Talking Celtics-Magic With Gino’s Jungle

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I got a chance to talk to the publishers of Gino’s Jungle, a site dedicated to the Boston Celtics, about the Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Magic and the Celtics.

1.       The Celtics went 27-27 in the final 54 games of the regular season and were left for dead by many in the media. How have the Celtics been able to turn it on in the postseason?

"I wish I honestly knew a straight forward answer to this. All season they were saying that they were just trying to prepare for when it really matters. Going into the playoffs they began to start getting healthy again and each individual has accepted their role for the better good of the team. We used this cliche’ “flip the switch” all season long and now they have finally “flipped the switch” and are starting to look very similar to the team we saw in 2008."

2.       The Celtics’ big men (especially Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace) have historically been able to limit Dwight Howard and although Howard has played better against the Celtics this season, the Celtics have still held him to just 12.3 points per game in their four meetings. Considering Perkins has only played 18.0 minutes per game against the Magic this season, how have the Celtics been able to limit Howard’s scoring. Can they keep it up?

"Although it’s Perkins and Wallace that are ultimately guarding Howard it comes down to a total team effort. Just like with LeBron, the C’s are going to have to work as a team to limit Howard. There is no doubt that he is the best center in the game today. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, a defensive specialist, will throw multiple strategies at Howard hoping to limit his effectiveness. Another thing that helps with defending Howard is that the Celtics have one of the most physical big men in the league in Kendrick Perkins. Perkins can really rough up Howard down low and get him frustrated. The key this season and moving on in this series however will be getting Howard into foul trouble. He can’t score if he’s on the bench."

3.       The Magic were third in defensive rating and first in defensive field goal percentage during the regular season. Boston has really struggled against good post defenses and Orlando has the best interior defender in the NBA. How are the Celtics going to attack the Magic’s defense?

"I think they will attack it the same way they have attacked defenses all season long. Since day one Doc has not altered his strategy and I don’t think he plans on doing so eight games away from winning an NBA championship. Unlike with Charlotte and Atlanta the Celtics have a point guard who can completely take over a game without scoring a point. Like it has all season the offense will flow through Rondo. In transition and in a set offense the Celtics are much more successful when things start with Rondo. He can penetrate to open up players on the perimeter and he has great instinct in finding open big men down low for easy baskets. I also expect Doc to go to KG early in this series in hopes that he carries momentum over from the Cleveland series. If he can be as successful against Lewis as he was against Jamison it could be scary. We also have this guy named Paul Pierce who has the potential to take over a game if need be."

4.       The Celtics trapped LeBron James on Cleveland’s pick-and-rolls but they will probably have to find a different way to contain the Magic when Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter run the play with Howard (and with each other for that matter). Is this a big concern for the Celtics?

"Not really. When it comes to defense in the playoffs I am 100% confident in the Celtics coaching staff. Following the Game 6 victory over Cleveland I am sure they are right back into the think of things watching film, breaking down Orlando’s offense, etc. I am more worried about defending the perimeter and making sure Orlando does not catch fire from behind the arc. It is scary when you look at their lineup and see that 1-4 (even 5 in the all-star game) are all three point shooters. The key for the Celtics defensively will be to make sure they run all of the Magic shooters off the three point line. Otherwise it could get ugly quick."

5.       If the Celtics are going to win series, how are they going to do it and what are the keys?

"Keep doing what they are doing so far in the playoffs. In my opinion they matchup eye to eye with the Magic. Watching and analyzing this team all year I can tell you that the one key to success is limiting the Magic to under 90 points a game. When they do this their record is astonishing. Like the commercial says, it’s all about the defense."

6.       What’s your prediction?

"If you asked me before the playoffs started, I’d probably say Magic in 5 or 6. Now that I have seen flashes of 2008 and have seen this team play to their potential I’m predicting Celtics in 6. I like our chances, the roller coaster is riding high right now in Boston."

I want to thank the guys in the jungle for their time and encourage all of you to check out the weekly radio show they do with North Station Sports, the Celtics Late Night Show. The show has had famous guests including Tim Donaghy, writers from the Boston Globe, ESPN Boston, radio personalities from WEEI, and yours truly.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).