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The hot topic around the bend today, with regards to the Orlando Magic, is the debate over who should start at point guard for the team in Game 5?


few days ago, I noted that Rafer Alston and Anthony Johnson have been no different from each other against the Celtics, specifically on offense. As for their defense, neither Alston or Johnson have an advantage over each other for the simple fact that neither has done an effective job of containing Rajon Rondo. In the end, given that Alston and Johnson are a wash defensively (specifically against Rondo), the question remains - who should start at point guard for the team in Game 5?


The answer is conducive on who is more effective on offense, at this point. Well, let's go ahead and take a look at the numbers to see what we can find:


Rafer Alston Anthony Johnson
Minutes Per Game (31.0) Minutes Per Game (17.0)
PPG (6.7) PPG (6.8)
P/36 (7.7) P/36 (11.6)
APG (4.7) APG (3.0)
FG% (24.1%) FG% (45.5%)
3P% (8.3%) 3P% (50.0%)
eFG% (31.3%) eFG% (54.0%)


As you can see, Alston has been dreadfully inefficient against the Celtics (in 3 games). Alston has made himself a non-factor on the floor and that has allowed Rondo to sag off of him, help double-team Dwight Howard when necessary, etc. Needless to say, Alston has had a negative impact on the team so far in the series. 


As for Johnson, he's played well in filling in as a starter and coming off the bench against Boston (in 4 games). Johnson doesn't try to do too much when he's on the court and knows when to pick his spots on offense. Johnson is reliable, to the extent that he can make an open shot if need be and pose as a threat on the floor.


All in all, Johnson has been able to equate Alston's production in less minutes. 


An example of differentiating how effective the Magic have been with Alston and Johnson against the Celtics? Look no further than Game 3 and Game 4, two games that were the antithesis of each other from an offensive standpoint. Ball movement, dribble penetration, pick & rolls .. these were the elements that were effective in Game 3, yet were completely absent in Game 4 for the majority of the time. Are Alston and Johnson completely culpable or responsible for these occurrences? No. But each player certainly has an effect on offense, given the fact they are each point guards. 


I'm going to use Game 4 to show what I mean (via PopcornMachine) .. 





If you take a look at the chart above, you'll notice the game trend indicated by a line going up and down. First, if you look at Alston's game flow, notice how the line slowly rises in Boston's favor when he's in the game. Second, if you look at Johnson's game flow, notice how the line decreases in Orlando's favor when he's in the game. That's no coincidence. Even when Johnson wasn't in the game, notice how the Magic were able to make their comeback in the fourth quarter against the Celtics. Why? Because Alston was on the bench the entire time. That's no coincidence, either. 


Look, Alston deserves credit for helping Orlando maintain status quo during the regular season, for the most part, after Nelson's injury. It's true that Johnson proved incapable of handling the reigns offensively, more so because of his inability to be effective in extended minutes at the age of 34. But things have changed, this isn't the regular season anymore. It's the playoffs, and it's during times like these that matchups mean everything. Everything. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has a tough choice to make tomorrow night, regarding the point guard situation. There's no need to permanently bench Alston, but a short term fix appears to be needed. 


What is the solution to the problem?


It appears that the remedy, at this point, is to start Johnson but in limited playing time. Van Gundy is well aware that Johnson can't play 30-35 minutes with effectiveness. Instead, it'd be wise to play Johnson 20-25 minutes and allocate the remaining minutes elsewhere. In essence, follow the same gameplan that was instituted in Game 3 which was, play Anthony Johnson 20-25 minutes, opt for an eight-man rotation (the starters, plus Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick and excluding Rafer Alston), play the lineup of Lee/Pietrus/Turkoglu/Lewis/Howard*, and so on and so forth. Basically, Van Gundy needs to go with what works, not what may work.


Better hope Van Gundy opts to go with the former tomorrow night, not the latter. 


*if you check out this link, you'll notice that this lineup has been effective in limited minutes. In fact, it's the best combination for the Magic, statistically (at this point).