|Are the Magic a threat?||01.23.09 at 12:01 am ET|
The Orlando Magic had the best record in the East, so it was only fair to say they were the best team. At least that was the credit the Boston Celtics were giving them before Thursday’s match up. But of the 41 games the Magic had played entering the game, only one had been against the Celtics. It was a loss.
The Magic have said they wanted to beat the best to be the best. In the last two seasons they lost to the Detroit Pistons early in the playoffs. Now the Celtics are the measuring stick in the East and after Thursday’s 90-80 loss to the defending champs (RECAP HERE), the Magic have failed to stack up twice.
It’s true the Magic haven’t received all the recognition they deserve nearly halfway through the season. Despite winning 16 of their last 19 games, they have flown relatively low under the radar and the talk of the East is still LeBron James vs. the Celtics. But there is a reason for that. Even with one of the most dominating big men in the game, the Magic do not have what it takes to unseat the Celtics in the postseason.
There is no denying the power and talent of Dwight Howard. He is a beast on the glass and can body through the paint with authority. But the reality is Howard is 23, only three months older than Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard has three proven veterans to turn to whereas the veterans on the Magic turn to Howard.
On Thursday the Celtics held Howard scoreless for the entire second and third quarters. In that time he picked up four fouls and had to limit his defensive intensity late in the fourth before fouling out with 2:30 to go. The glaring question is, can Howard lead a team in a seven-game series?
Point Guard Play
Jameer Nelson is having a breakthrough year, averaging 17 points up from 11 last season, and is finally emerging as the point guard the Magic have been anticipating since 2004. However surging performances aren’t always consistent. It’s been said that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. The same can be said for Nelson and the Magic.
Rajon Rondo (through 44 games)
Wins: 11.9 PPG, 54.8% FG, 8.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 PF
Losses: 7.0 PPG, 32.4% FG, 7.3 APG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 PF
Jameer Nelson (through 36 games)
Wins: 18.1 PPG, 54.4% FG, 52.1% 3PG, 5.7 APG, 2.9 PF
Losses: 12.9 PPG, 37.4% FG, 19.4% 3PG, 4.0 APG, 4.1 PF
The Magic are the best three-point shooting team in the league. They hit an NBA-record 23 treys this month against the Sacramento Kings and entered Thursday’s game shooting 53.9% 3PG in their last five match ups. At some point, though, legs get tired and the finesse can fade, especially in a six or seven-game series.
The Magic’s leading three-point shooter Rashard Lewis may be dangerous from inside and out, but he wasn’t a threat when he only shot one-for-four from long range against the Celtics. The team as a whole shot 7-for-22, which was actually worse than the Celtics 0-for-6 performance. The Cs compensated for their slump by going inside. The Magic, on the other hand, lived and died by the deep three.
The Celtics weren’t wrong for giving the Magic credit. They are one of the hottest teams in the league centered around one of the most exciting players to watch. But the season isn’t even halfway over and the Magic are not prepped for a title run just yet. They wanted to beat the best in the playoffs to be the best, but the first step is beating the best in the regular season.
|All-Star Voting Update||12.25.08 at 7:06 pm ET|
On Christmas Day the second returns of the 2009 NBA All-Star Game ballots were announced. Dwight Howard continues to lead all votes while Rajon Rondo still struggles to crack the top 10 among all guards. Boston Celtics are bolded below in the Eastern Conference results:
Forwards: LeBron James (Clev) 1,259,764; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 905,506; Yi Jianlian (NJ) 762,162; Chris Bosh (Tor) 500,700; Paul Pierce (Bos) 313,474; Shawn Marion (Mia) 210,040; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 137,035; Danny Granger (Ind) 116,238; Josh Smith (Atl) 110,186; Michael Beasley (Mia) 100,257; Tayshaun Prince (Det) 98,262.
Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,229,858; Allen Iverson (Det) 858,469; Vince Carter (NJ) 600,087; Ray Allen (Bos) 354,642; Devin Harris (NJ) 267,504; Gilbert Arenas (Wash) 205,223; Derrick Rose (Chi) 203,687; Luke Ridnour (Mil) 197,933; Jose Calderon (Tor) 193,715; Jameer Nelson (Orl) 174,081; Joe Johnson (Atl) 162,772.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,421,882; Samuel Dalembert (Phi) 232,733; Rasheed Wallace (Det) 163,279; Jermaine O’Neal (Tor) 147,534; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 112,708; Al Horford (Atl) 107,118; Ben Wallace (Clev) 89,809; Emeka Okafor (Char) 69,015; Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas (Cle) 60,970; Kendrick Perkins (Bos) 54,772; Brendan Haywood (Wash) 28,182.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 107, Magic 88||12.02.08 at 9:36 am ET|
Doc Rivers called Monday night’s game a ‘free speech night’… a game in which he doesn’t have to say a word to his team about its significance. Such was the case as the Celtics took on yet another ‘would-be challenger’ to their Eastern Conference reign. And the Orlando Magic found out what Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Toronto have already realized, knocking the Celtics off the throne won’t be easy. And did you hear what the Magic said??? Listen to the comments below. Dwight Howard and Anthony Johnson were all about giving respect but also wanted people to remember they were without their backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus. Doc Rivers acknowledged as much but the Celtics also took Orlando’s best punch in the second quarter before blowing them off the court in the second half – doing exactly what championship teams do that have dreams of repeating.
|Memories Still Golden for Howard||12.01.08 at 11:39 pm ET|
Dwight Howard isn’t living in the past. He just isn’t ready to put it behind him yet.
It’s been more than three months since he won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics with the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team and he relives the glory every day. Howard brings his medal on the road with him as he tries to capture another piece of hardware – the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
“It’s to remind me of something I accomplished this summer, a goal I’ve been wanting to have since I was little,” Howard said following the Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics game. “Watching the Dream Team I always wanted a gold medal, and I have one now. I take it and it reminds me every day to keep pushing for something because reach for the stars and you might get it.”
If Howard needs another reminder of Olympic success, he can just look down the Magic bench. Original Dream Team member Patrick Ewing is his assistant coach.
|Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic||11.30.08 at 10:01 pm ET|
On Monday night the Boston Celtics (16-2) will take on the Orlando Magic (13-4) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The presence of Dwight Howard makes the Magic an Eastern Conference contender but, despite successful regular season records, Superman hasn’t been able to carry his team to the Eastern Conference Finals. After last season, the road to the championship goes through Boston and the Magic surely know it. Monday’s game could be a preview of a future postseason battle.
In the Last Five Games …
The Celtics enter this game on an eight-game winning streak while the Magic have won their last four. Both teams have been running up the scoreboard in the last five games. The Celtics have averaged 104.6 points while winning by an average 13.8 points; the Magic have averaging 102.8 ppg while winning by a less impressive 6.6 ppg. They have been nearly identical on the glass. Even though Howard leads the league in blocks, the Celtics have the slight advantage as of late. The Cs have also held their opponents to less than 18 assists per game, a troubling stat for the Magic who have been playing without point guard Jameer Nelson.
Dwight Howard looks to bring his show-stopping antics to Boston and dominate his way through the paint. Howard (21.8 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.9 bpg) will be a challenging match up for the foul-prone Kendrick Perkins. The only silver lining for the Celtics is Howard’s inconsistency at the free throw line (57.3% FT). He shot 21-42 in three games against the Cs last season.
All Banged Up
While this game could be a playoff preview, it will be without a handful of key players. The Magic’s Jameer Nelson (hip), Mickael Pietrus (thumb), and Keith Bogans (thumb) suffered early-season injuries. This leaves holes at the point guard spot, on the wing, and on the bench. The Celtics should expect to see more of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. Veteran PG Anthony Johnson has been starting in place of Nelson and will try to contain the streaking Rajon Rondo. These injuries are depleting the Magic reserves and creating a daunting task to stop the Celtics deep bench.
In the past five games the Magic have held their opponents to a staggering 28% from three-point range. Their biggest challenge will be stopping Ray Allen, who is shooting 56% from downtown during that same stretch. On the contrary, Paul Pierce is shooting just 15.4%. Ironically Allen’s former teammate, forward Rashard Lewis, has the hot hand for the Magic (47.2% 3PG last five games). There’s also no telling if one time NCAA-phenom J.J. Redick will find his groove.
Check in with the WEEI Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Celtics-Magic match up.
|Moon Eyes Return to Dunk Contest||11.23.08 at 12:36 pm ET|
On Sunday Jamario Moon’s biggest concern is taking on he Boston Celtics. And while he is focused on each game at hand, the Toronto Raptors high-flyer can’t help but think ahead to February. That’s when Moon would like to redeem himself in the Slam Dunk Contest.
“It was big to be on the stage with a lot of the greats like (Michael) Jordan and Dominique (Wilkins). So to be able to be part of that, man, it was something big,” Moon said on a recent trip through Boston. “I would love to go back, love to go back because I feel like I’ve got something to prove.”
This past February Moon finished third behind Dwight Howard and Gerald Green during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. He entered the contest as an underdog but later realized he was his biggest competition.
“I just don’t feel like I gave it my all,” he said. “I don’t know, I don’t know. I wasn’t nervous at all. I think I was holding back. I was trying to save my best for last when I should have just brought the best out and made it better at the end.”
Just as defending champ Howard did after losing in the 2007 Dunk Contest, Moon is already planning a comeback. He would like to return to the contest another year wiser.
“Already, already,” Moon said of drawing up new dunks. “You know what, I learned something about it. It’s really not too much about the dunk as it is the dramatics of it and what leads up to it. I learned a lot from it so if I go back, I know what to expect.”
The 2009 Slam Dunk Contest will be held during All-Star Weekend, February 13-15 in Phoenix, Arizona.