Boston at Orlando
2:30 P.M. ET
Boston: 107.7 points/100 possessions (7th)
Orlando: 103.6 points/100 possessions (16th)
Boston: 97.0 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Orlando: 99.1 points allowed/100 possessions (5th)
View From The Opposing Bench: Magic Basketball
Probable Magic Starters:
Thumbnail: Doc Rivers sleeps in his own bed in Orlando as the Celtics arrive for another Christmas Day clash with the revamped Magic and the first meeting between the two teams since Boston knocked Stan Van Gundy’s crew out of the playoffs last spring. The Magic are coming off an impressive win over a potent Spurs team on Thursday night but the Celtics are playing superb, adaptable basketball and riding a 14-game win streak.
After the jump, we’ll get into today’s injury report and some thoughts on this new Orlando team. But for much more on the game, be sure to put on the latest CelticsHub podcast while you’re stuffing the turkey or getting blitzed on rum and eggnog or singing vaguely hallucinogenic Christmas carols.
Brian Robb and Rich Keefe break it all down right here:
Rajon Rondo is out, barring an extremely persuasive conversation with Rivers. Jermaine O’Neal is likely to return today after missing 18 games with knee problems and one game with flu-like symptoms (or as I prefer to call it – the flu). But as one center comes back, one goes out: Semih Erden is questionable for today with a stomach bug that kept him out of practice Friday.
On the upside, Paul Pierce is back in the lineup after missing last year’s Christmas matchup against the Magic.
But I guess that’s not really news, is it?
And it didn’t really matter anyway:
WHAT THE MAGIC DO WELL/WHAT THE MAGIC DO POORLY:
The Magic squad from ten days ago was excellent at protecting its own basket, but Van Gundy has to work the defensively indifferent trio of Gilbert Arenas, Richardson and Turkoglu into his rotation, while giving up significant bulk in Marcin Gortat, who always gave the Celtics trouble with his size and activity.
On the offensive end of the floor, the Magic have had minimal time to put together new offensive sets for this group so we can safely assume a halfcourt offense built around a series of pick-and-rolls with Nelson, Turkoglu and Howard and inside-out play with Howard working in the post and kicking the ball out to perimeter shooters.
What we probably won’t see is anything near the 30 fast break points the Magic ran up on the Spurs although that will be their game plan: get up and down the court and score the basketball. So, the Celtics will look to clean their defensive glass and control tempo. Even with Kendrick Perkins out, expect Boston to try and single-cover Howard so the Celtics’ perimeter defenders can stay home on the Magic shooters.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY:
Howard. Shaquille O’Neal has been great so far this year but Orlando can wreak offensive havoc by pulling him away from the basket and exposing him on high screen-rolls. On top of that, Shaq’s limited mobility may be a problem in the post against Howard, who has improved his moves around the basket. Shaq will be best served by using his size and heft to deny D12 deep catches and easy scores, both of which he’s done effectively over the years. If Shaq gets into early foul trouble and Erden is out, the Celtics may try and use Kevin Garnett on Howard or perhaps the returning J.O.
Arenas. Agent Zero seems happy to be anywhere but inside the beltway, and it may show in his play in this nationally televised game. The days of him dropping 40+ are rarer and rarer but if he gets hot early, his man better stick to him like glue.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY:
Turkoglu. Two teams have given up on him in the last six months.
In some sort of fit of self-punishment, I watched the vast majority of Turkoglu’s games with the Raptors and I can tell you two things for certain:
1) He disappears without the ball in his hands. He and Nelson won’t work together unless they turn Jameer into a spot-up shooter.
3) He’s a lazy defender even when he is getting a lot of touches on the offensive end.
Forget all the talk of his importance to the Magic’s finals run a couple of years ago. Turkoglu will prove a disastrous acquisition.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON TODAY:
The book on beating this new Orlando team, to the extent we can figure it out, should look something like this: make the Magic grind it out in the halfcourt on the offensive end, control Howard even without Perk in the lineup, get Pierce abusing Turkoglu whenever possible, and force Arenas/Richardson into spot-up shooting (instead of working off the dribble) and stick with them so they don’t get good looks.
But the Celtics have proven they can win even when the nature of the game is completely contrary to their plans for it. Hayes did a great job summing that up after the Philly victory on Wednesday. We may see another example of that today.
Over the next couple of weeks, as Orlando runs through a soft patch in its schedule, you may hear about the bold, transformative deals made by Otis Smith and how they’ve re-energized the Magic. Don’t believe the hype. It’s fool’s gold. They’ve got more talent, and might be better this year, but they’re not good enough to win a title and they’re crippled financially for years to come.
And while the wild-card nature of Orlando’s new roster and the absence of Rondo from Boston’s means they might win today, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Boston 108 Orlando 100
(Even though it’s Christmas Day, we’ve got you covered on both sides of this one. Brian will be along to do the recap shortly after the final whistle).