Saturday, May 15, 2010
Celtics replace the King, now on to Superman
While the talking heads on ESPN continue their man crush on where the former king LeBron James will end up in 45 days, what seems to be lost on the Worldwide Leader is the fact that Prince Rondo and his old men outplayed, outcoached and outhsutled Cleveland on their way to basically dominating the Cavs. If not for Mo Williams hot streak late in Game 1, that series would have been over in 5.
But now that the King is dead until next year, its time for Gang Green to find their Kryptonite to take on Superman Dwight Howard and the Magic.
This series is a repeat of last years Eastern Confernece Semi-Finals in which the Magic outlasted a very limited Celtics team in 7 games. Boston was without Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe due to injuries and pressed into juggling a frontline of Brian Scalabrini, Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins. The teams traded victories in the first 4 games, culminating with Glen Davis hitting a 20 footer at the buzzer to even the series in the Magic Kingdom. Boston rallied from behind in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead only to see Orlando win the last two games to advance.
This year, a rejuvinated KG returns and evens this match up for the Celtics. Orlando is deadly from downtown, but to this point they've been feasting on disfunctional teams in Charlotte and Atlanta en route to an impressive 8-0 playoff record.
Match Ups for this series.
PG-Rajon Rondo vs Jameer Nelson. Nelson missed this series last year but Rondo is a far better player then he showed the previous 3 years. Sag off him and he's hitting his jumper, crowd him and he's by you. A bigger Magic squad pose a problem for Rondo.
SG-Ray Allen vs Vince Carter. Allen will go down as the league's greatest 3 point shooter ever, but other aspects of his game are often overlooked. He never gets rattled, his defense in patches on Lebron last series was excellent. Carter is the wildcard since he played elsewhere last year, but if Vince plays to his capablities, he's a superb player. Problem is, he's inconsistent.
Advantage: slight lean to the Celtics
SF- Paul Pierce vs Barnes/Pietrus. Even though he's showing some where and tear, a smaller match up for Pierce is an advantage. he answered the call in Game 5 and 6 vs Cleveland and carried Boston in this series last year.
PF- Kevin Garnett vs Rashard Lewis. Lewis killed Boston last year by stretching the floor from downtown. This is where Garnett has to punish Lewis in the low blocks like he did Jamison last series. If Lewis is left to wonder on offense, he could swing this series. If KG goes for 18 and 10 again, the Celtics will win.
Advantage: slight lean to Celtics
C-Dwight Howard vs Kendrick Perkins. Perk plays hard, but he's no match for Howard. But if he can force Howard out of his comfort zone, he will have done his job.
Bench: We never know who is going to show up for Boston, Allen, Wallace and Big Baby have been inconsistent. Michael Finley could be a wild caard. Orlando has consistent play out of their bench and JJ Redick is deadly from beyond the arc.
Coaches: Doc Rivers has a ring and is unpredictable in late game situation. The Celtics have no tendencies as Allen, Pierce and KG have all his big shots in critical situation out of time out. Stan Van Gundy almost blew this series last year against a depleted Celtic squad.
If it was me, I'd let Dwight Howard score 60 (shhh, guess what, he can't do it. He can't hit anything but a lay up or dunk). If the Celtics double down, Orlando will shred them. Dwight Howard can't beat you by himself, so make him do it. We saw what happened when Dwayne Wade and LeBron were forced too and they couldn't get it done. Niether can Howard if this strategy is employed.
I never thought Boston could get out of the first round, let alone beat Cleveland with the way the regular season ended. But each team is playing superior basketball at this point so this should be a classic series. We live in the now, not in the past. National consensus is the Magic will steamroll the Celtics due to their easy wins to this point. I have to disagree. Celtics in 6.