Season Series: Orlando 3-1
The Boston Celtics have shown they deserve to be in the Eastern Conference Final through blood, sweat and tears. Well, not so much tears but they’ll be plenty of tears in Cleveland now that Lebron will be looking to go elsewhere and considering a New York strip club has offered him free lap dances, hmm. As I stated in the Celtics-Cavs preview, if Boston wanted to move on in the series, it wouldn’t be because of the Celtics big three (Garnett, Pierce and Allen) but Rajon Rondo would have to play incredible, which he is highly capable of and that’s exactly what he did. When Rondo was selected with the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA draft, the Celtics got one hell of a good player and 20 other teams passed up on one of the best players in that years draft. The Raptors took Bargnani with the first picked and passed up on the only two players from that year who’ve made the all-star team this early in their career (Brandon Roy and Rondo). With the way Cleveland played all year, I figured even with James a little banged up, the Cavs would pull it off and I’ll be the first to admit, I was wrong. After taking care of the Heat in five games, they rode all the momentum they’d gained into the second round and even though they lost game one 101-93 and it looked as if James’ injury wouldn’t bother him, the Celtics stole home-court advantage with a game two 104-86 beat-down. Cleveland fans aren’t used to seeing their team get slapped in the face on their home court but they might be getting used to it after games three and four were split in Boston, the Celtics came back and yet again blew-out the Cavaliers 120-88 and handed the Cavs their largest home-court loss in playoff franchise history. Cleveland couldn’t rebound from the huge loss and lost multiple games for the fifth time this season (one of the times can be attributed to James and others resting late in the season). LBJ and company also gave up in the dying minute… and that’s how Cavs’ faithful will remember him…
With the way the Celtics finished off the regular season (losing eight of their final thirteen games), everyone thought that Chicago might be able to upset Boston but I knew they’re size advantage over the Bulls would reign supreme. Orlando is looking amazing this year (especially in the playoffs) and the addition of Vince Carter has improved the Magic so much but giving their opponents one more playing to worry about other than Howard. Look at how that completely dominated the Hawks but don’t write off the Celtics as they have a vast amount of talent with their big three and Rondo plus a good bench and they’re been there before. Garnett, Pierce and Allen combine for just under 50 points per game, while chipping in rebounds with few assists. They don’t need assists, it’s phenomenal guard Rajon Rondo who’s putting up approximately a double double and dishing the ball out to his fellow superstars. Kendrick Perkins is the centre and final man on the starting roster and he can chip in double digits on the stat sheet in both points and/or rebounds himself. It undeniable that the Celtics starting five have an endless supply of talent but moving on to their bench, they’ve got talent their as well. Even though Rasheed Wallace hasn’t been what Boston’s organization and fans expected he would, he does have the ability to break out at any given time during a game. They also picked up players like Nate Robinson and Michael Finley to help give their stars a rest, while guard Oliver Lafayette and Big Baby Davis aren’t players to take lightly. This series is going to come down to one thing for both teams. For the Celtics, it’s stopping Dwight Howard and Vince Carter. If they don’t, Orlando could just run away with the series like they have against everyone else. For Orlando, they have to stop (much like Cleveland couldn’t) Rondo because he is no question, the most pivotal player in Boston’s success. The big three are important but they are getting old and can’t do it all themselves as they need to rely on Rondo do take off all the pressure, alleviate double teams and find Garnett, Pierce and Allen in favourable match-ups.
When I said the Orlando Magic were going to dominate the Atlanta Hawks, I was certainly right and one thing that is most certain, is that they are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Not only are they the defending East Champs, but they are laying the beat down on any opponent who comes their way and seem to be settling for nothing less than the NBA Championship. After getting through the Charlotte Bobcats in a quick four games, they sat back and watched other teams get bumped and bruised in other series. After the Hawks had a gruelling seven-game series with the Milwaukee Bucks, they had to travel to Arnway Arena and face off against the Magic. Game one was a wake-up call for the Hawks, as well as the rest of the NBA as the Magic thumped the Hawks by a staggering 43 points in a 114-71 victory. The huge victory was lead by none other than Dwight ‘Superman’ Howard who put up 22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks and managed to stay out of foul trouble and frustration that was evident in round one. Atlanta was held to just ten points in the second quarter, while Orlando went on a 17-0 run never looking back. In game two, the Hawks we able to show a little more fight, but again didn’t have enough as the Magic pulled away in the fourth quarter and won 112-98 (quite decisively). As the series traveled back to Atlanta, the momentum stayed with Orlando and they beat the Hawks’ like a red-headed step-son 105-75. I knew Orlando was going to run away with this series and possible sweep Atlanta, especially after the Hawks had a gruelling seven game series against Milwaukee but I don’t think anyone predicted they’d swept the series by a combined 101 points. That is unheard of. You never, and I repeat NEVER see consecutive blow-outs in playoffs (in any sport) the way that Orlando dominated the Hawks. And its not like the Hawks aren’t good! Round one wasn’t as decisive but the Magic still walked all over the Bobcats and have gotten stronger as the playoffs progress. People aren’t wondering anymore if the Magic will win the Eastern Conference, because people know they will… now they are wondering when they’ll lose their first game. Personally, I’m thinking they loose games two and four, before they win back-to-back games in five and six.
The Orlando Magic are for real. Dwight Howard is a beast and dominates the games on both sides of the court. He can consistently put up twenty points a game, while taking double teams that free up a team mate for an open shot. Howard will not only pull in defensive rebounds, but 94 feet down the court, he’ll pull in defensive rebounds and block shot, after shot, after shot. The thing is, Howard isn’t just putting up twenty points a game as he’s focused more on smart basketball that gets his teammates open. Jameer Nelson has exploded because of it and is averaging over 20 points per game. To be a contending in the NBA, you need a star player (Howard) but it’s just as important you have a reliable player who can handle the ball. Jameer Nelson and Rajon Rondo are doing just that and as the playoffs have moved along, Nelson has been improving drastically. When the Magic shipped out Hedu Turkolu and brought in Vince Carter, to make a long story short, any fan of Toronto knows the woes of Turkolu this season while the former Raptor’s star has given everyone a little dose of Vinsanity down in Florida. Rashard Lewis pitches in and Matt Barnes and Michael Pietrus split time and even Reddick and Gortat can come off the bench and give the Magic a spark. The Magic have lucked out with extremely favourable match-ups in the playoffs thus far and it’s not going to continue against the Boston Celtics. This series is going to be a battle. The only team who can pair up against Orlando and give them a run for their money is questionable the Celtics, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat them last year in the NBA Finals. The Celtics pushed the series to the brink against Orlando last year and lost in game seven but the Magic have only improved (more-so than Boston) in the time since the 2009 playoffs. If and when Orlando moves on, you may just see an identical series as last year in the Finals, and unfortunately for the Magic and their fans, a identical outcome.
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