|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|March 25th, 2009|
|Sun Sports HD / ESPN|
|Rajon Rondo||PG||Rafer Alston|
|Ray Allen||SG||Courtney Lee|
|Paul Pierce||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Kevin Garnett||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Dwight Howard|
|December 1st: Celtics 107, Magic 88|
|January 22nd: Celtics 90, Magic 80|
|March 8th: Magic 86, Celtics 79|
The Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics will meet tonight in a matchup of two teams battling for the Eastern Conference's second seed. The teams are tied in the loss column, giving the winner of tonight's game at least a momentary edge as they vie for homecourt advantage at least through the conference semifinals. ESPN will broadcast the game nationally, but one gets the sense that TNT would be the better-suited network. After all, it knows drama.
Punning aside, this game is huge. Both teams are on a bit of a roll, with Boston winning 4 straight and Orlando on a 3-game streak. The Magic haven't really been at their best, though, struggling twice to beat the lottery-bound New York Knicks in the last week. The Magic also struggled to defeat a Celtics team missing two starters earlier this month, so if they can at least put a scare into the (relatively - they're still without Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Brian Scalabrine; and Kevin Garnett is still playing limited minutes) healthy Celtics tonight, it's progress; they got creamed in the first two meetings this year.
Boston presents all kinds of problems for Orlando, especially defensively, as Kendrick Perkins is among the league's few players who can defend Dwight Howard one-on-one. Thus, the Celtics' other defenders can stick with Orlando's three-point shooters, meaning the Magic won't get nearly as many open looks. With that said, it's crucial that Orlando involve Howard in the offense early and often. Good things happen, as newish Magic blog The Curse of the Big Aristotle explained yesterday.
Speaking of Perkins, he's a guy who has come into his own offensively lately. Last week, he backed down Tim Duncan and scored on him at least twice. That's not easy for people to do. And when a guy is able to score with any consistency on Tim Duncan, you have to respect that. But I'd rather the Magic force him to beat them than leave that task to any of the three future Hall-of-Famers in Boston's starting lineup. Or the speedy point guard who may be on his way to multiple All-Star appearances, for that matter. You get the picture. Orlando's had trouble stopping Boston from scoring all year, yielding 119 points per 100 possessions (197 points in 165 total possessions) in their two losses to the Celtics this year. The Magic are usually a top-notch defensive team, but Paul Pierce and Ray Allen always seem to give them fits.
Tip's at 8. Don't miss this one, Magic fans. It's possibly Orlando's most significant game of the season in terms of playoff positioning, which in a way would make it the franchise's biggest game in over a decade. Go Magic.