These next two days, the Magic have a chance to take back their lunch money. I don’t want to make too big a deal of today’s game against the Celtics and Monday’s game vs. the Pistons, but these two teams share a duplex inside the Magic’s head. It’d do wonders for Orlando’s confidence to take down the Celtics, either today or on March 25. Today, the Celtics will be without Kevin Garnett.
Last time the Magic played the Celtics, it prompted me to hastily write that the Magic are soft. I took some flack for it – especially because the Magic’s winning percentage was up around .800 – but it’s still true today: the Magic… are… soft. And yes, I’m quoting myself below.
You can say their shots weren’t falling. You can call shenanigans on the refs, saying Dwight was fouled or Pierce and Wade were getting all the calls. But the biggest reason the Magic are on a two-game losing streak is an easy one. They’re soft. No one on the Magic, not even the big man in the middle, likes contact. While the Celtics initiate contact and play through the whistle, the Magic spend half their energy complaining to the referees. How many times have we seen a Magic player get stripped of the ball, then turn to the ref and put his hands up in protest? Yes, the Magic are one of the most talented teams in the league. They have a core of players and a strong coach that will carry them to a top-3 seed and at least the second round of the playoffs. If the Magic want to have any further success in the playoffs, they have to toughen up. Don’t complain to the refs. Take the ball to the rim. Don’t allow any easy buckets, and protect the paint.
The Celtics have opted to not double-team Dwight Howard in the past, instead leaving the wide-bodied Kendrick Perkins to man him one-on-one. Dwight has only 25 points in two games against Boston this season, and he took just 10 free throws in those two games combined. That’s because Dwight doesn’t like to go at Perkins, who bumps and annoys Howard until he forces up a hook or fall-away lay-up. Howard needs to take it right at Perkins, and force the double team. Without the double, the Magic have very little to work with in the halfcourt game.
As usual, much of the game rests on Hedo Turkoglu’s ability to slow down Paul Pierce, who has 24 and 27 points against the Magic this year. Pierce earned honorable mention on the Mount Rushmore of Magic Killers. If Turk holds him under 25 I’d consider that a victory.
The last time Orlando and Boston played, it was a good day for Magic fans. Here’s a little reminder. Enjoy the game.