|2009 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Series tied, 0-0|
|May 4th, 2009|
|TD Banknorth Garden|
|Rafer Alston||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|J.J. Redick||SG||Ray Allen|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Paul Pierce|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Glen Davis|
|Dwight Howard||C||Kendrick Perkins|
We've said about all we can say about the Orlando Magic's series against the Boston Celtics, which starts tonight. So, for our preview for Game 1, we turn to Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub for perspective on Orlando's antagonist. You can head to Celtics Hub to read my responses to his questions, if you're so inclined.
Third Quarter Collapse: To what extent, if any, are you worried about the Celtics' lack of frontcourt depth against the Magic?
Zach Lowe: This has to be the most pressing concern for any Celtics fan. Without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics really don't have a good match-up defensively for either Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis. Pierce will defend one of them and Glen Davis will defend the other. The problems are obvious. It's the Davis match-up that worries me most. He'll likely spend a lot of time checking Lewis, and I suspect Rashard will dare Davis to come out and get him beyond the three-point line--and blow by him if Davis tries to pressure him out there. It will be interesting to see what sorts of help schemes--if any--Doc Rivers can design to mitigate this. It's not as if Orlando has an offensively challenged center Kendrick Perkins will be free to roam away from willy-nilly to help on dribble drives.
Perhaps Brian Scalabrine will see an uptick in minutes, since he's a more natural defensive match-up for Lewis. Not necessarily a good match-up, mind you. Just a more natural one. And, of course, foul trouble up front will mean too many minutes and too much responsibility for Mikki Moore and Scalabrine.
Make the jump to read the rest of the Q-and-A, which includes Lowe's thoughts on Ray Allen's potential dominance of J.J. Redick, the Celtics' fatigue, and what scares him most about the Magic.
3QC: On the flip side, to what extent does the Celtics' superior depth in the backcourt mitigate the Magic's advantage in the frontcourt? The thought of J.J. Redick guarding Ray Allen surely has Celtics fans thinking, "Conference Finals," right?
Lowe: "Ray Allen is going to have a huge series" is quickly becoming the most popular story line/prediction going into this series. J.J. Redick has never had a defensive job as daunting as guarding Allen, who may have run a marathon over seven games against Chicago. But match-ups have a funny way of turning out to be more complicated than they appear on paper. Orlando was the league's best defensive team this season, and they held their opponents to the second-lowest three-point shooting mark in the league--34.2 percent. Some of that is due to Courtney Lee, but some of that also has to be due to a strong defensive system--guys fighting through screens, jumping out to help teammates, etc.
I'd also guess that Mickael Pietrus will spend some time on Ray Allen, right?
I expect Allen to play well, but I also expect that Stan Van Gundy has been spending a lot of time devising little ways to make Allen's life more difficult.
As for Rajon Rondo, he's going to make Rafer Alston's life very difficult. If he plays the way he did against Chicago, the Celtics can win this series. It will be fascinating to see how aggressively he attacks the paint against Orlando. His aggression in Games 1-5 against Chicago bordered on reckless at times--a good kind of reckless. I bet Dwight Howard is looking forward to the challenge.
3QC: Will fatigue be a factor working against the Celtics after their marathon series against the Bulls?
Lowe: Yes. I know Dan Shaughnessy thinks minutes don't matter in the playoffs and that the players have to say things like "you don't feel tired in the post-season," but the notion that fatigue isn't a factor is silly. There's a reason Bill Russell was allowed to skip scrimmages and lots of practices throughout his career. Paul Pierce has looked exhausted for stretches, and who could blame him? He's played about 200 games the last two seasons, and in many of those he was both the C's primary offensive option and the man expected to defend the other team's best wing player. He could not stay with John Salmons at times in the Chicago series. I'm not sure if Pierce is hurt, as some believe, but he's tired. Four of Boston's five starters averaged 40 or more minutes per game against Chicago (Perkins averaged 38), and Pierce and Rondo were both around 45 a game. That's a lot of basketball for a 31-year-old. No way around that. And Glen Davis has never played minutes this heavy at the pro level. So, yes, it's a concern.
3QC: Finally, what about the Magic most worries you?
Lowe: Three things, two of which I've already mentioned:
1) The match-up problems Lewis and Turkoglu present.
2) The Magic's general defensive ability, even without Lee. Boston managed to get by Chicago mostly because their offense played almost exactly as efficiently as it did in the regular season--and because the C's shot 42 percent from deep. Their defensive numbers slipped a little against Chicago, and I wonder, given the fatigue and lack of depth, if Boston can pull those defensive numbers back to where they were in the regular season. If they can't, can they sustain their high level of offense against the Magic?
3) Dwight Howard. His ability to challenge every Rondo floater and driving lay-up. His ability to get Perkins in foul trouble, though Perk has shown he can hold his own against Howard. The fact that he can dominate any player on Boston other than Perkins.
Many thanks to Zach for his insight. Game 1 tips tonight at 8 PM on TNT.