Limping into the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after an extensive first round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics look to continue deep into the playoffs as they host the Orlando Magic tonight for Game One.
The Celtics were involved in what was arguably the most exciting first round playoff series in NBA history. With an NBA-best seven overtimes, the Celtics ended the series 4-3 on Saturday, with only one day of rest before tonight's game. Fatigue could come into play in this series and give Orlando an edge in Game One.
This series could come down to matchups and which team will be able to exploit them. The Celtics have an advantage in the backcourt with guards Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. However, the Magic hold the advantage in the frontcourt anchored by center Dwight Howard and forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis.
Boston: Combined, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are averaging 42.8 points and 13.7 assists in the playoffs. Rondo came up short of finishing the first round while averaging a triple-double. He averaged 19.4 points and 11.6 assists to go along with 9.3 rebounds per game (the most among point guards) against the Bulls.
Ray Allen's first round series included a game-winning three-pointer and a playoff career-high 51-point performance off of 9-18 from long-range (also playoff career-highs). Allen struggled to find his shot throughout the playoffs last year but looks to have found it in this year's postseason.
If Allen can continue to light it up from long-range, Orlando's backcourt will be in panic mode looking for an answer to his shooting.
Orlando: Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick both provide long-range shooting for the Magic, who led the league in 3-point shooting percentage throughout the season.
Statistically, he doesn't matchup well against Rondo, averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in the postseason. Neither does J.J. Redick, who averages a low 5.8 points to compliment his 1.5 assists and 1.3 rebounds.
If it comes down to a battle of the guards, Boston has a definite edge over the Magic.
Boston: This is where it would be nice to have a Kevin Garnett or Leon Powe available. Unfortunately for the Celtics, both are out with injuries and are expected to miss the entire postseason.
Paul Pierce had a slow start in the first round and almost seemed invisible at times until Game Three. He's going to have to be in attack mode from Game One in order to give Boston's frontcourt a serious chance.
In Game Three against the Bulls, his teammates were looking for him and helped him establish a rhythm early, giving Boston the first of two wins in the series decided by double digits.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Kendrick Perkins will have the responsibility of guarding Dwight Howard. Neither has had to deal with a dominant center in the playoffs thus far and will be put to the test in this series.
If Boston can limit Howard's production and prevent him from dominating the series, they will have an advantage over the Magic.
Orlando: Two words: Dwight Howard.
Leading his team in points (24.0), rebounds (15.8), and blocks (2.8), Howard is the main threat for Orlando in the post. Howard finished the first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers with three games of 20+ points to go along with three games of 15+ rebounds.
Boston's bigs will be put to the test against Howard and whoever comes out victorious will win the series.
Let's not forget about Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Combined, the two average 31 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how the Celtics' backcourt will fair against Lewis and Turkoglu who average 37.0 and 33.3 percent from long-range respectively. Both have a clear size advantage over Pierce and superior quickness against Davis and Perkins.
Boston: The bench. Eddie House came up big for the Celtics in Game Seven against the Bulls, making a number of crucial threes and finishing with a perfect game of 5-5 from the field, with four shots coming from long-range.
The Celtics are going to need Tony Allen, Stephon Marbury, and Mikki Moore to step it up in the second round. All three had a very minimal effect in the first round.
Boston is going to need as much help from their bench as they will from their starters to increase their chances in this series.
Orlando: Howard has not played since his suspension for elbowing 76ers center Samuel Dalembert in Game Five of their first round series. If Howard can dominate in the post, Orlando is the clear favorite to win this matchup. However, if he can't dominate the series, that opens the door for the Celtics.
Both teams split the season series at two-a-piece, with the Magic taking both games in which Boston did not have Garnett. Boston is coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Bulls, while the Magic are fresh and ready to go for Game One.
The Celtics say fatigue will have no effect on them in the playoffs, but we'll have to wait and see if there is any truth to that statement.
The Magic have their own injury to worry about with guard Courtney Lee, who is recovering from surgery on a fractured sinus that he injured in Game Five against the 76ers. Lee was the Magic's best perimeter defender, leading his team in steals, with 1.6 per game.
As I repeated over and over, Dwight Howard will be the key to this series. If he can play at a high level, the Magic will win, but if he doesn't, the series will go to the Celtics.
Prediction: Celtics in seven.
ESPN.com contributed to this report.