BOSTON - MAY 24: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic walks up court against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 24, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic will try taking another step forward in their quest to become the first NBA team to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series tonight when they visit TD Garden to play the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Less than a week ago, the Celtics dealt the Magic an embarrassing defeat here, one that sent Orlando's fans into hysterics. But Orlando has battled back, winning the last two games due to the reasons Eddy outlined here, poor performances from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and perhaps because Boston is just tired. So, improbably, here we are, with ESPN hosting a roundtable of seven writers to discuss the possibility of the Magic breaking through. Sadly, talk of injuries and officiating has overshadowed discussion of what's actually happening on the court, with a Boston Herald writer's calling for the Celtics to intentionally injure Dwight Howard tonight serving as the most obvious example; Andrew Sharp deconstructs that column here, while Whit Watson discusses it in this podcast.
|2010 Eastern Conference Finals|
|Boston Leads, 3-2|
|May 28th, 2010|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|Vince Carter||SG||Ray Allen|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Paul Pierce|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Kevin Garnett|
|Dwight Howard||C||Kendrick Perkins|
|May 16th: Celtics 92, Magic 88|
|May 18th: Celtics 95, Magic 92|
|May 22nd: Celtics 94, Magic 71|
|May 24th: Magic 96, Celtics 94 (OT)|
|May 26th: Magic 113, Celtics 92|
Paul Flannery writes that the Celtics "need to keep their cool" tonight, and I believe the same advice applies to the Magic. Given how physically these teams play each other, and the technical foul-fest that took place in Game 5, the officials will be on high alert tonight. Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer, in particular, tend to officiate Howard pretty tight. If he's in foul trouble, Orlando's entire gameplan, on both ends of the floor, changes dramatically. More perimeter action on offense, with an emphasis on Rashard Lewis in the post. And defensively, the Celtics are much more likely to attack the basket. So he has to stay calm and avoid ticky-tack fouls. I thought he did a solid job of doing that in Game 4, especially after Garnett got in his face. Those mini standoffs tend to rattle him at times, and get him off his game. But he kept his focus in Game 4. Can he do it if the game gets chippy again? In an environment that figures to be as hostile as any other he's ever seen?
Going back to last season's Eastern Conference Semifinals, Orlando has won its last 4 games against the Celtics when facing elimination. It can run that streak to 5 tonight, and shift the series back to Orlando for a decisive Game 7. Discuss tonight's game here.