Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated joined the Dale & Holley show Friday morning to talk about the Celtics-Magic series. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Mannix said the officiating crew assigned to Game 6 — Mike Callahan, Monty McCutchen and Ken Mauer — appears to be one that will help Boston’s cause. “It will be a liberally called game,” Mannix said. “Just based on the names and what you’re saying, I think that favors Boston. I think they’re going to be able to get away with a little bit more physically against Dwight Howard and some other guys. That’s a good trio, I think for the Celtics.”
Looking back at Ed F. Rush’s ejection of Kendrick Perkins in Game 5, Mannix said the blame needs to be passed around. “I believe Eddie made a bone-headed call, I believe he wouldn’t have made that call if he remembered that Perkins had one technical foul, but I’ve got to slap some responsibility on Kendrick Perkins, too,” Mannix said. “You need to be aware of your surroundings and aware of your situation. You know you have one technical. You know you had five technicals coming into this game. You know another technical will throw you out of this game and likely get you suspended for another game. You’re not a rookie center. This is a fourth- or fifth-year guy who has won a championship. You need to understand the situation and not be so demonstrative. Did he deserve the tech? Probably not. But it’s possible. I didn’t rule it out in my mind.”
Mannix was more bothered by the technical foul Joey Crawford gave to Rajon Rondo for arguing with another official. “What Joey Crawford did was embarrassing,” Mannix said. “Rajon Rondo was not talking to Joey Crawford, and he just injected him into the story.” Added Mannix: “Joey I hope never touches another Celtics game ever again after his performance in Orlando.”
Asked if Dwight Howard is a dirty player, Mannix said there’s an element of that to the big man’s game. “Everybody’s saying no. I think there’s a twinge of dirt in Dwight Howard,” Mannix said. “He swings that elbow. And the NBA has noticed it, believe me, I’ve talked to people over there about this. They know he wields that elbow as a weapon sometimes. … Once you start swinging [the elbow], that’s a punch. You’re swinging it like it’s a weapon. … There’s definitely a bit of dirtiness to his game.”
Looking at the game strategy, Mannix said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy “has done a terrific coaching job and might have actually saved his own job.” He said now the Celtics need to make an adjustment on defense. “To me the adjustment is not Dwight Howard, it’s not defensively [overall], it’s that double pick and roll they keep running with Jameer Nelson. Boston has no answer for that. Either they get caught on it and Nelson has a clear path to the basket, or they wind up switched and Dwight Howard or Rashard Lewis get a massive mismatch underneath the rim. There’s got to be ways that Boston can tinker with that defense and make sure they don’t get caught with their pants down when Jameer comes around that corner. I think part of that responsibility is on Rajon Rondo. It looks to me a couple of times he fights through the first pick but he doesn’t quite give the same amount of effort through that second pick.”
Asked for his prediction, Mannix leaned toward the Celtics. “I think Boston wins,” he said. “I think they gut it out. I think the home crowd is going to be important, the energy behind them. I think they win a very close game. I think the important thing to look at it how they play in the first quarter. The games they’ve won so far in this series, they’ve jumped out to leads. The games they’ve lost, they’ve kind of had to fight from behind. I don’t think Boston’s very good at fighting from behind, at least not against Orlando, which has a tendency to six or nine points up on you so quickly. … So I think it’s very important for Boston to get out to one of those 7-0, 12-6 advantages. Take some of the pressure off them and put Orlando behind the 8-ball. Make them feel the pressure of making jump shots late in the game, in the third and the fourth quarter, so they have to get back in the game. I think the pressure at some point, if they’re trailing will get to the Orlando shooters. I don’t think you’re going to see Rashard Lewis or Vince Carter step up and make big jump shots if the Magic are coming from behind.”
However, cautioned Mannix, “If they can’t defend Dwight, and they’re also not able to defend Jameer Nelson, this could be a blowout. … This Orlando team is fully capable of routing Boston on their home court.”