What We’ll Learn in Game 5 vs. Celtics

Will Jameer Nelson keep up his aggression?
The undeniable key to Orlando’s Game Four victory was the aggression and play of team captain Jameer Nelson. Nelson darted in and out of the paint and came off picks aggressively for the first time all series. He was looking to get to the basket and cause havoc in the paint.

He pushed the pace and caught Boston’s defense off guard and unset. The Celtics might be too good in the half court defense to keep the game slow. Nelson and the Magic figured out they could beat their opponents down the floor and create mismatches that way.

Kevin Garnett got stuck on Dwight Howard at times and Howard took advantage. Rashard Lewis saw Kendrick Perkins or Glenn Davis on him or Vince Carter saw Rajon Rondo defending him. They all needed to take advantage of these matchups. And for the most part they did.

This was all because of Nelson’s aggression.

Whether or not Rondo was slowed by muscle spasms, Nelson absolutely torched him in the same way Rondo torched Orlando in the first three games. Rondo should be better for this game and Orlando will need Nelson to lead them again in the same manner.

Can Anyone Stop Paul Pierce?
Paul Pierce struggled offensively in Boston’s conference semifinals series with Cleveland. Against Orlando, Pierce has had his way with Orlando’s defense.

Part of that has simply been effort. Vince Carter struggled to contain him in Games One and Two while Matt Barnes chased Ray Allen around. Barnes had his issues in Game Three, but everybody else did too. And in Game Four, Pierce took advantage of the Magic’s over aggression on pick and rolls to keep Rajon Rondo out of the paint and abused Jameer Nelson when they switched.

Pierce is averaging 24.3 points per game and shooting 50.8 percent from the field. Very good numbers for a superstar player. The Magic have simply not had an answer. Stan Van Gundy has to find a way to keep Rondo from penetrating into the paint and slowing down Boston’s All Star.

Can Rashard Lewis Provide a Boost?
Rashard Lewis has been fighting a viral infection throughout this series. Reports during Game Two had him with the flu and his play has suggested something is up — more than Kevin Garnett’s stellar defense.

Lewis’ stats are not pretty: 7.0 points per game, 29.4 percent field goal shooting and 18.8 percent from beyond the arc. Game Four provided some measure of recovery with 13 points and 4-of-10 shooting. Hopefully that becomes a trend upward.

Orlando needs that third scorer. Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard need to provide the type of scoring effort they had in Game Four. JJ Redick has been the guy providing help to the two captains. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis have disappeared.

Carter will do what Carter does. But the Magic need Lewis’ 3-point shooting to keep Garnett out of the paint and give Howard room to operate in the post.

Lewis has apparently been really sick. He said he has had trouble keeping food and fluids down and has noticed he is getting tired quicker because of the viral infection that he is suffering from. He admits it is not an excuse, but it has been a factor in this series.

Viral infection or not, Lewis needs to be the one to step up, play smart and pull his weight for the Magic to get to a Game Six.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily