No shoulder injury, no controversy, no problem
Remember last season when the Orlando Magic were in this position despite losing Jameer Nelson to a separated shoulder just before the All Star break days before he was to make his All Star Game debut?
In the 2009-2010 playoffs (8-0 record. The Magic haven’t lost since April), Jameer is averaging 20.5 points, 5.3 assists and shooting on a 51.9% clip. He’s also hitting 40% of his threes and 80% of his foul shots.
He’s what ORL has been missing and surely the reason why Stan Van Gundy took a chance and started Jameer in the Finals vs. the Lakers. We all know how that turned out, but Van Gundy knows the body dies when you chop off the head and Nelson is without question what makes Orlando go. Swap Vince Carter for Hedo Turkoglu, add some depth to your bench and Orlando finds itself in the same position it was last year…albeit stronger.
Just one subplot in a series full of inspirations.
Boston is the team no one left truly wants to face. If you’ve ever played sports on any level, there was always opposition that gained your respect…even if you didn’t like everything about their makeup.
The Celtics took advantage of Cleveland’s weaknesses and while the series win wasn’t as much as a shock to some because of Boston’s professionalism, the way the Celtics handled the Cavs the last two games definitely is (despite some rumors my 16 year old son just texted me about).
Boston comes with veteran explosiveness (able to win a professional scenario) and poise. Take three (and now four) players off any outfit and I’d take Boston’s core over almost any team in sports. Damn right I said it. They are battle tested, skilled and professional enough to handle any moment before them and Cleveland became the result of what it took for Boston to develop into a champion in 2008 and also be in the position they find themselves in this very second.
It was all about the health of Kevin Garnett. He’s not limping anymore and it shows in the Celtics confidence.
When a leader is in street clothes barking encouragement instead of getting in your face on the floor, a sense of your team is neutralized. Orlando was lucky to not have Garnett doing what he does this time last year. Do you really think the Chicago/Boston epic series in ’09 would have been as close as it was if Black Pharaoh was healthy?
I’ve mentioned this before, but his ability to communicate interior pick and rolls is something to behold. He has this quick defensive mind articulated mentally and then executed physically. He is now the consummate pro and if his name is not included in the discussion of best power forwards of all time, that’s not a discussion worth having.
He and Sheed, when Wallace is on the floor, will be able to reach Rashard Lewis’ shot from that left wing with their length. Lewis kills teams off weak side ball reversal because he’s wide open. The corner three is there for any NBA team but if you have essentially a seven footer popping it, you have a distinct advantage and can go to that weapon at any time for a kill shot.
Let’s talk about Vince Carter…
Vince Carter will have to state his name on this series. This is why he was brought in. This moment right now is his athletic life. If he has any desire to win a championship, this is the time. Hedo was the point forward with Jameer out, now that Orlando is at full strength, he’d better step up and show the world what he’s got. You will see in how he throws down dunks in the open floor if he’s inspired to win it all. I expect him to get off.
Look for Rashard Lewis to go down on the block and post up even with Boston’s size and strength advantage. This gives Orlando another weapon by opening up for Mickael Pietrus to work on the perimeter and keep Boston’s defense honest when he’s feeding the post. Lewis is obviously a key because of his talent and size. How he responds is huge. If Orlando wins, it will be in part because Rashard shot well.
Rajon Rondo isn’t going to have an easy go of it this series. Yes he will continue to put up close to Oscar numbers but because of Nelson’s offensive skill set, he will have to spend a lot of energy on the defensive end. His rebound numbers will be affected.
I think the match up between Rondo and Nelson will be a wash.
This is where Ray Allen and Paul Pierce go off. Don’t be surprised if either of them has multiple 30 point games throughout the series.
Pierce and Allen smell blood. They taste and NBA championship and hear the roar of the crowd. At this point, it doesn’t matter who they play. Every ounce of their professional existence will be culminated in this moment…and that’s despite winning a championship already. It’s as if 2008 never happened.
Both will get off and a lot of threes will be made between them not only because of what they do, but also because of how the game will be dictated.
Boston can shoot with Orlando. Period.
Rasheed Wallace will play a big time part in this series. This is why he was acquired. His length and basketball IQ on both ends comes into play now. He has the shoulder chip you want a bench player to have and I expect Sheed to step up and be Philly good. Despite the current perception of Sheed (mainly because he doesn’t give the press what they want), he is still a formidable player in this league.
Do. Not. Sleep.
What type of series will Matt Barnes have? Will he be able to be that get in the head guy or will he just shut up and play lock down defense? Will he be a combination of the aforementioned? What will he do? If he plays great defense on the perimeter, the Celtics are in trouble.
Will J. J. Redick be the player he was last year when he was given more rotation minutes?
Marcin Gortat will play more minutes because of Boston’s size. How will that translate?
Look for Tony Allen and Glen Davis to also be of influence by being those energy guys every team needs when it’s looking for a spark.
This series more than any other reason will be determined by the fight and desire of Dwight Howard. The ridiculous 84% of his shots made in the Atlanta series might be the reason Mike Woodson is potentially coaching in Philly next season instead of manning the ATL sideline he knows so well.
Dwight Howard has to become the player not worried about his off court persona. The playoffs are a different animal and all that joking bs has no place in the NBA’s second season but he also must remain who he is. Now, the Magic do have a unique approach to their pregame layup line that shouldn’t be questioned. What I’m speaking of is an in game focus Dwight needs to realize his NBA definition now. I’m one of the people who thinks he should be a 30/20 (maybe 40/30/5 because he as a center he has no peer) player every night he laces them up but if he can’t elude those two early first quarter fouls, his dominance is diminished to spurts and not the entire game.
Kendrick Perkins will hold his own and will be inspired simply because no one is talking of him but Dwight is just too big and strong for anyone in this NBA and yes that includes a healthy Andrew Bynum.
Dwight needs to get his 28-35 points and 15-20 rebounds every game and stay on the floor doing it. He cannot question the fouls or be angry of what Boston is giving to him mentally and physically. It’s all because no one can stop him. If he realizes the importance of his place in the game, he will become the Shaq like monster he is not yet.
Boston will play great defense the entire series. Dwight has to somehow overcome everything if he is truly to be considered a superstar. He must stay in games and score and rebound at will or his team will lose.
Put up or shut up Dwight. Right. Now.
Boston had the second best road record in the NBA this season and will not be intimidated in any arena left. Doc Rivers will have his mates ready but because he has at least four coaches on the floor, his coaching philosophies will be executed by committee.
Stan Van Gundy’s coaching abilities are underrated. He gets his guys to play and does it his way. He has been criticized for calling his players out but still wins and has never lost his locker room. His strength is adapting to a moment and because the Celtics will come to play every night, changes will have to be made on the fly.
I’ve changed my mind two times while writing this. I went from picking Orlando (pic above embedded before I wrote anything) and then picking the Celtics because the will of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce strikes me as paramount.
My agent/confidant/friend/brother says Orlando in six and gave me 19 reasons why.
Does Vince Carter have it is what I’m pondering…
The youth of Nelson and Howard…
Rajon Rondo’s current amazement…
The Big Three’s ability to physically give it all late…
Dwight Howard’s “Superman”…
The Magic have blown away Charlotte and Atlanta…therefore haven’t faced any adversity and Boston will definitely put up more than just a fight…
I gotta agree with my man…
Orlando will just be too much and defeat the Celtics in 7.