Game 2 is going to come down to which coach can push the correct buttons and make the right moves. I could talk about all the different match-ups at each position, but these teams know each other well, and I believe the series will come down to who game-plans and executes the best from the sidelines.
In game 1, the Celtics executed their game plan to perfection. You could tell from the start that their plan was to force Dwight Howard away from the basket (easier said than done) and maul him whenever he gets close , sending him to the line. In addition the green wanted to keep pressuring Rashard Lewis off the three point stripe, forcing him to make moves and beat them from off the dribble. Lewis is a borderline all-star player, and he has shown at certain points in his career that he can make those plays from the dribble, but versus a great defensive unit like the C’s it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Matt Barnes was supposed to be the defensive stopper, but it looks as if back spasms are going to limit his play (he only played 22 minutes in the first game). I thought Barnes would be a problem, whether he guarded Pierce or Allen to start. Barnes started guarding Allen, and Allen showed that he can run even some of the best defensive players in the league ragged by piling up 25 points. It will be interesting to see how Van Gundy adjusts to the Barnes injury, and how his team is affected from a defensive perspective. While Matt Barnes looks like he is much better suited to sell crack on Dorchester Ave in South Boston rather than be a reliable NBA player (sweet neck tattoos), when healthy he is a very serviceable defender.
Van Gundy failed to make the adjustments necessary to get his team over the hump in Game 1, and judging from how the game played out, I wonder if Orlando can match up with Boston. I know we have a long way to go in this series, but as Rasheed Wallace said after the game, “It looked like their butt holes tightened up.” In order for the Magic to win, Magic studs Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson will have to lead the way in Game 2. If the Magic plan to tie this series up, they will need to get out of a half court game, and speed up the tempo, while getting Dwight involved with some easy buckets early. Howard and Nelson are at their best when they feed off each other, and when Howard doesn’t get involved early, he has a tendency to disappear from games.
Rivers’ game plan is working true to form, and if they can make Howard beat them from the line, while keep Lewis and Carter in check, Boston will dominate the series. Surprisingly, the Celtics won game 1 without a significant contribution on the offensive end from Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett. You have to believe– with the way those two have been playing– that won’t happen again. KG was missing open looks, but Rondo really seemed to struggle with having the man with the tiniest head in the NBA (Dwight Howard) waiting for him whenever he beat Nelson off the dribble. I am curious to see how Rivers devises some creative ways to get Rondo more involved.
Regardless, Game 2 is as close to a must-win game for the Magic as possible. As good as the Green are playing, they cannot afford to go back to Boston down 2-0. The key will be how Stan Van Gundy plans to get Howard more touches close to the basket. If that happens, Howard gets going, the crowd gets going, Nelson gets going, and so go the Magic.
With the way Boston played in game 1 it seemed to me that they were fed up with all the crap going on with ESPN/ABC. The Celtics were sick of seeing bullshit puppet commercials featuring Lebron and Kobe, sick of seeing stupid halftime segments of Dwight Howard interviewing himself as Superman. Boston is a blue collar team that is peaking at the right time, and if they play Howard the way they did in Game 1, they will be looking at a 2-0 series lead. My prediction: 99-92 Celts……and maybe Matt Barnes gets caught with a crack rock in the locker room (seriously, you can’t tell me that guy doesn’t do some illegal shit, its a rule, more than one neck tattoo, you are a scumbag, see Delonte West).