After Six Straight Poor Quarters, the Orlando Magic Need to Get Back on Track

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Orlando Magic's playoff series with the Boston Celtics is that the Magic managed to take one game out of two in Boston despite playing well in only two-plus quarters. To be more specific, Orlando played brilliantly in the first half of Game 1... and much less so since. Just how pronounced is the split? Take a look at the Four Factors from the first 24 minutes of this series:

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 44 123.6 56.0% 16.7 16.7 6.9
Celtics 81.8 41.9% 0.0 27.3 15.9

And since then:

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 136 99.0 46.8% 30.3 16.4 16.1
Celtics 122.1 53.5% 37.4 20.0 12.5

These data strongly indicate the Celtics are the sharper, better team at the moment. Offensively, they're more aggressively driving the ball to the basket, resulting in free throw attempts; they're also executing their offense better, resulting in fewer turnovers and a much higher shooting percentage.

Almost the exact opposite thing has happened for the Magic. They, too, are drawing more fouls than they did in the first half of Game 1, but their performance in every other key statistical category has suffered. I believe some of that is due to complacency, as they settled for far too many three-pointers in the second half of Game 1. However, the Celtics have also improved their defense. Rajon Rondo's pressure on the ball has forced Orlando to use precious clock just getting into its offense. We've often seen Rafer Alston and Hedo Turkoglu struggling to shed Rondo, 40 feet from the basket, with 10 seconds remaining on the clock. When the Celtics' D is locked-in like that, they're almost impossible to beat. Additionally, Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis have been virtually invisible for long stretches of the series. One could argue that J.J. Redick is the Magic's most consistent offensive player right now, averaging 13.5 points on 61.5% shooting so far this series. The Celtics may have lost homecourt advantage already, but I'm sure they're happy with their defense, which has neutralized the Magic's first four offensive options so far.

But let me get to the good news, as far as the Magic are concerned: they've still won 3 of the last 4 meetings against the Celtics. ESPN.com expert John Hollinger does not believe Orlando's Game 2 loss is a sign of impending doom, as he explained in a chat this afternoon:

Mo (detroit, MI): Wow, I didnt know this chat was Lakers only. Wonder if you might answer a question about the Magic's dismemberment last night. Do they still have a shot? Was last night an aberration or does it portend of a new series with the Celts in control?

John Hollinger: Of course they still have a shot. They've won three of their last four games against Boston, even though three of them were in Beantown, and have three of the next four at home. So I'm presuming it was an aberration until proven differently.

Taking into account the last four games between these teams--that is, pulling the lens back in order to get a better idea of the overall picture--we see the following:

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 355 101.1 47.7% 21.5 17.9 15.2
Celtics 102.3 46.9% 23.2 23.6 16.9

... which amounts to two evenly matched teams. We're in for one heckuva five-game series, and it starts tonight in Orlando. Buckle up.

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