|2009 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Series Tied, 1-1|
|May 8th, 2009|
|Rajon Rondo||PG||Anthony Johnson|
|Ray Allen||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Paul Pierce||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Glen Davis||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Dwight Howard|
For the second time in four games, the Orlando Magic will be forced to play without a key starter due to a suspension. Indeed, point guard Rafer Alston will sit this one out because he slapped Boston Celtics guard Eddie House in Wednesday's game, which ended in an embarrassing defeat for the Magic. Tonight, they'll only have Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue available at that position. Certainly, this is not an encouraging development. Alston is the quickest point guard on the team, but even he has trouble keeping up with Rajon Rondo, his speedy Boston counterpart. How Johnson and Lue intend to stick with him, I have no idea. Also a concern is Johnson's handle; he's struggled to even dribble idly near Rondo, whose combination of quickness and large hands makes him a threat to swipe the ball at any time. If the Celtics instruct Rondo to pick up Johnson at 3/4 court, the Magic might struggle to get into their offense the entire night.
Not everything is bleak, though. First, Courtney Lee will return after missing the last 3 games due to a fractured sinus. Second, losing Game 2 wasn't devastating for Orlando, just as winning Game 2 wasn't everything for Boston. Some Celtics fans, like BigMck of Red's Army, acknowledge as much:
But this was a must-win game for the C's. So all those green pom-pom waving fans (I couldn't believe the over-reaction by callers and hosts on WEEI this morning) need to keep their enthusiasm in check. Dwight Howard will be better in Games 3 and 4. The Magic will shoot better at home. Odds are, this series will be tied 2-2 coming into Game 5
BigMck makes a good point: Howard will be better. The key for Dwight is to keep moving, because he's not going to be able to score over the brick wall that is Kendrick Perkins if he's standing still. Perk is too strong and too intelligent to let Dwight score over him efficiently--how many awkward hooks from 12 feet out did Dwight try to toss in over Perkins in Game 2?--but he's not nearly as quick as Howard is. Dwight needs to exploit his advantage, as he did here in what may be his lone Game 2 highlight: Catch, face, slight fake to the right, drive baseline left, turn, elevate, flush. The Celtics don't have anyone who can defend such a play.
Meanwhile, the Magic should feel comfortable knowing that, in all likelihood, Eddie House will never shoot 11-of-14 from the field again the rest of his life, much less this series. They should also know, if they've done their homework, that good things almost always happen when they post-up Rashard Lewis against Brian Scalabrine. From Celtics Hub:
Six Orlando possessions ended with a Lewis offensive move on Scal in the post, and Lewis got a positive result five times-three drawn fouls and two baskets. The other post-up resulted in a miss from the left block when Ray Allen came over on a late double-team.
Lewis has not had much of an offensive impact in this series. In the last seven quarters--which is to say, excluding his outburst in the first quarter of the series--Lew is 8-of-25 from the field for 23 points. Orlando needs to get him going early, too. Question: are there enough early, low-post touches for both Lewis and Howard? Answer: ask Stan Van Gundy.
The game, which sold out several days ago, tips at 7 PM on ESPN.