Here we go again.
Once again, the Boston Celtics are facing a heavily favored opponent that has home court advantage, a better regular season record, and an incredible superstar player.
Once again, the Celtics have the better overall team.
Prior to the Cleveland series, I predicted that the Celtics would beat the Cavaliers and people told me that I was crazy. Charles Barkley said repeatedly that the Celtics didn't stand a chance against Cleveland and that they would get swept in four games.
I wonder if "Sir Charles" put money down on that.
Orlando is not the same team as Cleveland . Orlando has a better supporting cast around Howard than Cleveland had around LeBron James. But Orlando ’s team, as a whole, is still not as good as the Boston Celtics.
Plus, if you put Howard's 2010 playoff stats next to Rajon Rondo's, Rondo's are actually more impressive.
This postseason, Howard is averaging 15.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 1.9 apg. Rondo is averaging 18.1 ppg, 11.1 apg, and 6.3 rpg to go along with 2.1 steals. Howard has much more star power, but when you compare their numbers so far this postseason, Rondo has been more valuable.
Even when you put Howard and Rondo aside, the rest of the nucleus of the Celtics is stronger than that of the Magic. Jameer Nelson is an underrated player who is playing terrific basketball averaging over 20 points a game in this year’s playoffs.
Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter are both major factors on the court, but if you put Nelson, Lewis, and Carter up against Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, the Celtics have the edge.
Orlando has the advantage in terms of being more rested. The Magic swept both of their first two series, four games to none, while the Celtics went five games with the Heat and six games with the Cavs.
Orlando possesses home court advantage, but that doesn’t mean that they will win the series.
Mickael Pietrus is the top overall bench player on either roster, and Pietrus would be a starter on a lot of other squads in the NBA. Orlando has other strong bench players in Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat, and JJ Redick is capable of making the Celtics pay if they give him room to shoot.
The Celtics bench is no joke either though. Tony Allen has asserted himself as a legitimate sixth-man who has taken over the role that James Posey had for the Celtics’ 2008 championship.
Allen not only did a miraculous job in helping to contain James in the Cleveland series, but also produced a lot of points at critical times as well. Allen will help the Celtics a great deal in the Eastern Conference Finals especially on the defensive end matching up against Carter, Pietrus, or whoever the Celtics call on him to guard.
Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace will also have a say in the outcome of this series, and the player who might end up surprising a lot of people is Michael Finley.
Finley has been very quiet this postseason, but he found his range and his rhythm during the regular season, and has drilled a lot of clutch shots in a lot of games deep in the playoffs throughout his career.
In order for the Celtics to win, they are going to have to force Howard to make shots in the paint and limit his amount of dunks and lay-ins as much as possible.
Boston can't hold back on sending him to the free-throw line either. The Celtics players have to penetrate as often as they can in order to get Howard into early foul trouble and ultimately foul out.
Orlando has many offensive weapons, and Boston must play extremely tough, aggressive defense and create numerous turnovers.
The Celtics cannot sit on any lead or start playing the clock instead of the game. For them to pull off this upset, it will take a total team effort for 48 minutes each night.
The Celtics are now in peak performance shape, and Orlando ’s run is going to end right here in the Eastern Conference Finals.
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