Roughly two weeks ago, I posted ten keys to the series between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics. I stated that if "the Magic are able to execute [there's that word again] a majority of these strategies with success against the Celtics, then the team will put itself in a great position to advance further into the playoffs."
Well, Orlando was able to advance further into the playoffs. Let's take a quick (this is the key word) look back at the ten keys to the series and figure out why the Magic were able to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. I'll try to be relatively brief.
Involve Dwight Howard in the Pick & Roll - It's unwise for Howard to strictly post up Perkins on the low block because Kendrick has the strength to put a body on Dwight and push him out of the paint. Instead, Howard needs to use his athleticism and speed to counter this fact. The best way to utilize those skills is in pick & rolls, which is what SVG did for Dwight with regularity against the Celtics in their last showdown during the regular season. If SVG can involve Howard in pick & rolls consistently, Dwight should thrive on offense.
Unfortunately, Howard wasn't involved in many pick & rolls throughout the series versus the Boston Celtics (designated for him, to be specific). Most of the time, Howard posted up Kendrick Perkins on the low block and struggled offensively (no surprise), throwing up wild hook shots left and right. Sooner or later, head coach Stan Van Gundy had to move Howard around and he did so in Game 7. Howard got a number of ridiculous dunks in the first half because his athleticism and speed was being utilized in pick & rolls [!!] and in the open court.
After the jump, a look back at the nine other keys.
Get Dribble Penetration - The best way to break down Boston's defense is by dribble penetrating. This strategy on offense is something the Magic had success with.
And it's something Orlando continued to have success with against the Celtics. Every time the Magic dribble penetrated, more often than not, something good happened.
Limit Ray Allen - With Courtney Lee out for the moment, this matchup is going to hurt the Magic. How bad is dependent on how good Orlando can defend Ray Allen.
Turns out this matchup didn't hurt the Magic too much and that was because the team did a great job, on defense, guarding Ray Allen the entire series. Van Gundy was smart and almost always threw fresh bodies at Allen, to make him work offensively. Credit needs to go to J.J. Redick, Courtney Lee, and Mickael Pietrus for limiting Allen on offense. Extra credit goes to Redick, especially. Not many people will give Redick dap for his work on the defensive end, thinking Allen's struggles offensively was more misfortune than solid defense. but that's not fair. Redick should be commended for his play defensively, especially since no one gave him a chance.
|vs. Chicago||vs. Orlando|
|Minutes Per Game (40.0)||Minutes Per Game (40.7)|
|PPG (23.4)||PPG (13.1)|
|FG% (45.1%)||FG% (34.4%)|
|3P% (34.4%)||3P% (19.0%)|
|eFG% (62.1%)||eFG% (44.7%)|
Get Quality Minutes from Mickael Pietrus - .. when the Magic signed Pietrus to the full Mid-Level Exception during the off-season, this series is a reason why the team invested the money in him. Mickael has had a disappointing campaign so far in his tenure with Orlando, but he can vindicate himself by coming up huge against Boston. Offensively, Pietrus is going to get the chances to contribute with Lee sidelined and the uncertainty behind what type of impact Redick will have against the Celtics.
Mickael Pietrus had an excellent series against Boston. Excellent. Pietrus indeed got the chances to contribute offensively and he didn't disappoint. Pietrus wasn't gun-shy at all and his aggressiveness was welcomed, at times, when the Magic became stagnant on offense and needed points from someone. Time after time, when Orlando struggled offensively and couldn't score, Pietrus took it upon himself to make something happen. Pietrus' shot selection was poor here and there, but more often than not, one couldn't deny the end result (a made three, a lay-up, etc).
|Minutes Per Game (26.0)|
Push the Tempo - The Magic have to push the pace against the Celtics. Orlando was unable to do so against Philadelphia because that played to the strength of the Sixers. But against the C's, the Magic should run at every opportunity, for the basic reason that Boston is going to be tired from its grueling marathon versus Chicago.
Orlando went out and ran at times, but for the most part, the Magic seemed content playing in the half-court and not allow the Celtics to get easy baskets in transition.
Get Production from Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu:
In wins and in losses, these are the stats for Lewis and Turkoglu ..
Rashard Lewis: 18.2 ppg, FG% (45.5%), 3P% (42.7%)
Hedo Turkoglu: 17.1 ppg, FG% (42.3%), 3P% (36.9%)
Rashard Lewis: 16.5 ppg, FG% (39.9%), 3P% (32.9%)
Hedo Turkoglu: 16.0 ppg, FG% (38.5%), 3P% (32.0%)
Let's take a look at how that regular season trend panned out in the series against Boston. As you can see with the numbers, when Lewis and Turkoglu go, so go the Magic (no surprise).
|Rashard Lewis||21.3 ppg||FG% (43.2%)||3P% (30.0%)|
|Hedo Turkoglu||17.8 ppg||FG% (49.1%)||3P% (52.9%)|
|Rashard Lewis||19.3 ppg||FG% (48.8%)||3P% (35.7%)|
|Hedo Turkoglu||14.3 ppg||FG% (41.7%)||3P% (16.7%)|
Don't Lose Track of Eddie House - [...] if there is one player Orlando needs to account for, it's Eddie House. Look no further than last night to see the impact House can have for Boston in the team's series-clinching win over Chicago. Eddie accounted (16) for more than half of the bench points (30) for the Celtics. When he's on, House can fill it up from beyond the arc in a hurry and it's important that the Magic make sure that doesn't happen.
Eddie House got off to a quick start in the series, scoring a postseason career-high 31 points in Game 2 (and getting a slap across the head from Rafer Alston), but once Courtney Lee returned from injury (fractured sinus) and Van Gundy made the choice to put Lee mainly on House, the main bench threat for Boston was neutralized.
|Games 1 - 2||Games 3 - 7|
|Minutes Per Game (20.3)||Minutes Per Game (17.5)|
|PPG (18.5)||PPG (6.2)|
|FG% (68.4%)||FG% (56.5%)|
|3P% (75.0%)||3P% (42.8%)|
Get the Opposing Bigs in Foul Trouble - As mentioned already, with the Boston bench depleted (specifically, the frontline for the Celtics), Dwight Howard could be in for a field day if he is able to get Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins in foul trouble in each game. The last line of defense for the C's would be Mikki Moore, a lanky big man (6'11'', 220) that lacks the strength to contain Dwight Howard on the low block.
Unfortunately for Orlando, the team was unable to really get the Boston bigs in serious foul trouble throughout the series. Some reasons for this is the Magic did a bad job of 1.) being aggressive on offense & creating more fouls when the frontcourt for the Celtics were in foul trouble and 2.) making a more concerted effort to attack the basket at every opportunity.
Force turnovers - The Magic weren't adept to forcing turnovers during the regular season (26th in turnover %) but if the team is able to force the Celtics to cough it up, the better. Boston is 38-8 when turning the ball over 15 times or less.
The Magic didn't break the 15 turnover threshold a lot (only once), but the team got close a few times and turnovers proved to be a difference in the wins vs. the losses, for the most part. There were certainly exceptions to the trend during the series.
|Game 1 (W)||14 turnovers|
|Game 2 (L)||10 turnovers|
|Game 3 (W)||14 turnovers|
|Game 4 (L)||13 turnovers|
|Game 5 (L)||8 turnovers|
|Game 6 (W)||19 turnovers|
|Game 7 (W)||10 turnovers|
Contain Rajon Rondo - When Rondo goes, so do the Celtics and with KG out, Rajon has stepped up his game in a big and impressive way. Orlando should be able to do a better job of containing Rondo better than Chicago did [...]
The Magic did a great job of sagging off of Rondo and forcing him into being a jump shooter (aided by Dwight Howard's presence in the paint). Sometimes Rondo was able to make Orlando pay on defense, but not all the time. This strategic decision by Van Gundy allowed players like Rafer Alston & Courtney Lee to leave Rondo open and help double Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, etc.
|vs. Chicago||vs. Orlando|
|Minutes Per Game (45.3)||Minutes Per Game (37.1)|
|PPG (19.4)||PPG (14.3)|
|APG (11.6)||APG (8.0)|
|RPG (9.3)||RPG (10.1)|
|SPG (2.7)||SPG (2.3)|
|FG% (45.4%)||FG% (37.5%)|
|eFG% (49.5%)||eFG% (42.0%)|
In sum, the Magic were able to execute a number of these keys with success against the Celtics and thus, move onto the next round to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Waiting for Orlando is the regular season MVP, LeBron James.