaliers, and James’ legacy. As a side note, oh, yeah, the Boston Celtics managed to dismantle the team with the best record in the league, get all of their weapons going and win in convincing fashion. But Stan Van Gundy thinks that to gloss over what the Celtics did to crucify James and the Cavs is a flawed design. […] Van Gundy’s point is a strong one.”
- We’re talking about legacy?
- Happy fifth birthday to TrueHoop!
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com provides 10 statistical nuggets regarding Orlando and Boston.
- UPDATE: A look at the matchup between Jameer Nelson and Rajon Rondo.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Via Peter D. Newmann of ESPN Statistics and Information Research:
Dwight Howard will be a huge factor in this series. Can Boston get into the paint and score against the [Orlando] Magic while Howard is in the game?
2009-2010 regular season vs. Boston Celtics:
Howard On Court Howard Off Court FG Pct. 39.7 45.8 FG Pct. in Paint 49.5 52.3 Points in the Paint 102 46 Net Points -27 +22
- 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.
Via the Orlando Magic:
It’s time for Magic fans and the community to jump into the excitement as Blue & White Ignite for the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic encourage their fans to show their spirit and wear Blue and White to ignite the team in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. Some highlights of the fan activities surrounding the 2010 Orlando Magic Playoffs, presented by Bright House Networks, will include:
- For Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 9,000 blue and 9,000 white “Blue & White Ignite” T-shirts presented by Bright House Networks will be given away, along with 10,000 rally rackets.
- For Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 10,000 drawstring bags and 1,000 autographed STUFF photos presented by T-Mobile will be given away, along with 10,000 rally rackets.
- Fan Fest will take place on the north side of Amway Arena for all home playoff games. The Fan Fest will feature the Legend’s Lounge presented by Bright House Networks, where fans can meet and get autographs from Community Ambassadors Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson. The Fan Fest will open two hours prior to tip-off and will have an official playoff merchandise trailer, while food and beverage will also be available for purchase. This will be a huge fan zone with a tailgate atmosphere that will give fans a reason to arrive early for the festivities.
- Fans will also have the opportunity to win tickets to each Eastern Conference Finals game at Fan Fest. Follow the Magic on Twitter, Facebook and Magic Text to receive updates on how to win. Fans who were unable to secure tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals can also enjoy the game on the 10’x13’ LED screen at Fan Fest.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
As seen on ABC’s Sunday Dime.
I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Each individual provided a quick breakdown of the series between the Magic and the Boston Celtics, his opinion on the player that has been the most impressive for Orlando in the postseason (up to this point), and more.
With the Orlando Magic having already put the finishing touches on back-to-back sweeps against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the question that is invariably being asked is whether or not they are falling in the same trap that tripped up the Cleveland Cavaliers last year? Does that logic apply to the Magic? Why or why not?
Kevin Arnovitz: This logic does not apply to Orlando because the premise defies logic. The notion that a team somehow hurts itself by dominating opponents with brutal efficiency is silly. If Orlando loses in the Eastern Conference Finals, it assuredly won’t be because they were too successful in previous rounds. It will be because they failed to execute their stuff.
Kurt Helin: I don’t think so, because these Magic understand about winning in a way that Cavs team did not. I’m a believer you have to learn to win in the NBA. Orlando went to the Finals last year. This is a team that learned what it took to get there and a painful lesson from the loss in the Final last year about what it takes to be a champion. That there is another level of commitment (plus having a health Jameer Nelson doesn’t hurt). These Magic have come out and taken care of business in a professional way, not letting up.
That Cavaliers team did not lose because of the sweeps in the first two rounds. They lost because they were not the best team, they did not execute as well, they could not get the matchups they liked. These Magic are the best team.
Matt Moore: I think it does. I think that complacency is the worst thing that can happen to a ballclub in the playoffs is complacency. And Orlando’s going to have more of it than any Conference Finalist. Swept through the first and second rounds, never challenged. Drew easy opponents who didn’t match up well. Lots of time off. This is recipe for disaster against a Boston team that’s rolling. The fact that the first games are in Orlando, meaning they have to immediately switch back to high gear because they MUST win their first two games is adding to that. Every team thinks that their dominance is real and valid until it gets blindsided. Then they can’t understand why they ever thought that to begin with.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
No introduction necessary.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Rock a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics.
One of the major storylines last year, and even this year, was the “what if” scenario, in which people wondered what the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals would have been like had Kevin Garnett and to a lesser extent, Jameer Nelson, had been healthy. Given that the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics are playing well in the postseason, is there a chance we get to see the series that everyone wanted to see last season with both teams at full strength?
Oh, without question, this series is the one everyone wanted to see last year. And the fact that [Jameer] Nelson is playing out of his damn mind right now only makes it more interesting. Garnett, too, is on a roll, having destroyed the Cavs from the inside (when they put Antawn Jamison on him) and the outside (when they assigned Shaquille O’Neal). This series has a lot of potential even without considering those players’ return to form. But yes, the fact that both teams are at full strength only sweetens the deal.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
The Boston Celtics — undoubtedly — have a rich history, a prestigious franchise, and some of the best team blogs in the blogosphere, which are supported by a loyal fanbase that really cares about their C’s. CelticsBlog and Red’s Army are some well-known sites that have been around the block but CelticsHub, which has been around for a little over a year now, has blossomed as a go-to source for daily coverage of the Celtics. CelticsHub is buoyed by a trio of excellent writers — Brendan Jackson, Zach Lowe, and Brian Robb, who combine to provide a rich blend of analysis, commentary, and news.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Lowe a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics.
Is the Boston Celtics’ resurgence, or whatever what you’d like to call it, simply a matter of the team getting healthy and “flipping the switch” or is there another factor that people have been overlooking?
You know, I was skeptical about the possibility that they would flip the switch. But they have, and you can see it in both their defensive intensity and the decline in their turnover rate on offense. Their defense has picked up in just about every way. They held the Cavs, the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the league, to about 28 percent shooting from deep. They forced about 15.5 turnovers per game. They protected the rim better than they had since Christmas.
Perhaps most importantly, they rebounded about 78.5 percent of Cleveland’s misses–a defensive rebounding rate that would have led the league in the regular season, and a huge jump from Boston’s season-long number.
And on offense, they transformed from one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league to a team that coughed it up at about a league-average rate. The Cavs don’t force a ton of turnovers, but neither do the Magic, so the C’s improved care for the ball should carry over.
As you say, some of this is due to health. Kevin Garnett hasn’t looked this good since he injured his knee in the middle of last season. He averaged 19 points per game on 58 percent shooting against the Cavs and destroyed Antawn Jamison in the post to the point that Mike Brown, who may be fired by the time your readers see this, actually switched Shaq onto KG during Game 6.