|2009 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Series tied, 2-2|
|May 12th, 2009|
|TD Banknorth Garden|
|Rafer Alston||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|J.J. Redick||SG||Ray Allen|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Paul Pierce|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Glen Davis|
|Dwight Howard||C||Kendrick Perkins|
Another day, another "biggest game in modern franchise history" for the Orlando Magic. A victory against the Boston Celtics tonight puts Orlando in great position to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in franchise history. A loss makes that task all the more daunting. High stakes, indeed.
The keys to victory are the same as they've always been. Additionally, it is absolutely critical, as Michael White notes, that Rafer Alston stops shooting three-pointers. Everyone needs to make a concerted effort to drive the ball to the basket. Boston is rather infamously shorthanded this postseason, and could be even more so tonight, as forward/center Brian Scalabrine missed this morning's practice due to illness. Get in the bonus, earn potentially free points with the clock stopped, force the Celtics to play Mikki Moore. It really is that simple.
Dwight Howard needs to be more engaged offensively, and the team's reluctance to use him in pick-and-roll sets in this series is baffling. He tore apart the Celtics with 24 points and 21 rebounds in his team's victory over Boston on March 25th despite hardly having any plays called for him. He benefitted from dribble penetration by Rafer Alston and Hedo Turkoglu, who either dumped the ball to him after drawing his defender away or intentionally missed a shot off the glass so Howard could get the offensive board and clean it up. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the only way Howard is going to score efficiently against defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins is if he's in constant motion.
Meanwhile, Rashard Lewis must assert himself tonight. Glen Davis cannot defend Lewis on the perimeter or off the dribble, so the Magic's highest-paid player needs to take it upon himself to score fairly easy buckets. And when Davis is out of the game, Lewis will tangle with Scalabrine (if healthy) or Moore, neither of whom stands a chance of stopping him on the left block. This series really should be his time to shine. He needs to seize the spotlight tonight.
For more on the game, which tips at 8 PM on TNT, check out Chris Sheridan's preview at ESPN.com.