Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

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2009 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
Orlando Magic main logo
vs.
Boston Celtics main logo
Orlando leads series, 1-0
May 6th, 2009
TD Banknorth Garden
8:00 PM
TNT
Probable Starters
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
Game Officials
Bennett Salvatore
Eddie F. Rush
Tom Washington
Series Central

Just two days after nearly squandering what had been a 28-point lead in the game's waning minutes, the Orlando Magic will look to take a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Boston Celtics. A lot is being made of the Magic's near-epic collapse, but I'm not so sure the sky is falling, for a few reasons:

  • As John Hollinger of ESPN.com pointed out, the Magic have a history of coughing up big leads, only to win games anyway. (HT: our very own erivera7);

  • as Stan Van Gundy tells the Orlando Sentinel, if the Magic wind up winning big, they might not focus as sharply tonight as they should;

  • and, on a related point, a blowout Orlando victory would allow Celtics coach Doc Rivers to rest some of his starters, who would then stew on their bench while the likes of Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury close out what should have been a victory. It's important that the Celtics expended so much energy just to lose the game anyway, and that their stars didn't have the added motivation of being forced to watch the carnage's waning moments from the sidelines.

That's not to say the Magic were any great shakes. Neither team played particularly well in the second half, which is another reason why we shouldn't make too much of the Magic's near-collapse. It's not as though Orlando played well above its head and lost to an underachieving Boston team. Both teams underachieved and squandered multiple opportunities.

Ultimately, the Magic have a great chance to seize this series with a victory tonight. To do that, they need to get the ball to Dwight Howard more, or at the very least try to drive the ball. Howard played the entire second half, yet only attempted 5 shots... and one of those was the direct result of his own offensive rebound/put-back attempt. Dwight Howard is arguably the best center in the league. The Magic should not treat him like he's Andris Biedrins, the Golden State Warriors center whose job description may as well read, "set screens, rebound, and don't shoot unless it's a layup." Point guards Rafer Alston and Anthony Johnson, as well as wing facilitator Hedo Turkoglu, need to look for Howard on the move in pick-and-roll situations. Everyone needs to attack the basket and at least get a shot up; even if it doesn't go down, Howard's having the best overall rebounding postseason in NBA history, which means he stands a great chance of getting a putback.

About that last point: Howard is corralling 26.16% of available rebounds when he's on the floor. Not a misprint. If Dwight's on the floor, and there's a rebound opportunity, there's roughly a 1-in-4 chance he winds up getting it. Nice find by the folks at The Puns Are Starting To Bore Me.

Just like Monday night, the game tips at 8 on TNT. Let's hope the end result--with the Magic having more points than the Celtics, natch--is the same as well.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting historical note--posted at the end of last May--from the venerable NBAStuffer regarding Eddie F. Rush, one of the officials for tonight's game:

Isn't it an interesting stat that when Eddie F.Rush officiates a NBA playoff game, home teams win the game with a .900 probability? The only game where road team has beat the home team is on 20th April, Philly beat Detroit. (90-86)

[....]

Maybe it's not interesting, home teams have dominated the 2008 playoffs, so we can say there's nothing new, but I think the NBA is aware of this situation and Eddie Rush has been assigned to the most critical games for home teams. (for example Game 3 of San-Lal series, Game 3 of of Was-Cle series, etc.)

At the time of that posting, home teams were 9-1 in the 2008 playoffs in games Rush officiated. Apparently, he's officiated only one game so far in these playoffs. The home team lost, but in that game the road team was called for 56.5% of the fouls.

I don't believe there's any sort of NBA conspiracy here, because it seems to me that if the league wanted the Celtics to win, it'd assign Derrick Stafford (2009 playoff home team record: 5-0), Steve Javie (8-1), or Joe Crawford (5-1). No, a more likely NBA conspiracy occurred in last night's Denver Nuggets/Dallas Mavericks game, which Dan Crawford, not Joe officiated. Check the venerable DallasBasketball.com for the details. You may be surprised.

Anyway, make of these stats what you will. I'm just a messenger.

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