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Eastern Conference Finals Game 3: Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics

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The Orlando Magic have put themselves in an extremely difficult situation after losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals at home against the Boston Celtics. In order to make a return trip to the NBA Finals, the Magic will have to win four out of the next five games and three of those games are in Boston, starting with Game 3 Saturday night.

Tip-off from the TD Banknoth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST and the game will be shown by ESPN. If you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it nationally on ESPN Radio or locally on WDBO AM 580.

The officials will be Bennett Salvatore, Bill Spooner and Greg Willard.

The Line: Boston – 4

Starters:

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard

Rashard Lewis

Matt Barnes

Vince Carter

Jameer Nelson

Boston Celtics

Kendrick Perkins

Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce

Ray Allen

Rajon Rondo

Click below to read about what to watch for in Saturday night’s game.

Defending Paul Pierce

Matt Barnes has volunteered to cover Boston’s Paul Pierce and per Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, Barnes will indeed be guarding Pierce, but Vince Carter said the players were likely to switch around as the game goes on. And they’re going to have too. J.J. Redick has to see a lot of time in this game. He’s been very aggressive – he has been able to put the ball on the floor and been able to create shots for both himself and his teammates. Plus, he’s done a very good job of chasing around Boston’s Ray Allen, something that Carter could struggle with.

Rotation Changes?

Besides the need to find a way to get Barnes enough time on Pierce while still giving Redick enough time on Allen and both he and Carter enough time to get the Magic moving on offense, Van Gundy may have to think about making some other moves. He still needs to find a way to get Mickael Pietrus, who is having an awful series, into the game. Pietrus is a very good defender and can get hot from beyond the arc at any time. He’s also going to have to consider playing Marcin Gortat even more. Van Gundy said the Magic came in planning to use Gortat as both the backup Center and Power Forward, which is what they’ve done, but they may to play him even more to counter Boston’s size. Here’s what Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus had to say about the situation:

"More Marcin. It’s apparent that the Celtics are not going to allow Rashard Lewis to become a big factor in this series. If that trend seems to be continuing in Game 3, I’d like to see Stan Van Gundy give more time to Marcin Gortat, who has been a spark whenever he’s stepped on the floor in the first two games. I don’t always love a Gortant/Dwight Howard pairing on the Magic frontline, but I do like it against the Celtics’ starting unit. Orlando can dominate the glass and as long as Kevin Garnett is struggling with his jump shot, Gortat should be able to contend with him on the defensive end. So far, it’s felt like Van Gundy has struggled to adjust to what Doc Rivers (or Tom Thibodeau, as the case may be) has thrown at him defensively. Going really big may force Doc to make some unwanted adjustments."

How The Magic Finish At The Rim

After Wednesday’s practice, Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy pointed out the Magic shot 8-of-20 on layups the night before. If you take out Barnes’ breakaway dunk and Dwight Howard’s 4-for-4 night on layups, that made just three of their 15 layups – just 20.0%. Obviously, the Celtics have excellent interior defense but the Magic have to do a better job of finishing at the basket. And it’s not just that, the Magic have to make better decisions when they get inside the paint. They didn’t turn the ball over too much down low in Game 2 but in Game 1, the Magic attempted to kick the ball out to their shooters, which is the right play to make, but they made poor passes and several times threw the ball away. Orlando has done a good job of attacking the basket but when they get there, they either have to finish or find an open shooter when the defense collapses on them. If the Magic can do this, the three-pointers will quickly follow.

The Magic cannot afford to fall behind again, especially on Boston’s home court. Yes, the Magic have an uncanny ability to come back from double-digit deficits, but they need to play well from the get-go against the Celtics.

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