Two teams that have had problems in January. Two teams still searching for their best play. Two teams that have been wildly inconsistent this season.
Nonetheless, tonight’s Boston Celtics-Orlando Magic showdown is must-see t.v.
Last season, the Magic dethroned Boston, the defending champion, in a seven-game series that was wildly strange. A star eating pizza right before tipoff. Skip To My Lou bitch-slapping Eddie House. Brian Scalabrine playing legitimate minutes. Big Baby running over unsuspecting little children. Stephon Marbury almost single-handedly leading a comeback. J.J. Redick locking down Ray Allen. Can all that stuff even be real? Are you sure it wasn’t all just a dream?
It was an interesting series, to say the least. A series that, unfortunately for Boston, ended in a seventh-game blowout that left the Celtics doing two things: 1) Wondering what would have happened had KG played in the series, and 2) Going fishing.
The C’s lost last season, but the Magic haven’t been as successful to start this season as they were to end the last. The Vince Carter era has gotten off to a rough start, with the “star” shooting only 39.0% and leading an offense that has looked disjointed at times. While the offense isn’t functioning at nearly the level it did last season, neither is the defense.
Orlando remains a deep team with perhaps more talent top to bottom than any other team in the League, but has yet to find itself. Still, as the defending Beasts of the East, the Magic have a whole conference of teams aiming to knock them off their perch.
Include the Celtics in the teams gunning after Orlando. Though the Magic have lost a few games and find themselves only in fourth place in the East, though they have at times lacked cohesiveness and team play, Orlando remains the Eastern Conference Champs.
And until they are dropped from that title, they’ve got at least one thing the Celtics desperately want.
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Perkins-Howard- Kendrick Perkins does a better job on Dwight Howard than anybody else in the world, and Rasheed Wallace might just be the second-best Howard stopper. Even without the aid of double teams, Perk and Wallace are able to shut down the Eastern Conference’s starting center. If Howard has another subpar game, it will probably be because Perk and Sheed have once again posed as Kryptonite.
- Vince Carter’s performance – Carter is averaging 26.5 points per game against the Celtics. He is clearly very aggressive against the Celtics, believing he has a mismatch no matter who’s guarding him. And he might be right. But the mismatch doesn’t help if Carter remains content to fire turnaround jumpers from the outside.
- As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics - Here are Rondo’s stats against Orlando… Game one (a 5-point loss): 6 points, 6 assists. Game two (a 9-point win): 17 points, 8 assists, 13 rebounds. Which Rondo do you think Doc Rivers hopes for tonight, in Rondo’s first game as an All-Star?