Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking like something we haven't seen in a while.

 The Celtics find themselves up 2 - 0 against an Orlando Magic team who has breezed their way through the post season. The Celtics hang on to win game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals 95 - 92

To paraphrase a boxing anecdote in the context of MBA basketball; Boston must take out the eastern conference heavyweights the Orlando Magic, just like Ali took out the more favoured Foreman in Zaire in 74. That famous victory in '74 was accomplished because Ali used patience, discipline and elegantly brilliant tactics to defeat a younger and more powerful adversary.

Doc rivers said during a post game statement following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals that this Celtics team is looking like the team that started the 2009 - 2010 season. A team that went 27 - 5. 

On paper Orlando is clearly a better team, especially if you take into account their stellar form in the 2nd half of the season. The team of Howard / Carter / Lewis / Nelson combining with significant bench play from Reddick, Pietrius, Williams and Barnes playing the inside outside ball game was killing teams in the last half of the season. You collapse on Howard, you give the rest of the team options through the lane or from beyond the arc. Add that to the way the Magic have dealt with their play off opposition, especially the highly talented Atlanta Hawks and Orlando look like an obvious tip for a best of 7 against an older Celtics team who are guilty of patchy play during the regular season.

Thing is, Neither of these teams have shown up for the play offs. 

Firstly, lets look at the Magic team now (prior to game 3 of the eastern Finals). Howard has been dealing with the Celtics 'Bigs', who know how to defend an opposing center like Dwight Howard. Limiting his offensive choices and getting him out of his normal pattern of play. So, no problem? Kick it out to your team mates, they can step up? 

Well...for some reason this is not happening. Carter and Nelson have showed some improved play in the 2nd game, but despite this the Celtics are holding down the fort to get the wins, even with 4th quarter surges when the Magic actually looks like number 2 in the east. 

I believe that coasting through the play offs and only facing a tough team in the eastern finals is the WORST thing for this team who, despite great depth and discipline, lack maturity  when facing a cagey opponent using patience, discipline and elegant tactics. That sound you hear is the culmination of the metaphor from 2nd Paragraph.

Now for the Celtics. To be up 2 - 0 in the conference finals, a lot of things are going right. Namely this team is stepping up and (so far) playing every game like they are down and facing elimination. Taking out the Cav's in 6 is now a much publicised, but no less impressive victory. They won 3 in a row playing with a killer instinct that has carried over to the conference finals. Behind Invigorated play by Peirce, Allen and Garnett, key contribution form their bench and all this being spear headed by this teams new MVP; Rajon Rondo. 
Game 3 is a chance for the Magic to force open a crack and get some day light in this series. For the Celtics, a win today would have the same effect that game 5 had in the Cleveland series. Even if they came back and won game 4 the damage has been done, the statement has been made.

It is up to Boston to win this. It is in their best interest as a team to contain and defeat the Magic at TD Banknorth as they have done on the Magic's home court. To do that they need to step up the intensity, to NOT give this very capable Magic team no chance at a game 3 win. What is needed is a demoralising win for the Celtics akin to the game 5 record loss Cleveland sustained in game 5.

A statement needs to be made today to shut the door on this series.

Green and white for life.


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