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Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics

2009/2010 NBA Season
Orlando Magic main logo
Boston Celtics main logo
9-3 9-3
November 20th, 2009
TD Garden
8:00 PM
Sun Sports / ESPN
Probable starters:
Jason Williams PG Rajon Rondo
Vince Carter SG Ray Allen
Mickael Pietrus SF Paul Pierce
Rashard Lewis PF Kevin Garnett
Dwight Howard C Kendrick Perkins
Game Officials
Eddie F. Rush
Tony Brothers
Eric Dalen

I conducted a Q-and-A session with Zach Lowe of CelticsHub to preview the Orlando Magic's game against the Boston Celtics tonight. You can read the other half of our exchange here.

Third Quarter Collapse: The Celtics and the Magic are both 9-3. They did battle in a dramatic playoff series last year, albeit one in which both teams were without an All-Star. They're widely considered to be among the few teams capable of winning a championship this season. But--and this is something Jeff Clark pointed out to me yesterday, and something I agree with--it seems like neither fanbase is too hyped about this game. Is that assessment accurate, from a Celtics-centric standpoint? Why or why not?

CelticsHub: For me it's accurate, to a point. The Celtics fans I know are a bit chastened by what happened last season. The 27-2 start had a lot of us puffing out our chests and buying into the idea that the '09 Celts were a potentially historic juggernaut. Then reality hit--first in a 2-7 stretch midway through the season, then with KG's season-ending injury. It was a reminder not to invest a great deal of urgency in the regular season. It's a time for growth and development, but not a time to live and die with every game. (That said---you better believe I'll be pacing around my apartment and cursing under my breath during the game tonight. My girlfriend will be thrilled).

The rest of the transcript is after the jump. Tune in to ESPN, Sun Sports, or tonight at 8 to watch the game. Until then.

3QC: For the most part, the Celtics have played well: they lead the league by a wide margin in point differential (10.5; Atlanta, if you can believe it, is second at 8.3), and two of their three losses have been to solid teams. Yet I sense a lot of uneasiness coming from the Celtics faithful. Losing at home to Atlanta might have done it, I suspect, but to what do you attribute the general apathy toward this season? Or am I way off-base here?

CH: It's not apathy. I think you describe it well as uneasiness. The core of the team is old, and a certain segment of paranoid Boston fans can't enjoy the games without worrying about an injury or whether this team can deal with younger, athletic opponents. There's also the reality that the C's have had an easy schedule. Only two of their nine wins have come against that currently have winning records (a home win against the Bulls and the season opener at Cleveland). Some bottom feeders have pushed them (New Jersey and Minnesota), and two of the three truly good teams they've played (Atlanta and Phoenix) have beaten the C's in Boston. And the Hawks pulled away with authority in the 4th quarter. It was uncomfortable watching Josh Smith and Al Horford clean the offensive glass without much resistance.

3QC: I've always considered Leon Powe to be a bit of an unsung hero for Boston in the Big Three era; I'd almost contend he was as important to the Cs as Rajon Rondo is now. Seeing him move on to Cleveland, another contender, couldn't have been easy. Can Rasheed Wallace and Shelden Williams compensate for Powe's loss? (Even if they can't, I believe they're a better fit than Mikki Moore was.)

CH: I think you're a little high on Powe. He's a nice player, but he wasn't as valuable last season as Rondo is now. That said, the C's really miss Powe's offensive rebounding and ability to draw fouls on offense--especially because his primary replacement, Rasheed Wallace, does neither of those things. Right now, the C's rank 27th in offensive rebounding rate and 23rd in free throw attempts per field goal attempt; last year, they ranked 8th and 7th in those categories, respectively. That's almost entirely due to the Powe-Sheed exchange the early injury to Big Baby; Powe tied Kevin Love for the best offensive rebounding rate in the league last season, and he drew fouls more often, on a per-minute basis, than any Celtic. The C's offense this season is much more dependent on getting one good shot and making it. They don't score a lot in other ways.

3QC: Speaking of frontcourt players, Kendrick Perkins is averaging a tidy 10.5 points per game on 58.8% shooting so far this year, coupled with his usual terrific defense (as best I can tell, anyway). When did he develop an offensive game? Or is he strictly a garbageman?

CH: Perk averaged about 12 points per game in the playoffs last season, so his performance so far isn't shocking. He has always had a nice touch inside 10 feet, and he's added a 15-footer he'll use now and then. He lost about 15 pounds in the offseason, and he's much more mobile as a result; the C's find him rolling to the hoop on screen/rolls once or twice a game this season. More than anything else, Perk is bigger and stronger than most centers (not the smiley guy on Orlando, obviously), and he gets a lot of his best looks by backing guys down and tossing up five-foot jump hooks.

3QC: Former Magic point guard Rafer Alston, as well as current third-string point guard Anthony Johnson, allegedly told Donny Marshall that last year's Celtics would have been good enough to beat the Lakers in last year's Finals had K.G. been at 80% health. Do you agree with their assessment? And while we're speaking of hypotheticals, do you believe that what John Hollinger (I believe) has termed the rock/paper/scissors dynamic among the Eastern contenders is still valid, even after all the changes they made over the summer? I refer here to the idea that Cleveland would beat Boston, Boston would beat Orlando, and Orlando would beat Cleveland were they to meet in the playoffs.

CH:These are tough. I'm not sure I buy the rock-paper-scissors theory, if only because I don't get the perception that Cleveland has some head-to-head advantage over Boston. Then again, Hollinger nailed it in predicting the match-up problems the Magic would present for the Cavs last season. As for the Johnson/Alston claim, I'd like to think they're right, but there's really no way to tell. The 2008 Finals weren't the massive blowout everyone thinks they were--the C's demolition of the Lakers in Game 6 has made people forget the fact that the other five games were very close. The C's also would have missed James Posey in a rematch with the Lakers. But that would have been a helluva series, and I wish we had gotten a chance to see it. I also wish Courtney Lee would have hit that (very difficult) lay-up at the buzzer of Game 2 and that Derek Fisher didn't become Robert Horry in Game 4. But what can you do?