For the second straight postseason, the Orlando Magic will take on the Boston Celtics. Last year these two teams squared off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Magic eventually prevailing in a hard-fought, seven-game series.
This season, a trip to the NBA Finals is on the line.
Take a look at the scores from each of the four games these two teams matched up with each other in this season.
Magic – 83
Celtics – 78
Celtics – 86
Magic – 77
Celtics – 94
Magic – 96
Magic – 96
Celtics – 89
That’s an average score of 88-86.75. That’s right, just five points separated these two teams during the regular season.
The Celtics disposed of the Miami Heat in five games in the first round and defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers four games-to-two in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Magic have breezed through the playoffs, sweeping both the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks.
Everything points to this being a lengthy, hard-fought, and low-scoring series. Who am I to disagree? I believe this series is going to go six or seven games and I believe the Magic are going to come out on top for a few reasons.
Rajon Rondo has been an absolute stud in the postseason, but it’s not going to be nearly as easy for him against the Magic. Orlando has one of, if not the league’s best defense. They were third in defensive rating and first in opponent’s field goal percentage. They also have Dwight Howard, the league’s best defensive player, manning the paint. It will be much harder for Rondo to get the basket and finish at the rim. On the flip side, Rondo is going to have to play Nelson differently than he has played in the playoffs so far. Nelson is a much better offensive player than anyone Rondo has matched up against and he will have to respect Nelson’s outside shot, keeping him out of the passing lanes, making it less likely for the Celtics to create turnovers and making it easier for the Magic to move the ball around the court.
Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace have traditionally given the Dwight Howard fits. Perkins’ impressive defense continued this postseason with excellent performances against Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal. Howard has become a smarter and better offensive player and he seems to have learned to play against Perkins better. Rather than sticking with his power moves, Howard has turned to more of a finesse game and he’s had much more success with it. Howard has still been a monster on the boards (14.5 per game) and on the defensive end (3.25 blocks per game) against the Celtics. You can read more about Howard’s performances against the Celtics here.
Orlando’s superior depth is another reason I like them in this series. The Magic have had great production from their second unit – Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson/Brandon Bass, Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick and Jason Williams – all season. Boston has had good production in the postseason, especially from Tony Allen, but they can’t match Orlando’s depth. Both teams have had some issues with fouls and should both teams get into foul trouble, Orlando should be better off.
The Magic should be able to penetrate. Rashard Lewis can draw Kevin Garnett outside of the paint with his shooting and if the Celtics are going to leave Perkins one-on-one with Howard, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter should be able to get into the paint and either finish at the rim or find open teammates.
With that, I’ll make my official prediction: Magic in 7.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).