Magic don’t think Celtics will be any easier to play without Paul Pierce
Tania Ganguli explains that the Orlando Magic are going to have their hands full with the Boston Celtics, even though All-Star small forward Paul Pierce will be out two weeks with a knee infection.
Stan Van Gundy: "I think that obviously the first places they’ll go are into the post more to Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace. I think you’ll see them in the post more and they’ll run a lot more stuff for Ray Allen. You’ve gotta find a way to score on them. They are a great, great defensive team and have been for three years. There’s still some defensive challenges. It seems like it’s very rare you have both teams at full strength."
Taking Inventory at Christmastime
Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop takes a look around the Association to see what's happening right now with the league's more interesting teams.
Watching the Magic last night was a reminder that a good system is a powerful thing. Pieces can be added and subtracted without disruption. There's a possession about four minutes into the game where Rashard Lewis runs an early high screen for Jameer Nelson, who's making his first start since November 16. Nelson dribbles to his right, while Lewis runs a little flare cut along the left side of the arc around Dwight Howard, who steps in Luis Scola's path as Scola tries to recover. Lewis gets a wide open at a 3-pointer. He actually misses the shot (and all six of this attempts from beyond the arc), but it's a clean look. What's more impressive are the remaining options on the floor even Scola is able to recover or Chuck Hayes is able to close out on the shot. A quick skip pass to Vince Carter or Mickael Pietrus on the weak side would yield similarly good stuff.
5-on-5: Celtics-Magic on Christmas Day
ESPN.com asks five questions to its five writers on the five games on Christmas Day. Here's an excerpt about the Magic and the Celtics:
3. Better bench: Magic or Celtics?Abbott: The Magic are deeper. Ryan Anderson can really play and, as a shooter, fits their system perfectly. Marcin Gortat could start for most teams, J.J. Redick has his moments, Matt Barnes and Jason Williams could both start, Brandon Bass provides some shot-blocking and muscle and sometimes even noted defender Mickael Pietrus comes off the bench.
Broussard: This is a tough one, but I'll go with Boston, again largely because the C's have proved they have what it takes to excel in big moments.
Hollinger: Magic, hands down. Boston's bravado about having a better bench than its championship team now looks ridiculous -- Eddie House, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine are the same, and although Rasheed Wallace is an upgrade over P.J. Brown, there's no James Posey, no Leon Powe and (for now) no Glen Davis. Meanwhile, Orlando's bench basically carried it through the first third of the season.
Sheridan: Magic. Gortat, Bass and Anderson would be starters on half the teams in the NBA, J-Will and Anthony Johnson are battle-tested and Redick is better and tougher than people think. Boston? Sheed and a healthy Glen Davis are pluses, but Marquis Daniels has been so-so at best, and Eddie House always runs too hot and cold. Not much else there.
Stein: Orlando has the best bench in the league. The Magic have an astounding 12 guys who legitimately deserve NBA minutes. No one else in the NBA has that kind of depth.
Boston Celtics-Orlando Magic Christmas Day matchup a biggie on many levels
Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com previews the highly-anticipated matchup between Orlando and Boston. A must-read.
Not only is this a matchup of the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, not only is it a nationally televised broadcast on perhaps the NBA's marquee day, but there are also leftover emotions from a memorable seven-game series in the Eastern Conference semifinals this past May that helped propel the Magic to the NBA Finals.
"I do [think it's a playoff preview]," admitted Allen, who wasn't bashful about pondering potential implications for home-court advantage in the postseason, particularly with Orlando already boasting a win over the Celtics in Boston on Nov. 20. "We look at it as a game we want to win. When you get to the end of the year, these are the type of games you look back at [for motivation and strategy] before the playoffs."
Show Time: Contenders Have Something To Prove On Christmas Day
Sean Deveney of The Baseline writes that each of the contenders playing tomorrow has something to prove.
Magic: The defense will be back. Orlando was one of the better defensive teams in the league last season, and it started off the same way this season. But that’s come apart in December, as the Magic have allowed 100.4 points per game for the month. The defense needs to toughen against the Celtics, perhaps the most efficient offensive team in the league. "We have to just be consistent," forward Mickael Pietrus said. "We know we can be a good defensive team."The Magic are 7th in defensive efficiency, for those wondering.
The Numbers Game ... Christmas Day style
John Schuhmann notes that Vince Carter is taking the lion's share of the shots in Orlando, and converting them at a low rate.
Vince Carter is Orlando's leading scorer at 18.6 points per game, but he's shooting a career-low 39.8 percent from the field. Carter is also averaging his fewest field-goal attempts per game (16.1), but that's more than seven shots more than Dwight Howard. Even when you figure in Howard's frequent trips to the line, Carter's shooting more than the guy who ranks second in the league in field-goal percentage.
Kobe leads way in second returns of All-Star Game voting
Don't look now but Allen Iverson has surpassed Vince Carter. Which means that if voting ended today, Iverson would start alongside Dwyane Wade in the East.
The guards in the Eastern Conference are paced by Wade (1,314,215), followed by the Philadelphia 76ers' Allen Iverson (635,084). While Iverson appears among Western Conference guards on the paper ballot because he began the season with Memphis, his votes count towards the Eastern Conference guards due to his signing with Philadelphia Dec. 3. James, a two-time All-Star MVP (2006, 2008), paces Eastern Conference forwards with 1,351,292 votes, followed by the Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett (1,113,213), MVP of the 2003 All-Star Game. The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard leads all centers with 1,252,786 votes; the Cavaliers' O'Neal is second among centers in the East (455,239).Which, in my opinion, would be ridiculous. Iverson doesn't deserve to be in the All-Star Game and quite frankly, neither does Carter (but the pick wouldn't be as egregious).
So This is Christmas
UPDATE: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus previews tomorrow's game, which sees a different outlook for two elite teams in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Orlando is just now getting a look at its full complement of players. Jameer Nelson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery days after Rashard Lewis' 10-game NBA suspension ended, and Nelson is just now working his way back in the lineup, starting and playing 29 minutes on Wednesday after one game off the bench. Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson played very well in Nelson's absence, but his return still should lift an offense that already ranks fifth in the league. The only weak link so far has been Vince Carter, sporting an ugly 42.9 shooting percentage inside the arc.
The Orlando Magic own a 4-2 all-time record on Christmas Day entering Friday afternoon's game against the Boston Celtics.
UPDATE 2: Josh Robbins looks back in the past to see how the Magic have fared in games on Christmas Day.
Statement game against the Boston Celtics? Not for Stan Van Gundy
UPDATE 3: Some thoughts from head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Van Gundy’s biggest concern about the Celtics is with their defense.
"They’re one of the few teams that both holds teams to a low field goal percentage and creates a lot of turnovers," Van Gundy said. "A lot of it comes down to their size. I think their defense really comes down to their size. Rondo’s very long. Then inside they’ve got a lot of quality big guys with great size so they’re very tough. If you do not move them around it becomes even tougher to score."
Kevin Garnett will play for Boston against Orlando, and Big Baby might be activated
UPDATE 4: More news on the Celtics.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers held Garnett out of Tuesday night’s game against Indiana because of a bruised thigh, but Garnett practiced Thursday and "looked great," according to Rivers.
"My main thing right now is just defense," Garnett said. "We have to take the Magic off the 3. They’re playing really well at home. [We need] to be ready to defend for 48 minutes."
Rivers wouldn’t say who will start in Pierce’s place, though Tony Allen could be the guy. Regardless of who starts, Allen, Brian Scalabrine and Eddie House all figure to see more playing time.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who has missed the entire season with a right thumb injury, might be activated before the game.