Today, the NBA suspended Rafer Alston for Game 3 after he slapped Eddie House across the head late in the third quarter of last night' s game. No surprise there.
With the news comes the reality, Anthony Johnson will start in his place tomorrow. Does it mean the Orlando Magic are in trouble versus the Boston Celtics? Not necessarily. Yes, Johnson is going to have his hands full with Rondo defensively but with the impending return of Courtney Lee for Game 3 (a player many expect to guard R2), Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy may have some options on defense.
Let's clear the air first, though. Johnson is a good defender, but he can be exposed defensively when paired up against a quick point guard like Rondo. Johnson lacks the lateral quickness to keep Rondo in front of him, which is a problem. That's why Lee is anticipated to guard Rondo tomorrow some of the time if he ends up playing, because he has the athleticism, size, and speed to make it potentially difficult for Rondo to operate offensively.
There's no doubt that Alston was the better player during the season, but I want to see how Johnson compares, solely on offense, during the playoffs.
Minutes Per Game (33.1)
Minutes Per Game (15.8)
assist % (27.2%)
assist % (29.2%)
turnover % (10.5%)
turnover % (10.2%)
Offensive Rating (102)
Offensive Rating (102)
As you can see, there's not a noticeable difference between Rafer Alston & Anthony Johnson on offense so far in the postseason. Both players haven't been very efficient offensively, when you take into account the fact that their true shooting percentages, effective field goal percentages, and offensive ratings are all below average compared to the rest of the NBA. When talking about individual output, Johnson has been no better or worse than Alston on offense during the playoffs. But if there's one thing Johnson can do better than Alston, it's knocking down a shot when open.
Another difference between the two individuals, as shown during the regular season, is that Alston is a better distributor (28.9 assist %) and facilitator than Johnson (21.2 assist %). Likewise, Alston (13.2 turnover %) doesn't turn the ball over as much as Johnson (16.4 turnover %). In essence, the offense flows much better with Alston running the show at the point, as opposed to Johnson handling the reigns. Granted, both players struggle to make lay-ups, but no one is perfect, right?
Lastly, Alston's adjusted plus/minus* is a bit better than Johnson's. Both numbers aren't very good, but it's worth comparing the overall impacts of both players.
Actually, this statistical rundown sheds a bit of light on some of Orlando's struggles on offense during the postseason, but that's another subject entirely. Moving on.
Can the Magic beat the Celtics tomorrow in Game 3? Sure. Having Lee back would help, but the jury is out on the type of impact the rookie could have against Boston. Being able to play in front of the home crowd will help out the squad too. In the end, it's going to take another team effort for Orlando to pull off the victory tomorrow.
Difficult, but not impossible.
*during the postseason