In the aftermath of their annihilation of the Magic on Monday in Boston, the Celtics have a chance to further deflate Orlando’s confidence with a repeat performance. Another victory might also put to rest the widespread belief that it’s time for Danny Ainge to back up the truck and initiate a long and painful rebuilding process.
On the other side of the equation, it’s commonplace for a team to relax when several of their opponent’s key players are down and out — which was the case on Monday with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, and even Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox unavailable. The Magic couldn’t avoid thinking beforehand that the game would be a cakewalk. Instead, several of Boston’s subs took advantage of their increased daylight by playing with unexpected passion and discipline. As a result, the home-standing Magic have their pride on the line tonight in an early season must-win situation.
HOW THE CELTICS CAN WIN: Neither Hedo Turkoglu nor Ryan Anderson can come close to containing Paul Pierce. Because of Boston’s nifty ball movement, Orlando’s defensive rotators were too far away to provide meaningful help when PP was placed in wing isolations. More of this same tactic is advisable.
* The superior hand- and foot-speed of Avery Bradley greatly discomforted Jameer Nelson. Since Rondo is expected to return to action, the man-to-man pressure on Orlando’s fading point-guard must not only be maintained, but even increased.
* Turkoglu is another of Orlando’s starters whose career is in obvious decline. Even so, he remains a dangerous stand-still shooter and still can effectively pass, as well as pull-and-shoot when going to his left. To nullify Turk’s offensive potential, his defender-of-the-moment must stay in his face and force him right.
* The inadequate defense of both Jason and Quentin Richardson must be routinely attacked.
* Dwight Howard has to be fouled as hard and as much as possible. If Wilcox is in uniform, then he and Greg Stiemsma can combine for twelve fouls that will gift Howard at least twenty free throws. Having these two backup bigs in foul trouble is no detriment to Boston, plus Howard will be fortunate to convert 10-12 of his chances at the stripe. In addition, by disrupting the continuity of the game, Orlando’s favored uptempo pace will likewise be compromised.
* Having Kevin Garnett occasionally defend Howard benefits Boston since he can defend Howard much better than Howard can defend him.
* Howard can also be effectively two-timed on the move, especially when he loads up to unleash his sweeping right-handed hook shot.
* Because Howard always comes to block any shot within his sphere of influence, and the Magic’s weak-side rotation is often late, ball-penetration will draw him and leave his man open for drop passes and easy layups. The penetration aspect of this strategy is an easy one because, aside from Howard, none of Orlando’s players is known for playing acceptable defense.
* The Celtics must reprise the aggressive ball-hounding and timely help-defense that they demonstrated on Monday.
HOW THE MAGIC CAN WIN: They must be motivated by their embarrassing performance in Boston — during which they scored a mere 56 points, shot a measly 24.6 percent and had nearly twice as many turnovers as assists (23 to 12) — and come out of the gate with full-bore intensity.
* Boston’s ball-movement must be limited by employing tighter on-the-ball pressure, more presence in passing lanes, and more alert weak-side rotations.
* When either KG or PP has the ball on either elbow, weak-side help must jam Boston’s dive-cutters.
* More astute ball-reversals are necessary to generate uncontested treys for Anderson. When he has to shoot under pressure, Anderson’s makes are greatly diminished and opponents can afford to gang up on Howard in the low-post.
* Brandon Bass must be defended chest-to-chest with a slight bias to his right hand, thereby crowding his deadly mid-range jumper while also forcing Bass to put the ball on the floor with his left hand.
* To take advantage of Boston’s collapsing defense, Howard has to make one or two power dribbles to the middle, come to a jump stop, and only then look to pass. That’s because his passes-on-the-move are easily anticipated and seldom lead to open shots.
* Both Howard and Nelson have to play with more poise.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Will some home-cooking and the familiar rims improve the 4-for-16 long-ball shooting that plagued the Magic in Boston?
- Will Bass continue to outplay the floor-bound Glen Davis?
- Can Orlando pick up its defense so as to compel the Celtics into more turnovers, and more rushed shots, and therefore get the running game in gear?
- Will the Magic supply backcourt screens to ease the full-court defensive pressure on Nelson?
- Or, since Nelson was slowed to a stumbling walk in Boston, will Chris Duhon get increased playing time?