Orlando Leads Boston 2-1: Defense Is X-Factor

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IMay 10, 2009

BOSTON - MAY 04:  Dwight Howard #12 and Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic strip the ball from Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 4, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I know the Celtics have been without Kevin Garnett all postseason, but how sweet would it be if the Magic could pull this off?

The Celtics are also without Leon Powe, riding a shallow and inconsistent bench, and have been known to struggle on the road.

Down 2-1 with another road game ahead of them, which Celtics team will we see?

In the series with the Bulls, it seemed even when they didn't "bring it", they were still extremely competitive, and remained in every game.

However, they started off the series with Orlando with a loss, and then rebounded with a fantastic game two win.

Yet, they continue this back and forth play, showing their overall inconsistency, their age, and how tired they are.

The Orlando Magic? The exact opposite.

They've been powered by Dwight Howard on both sides of the floor, as well as Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

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But that's stuff you already know.

What you may not know is how effective J.J. Redick has been. Or how tough inside Marcin Gortat has been. Gortat filled in nicely for a suspended Howard three games ago, putting up 11 points and 15 rebounds. Redick has also contributed at a high level, notching three straight games of at least 12 points in place of the injured Courtney Lee.

With both Howard and Lee now back on the roster, the Magic are as strong as they were entering the playoffs, bringing some extra attitude, while getting to full health.

But that doesn't explain why they're up 2-1, or why they could and should win this series.

It's not because of Rafer Alston. No, he hasn't been anything more than average since coming in from Houston to replace the injured Jameer Nelson. And while he was solid against Philadelphia, he hasn't shown up against Boston yet (literally not in last game, due to suspension).

In all honesty, it's not one player. It's the team, as a whole.

Believe it or not, the Magic are beating the Celtics at their own game.

They're hustling. They're getting hands on the ball, closing out, boxing out, crashing the boards, and playing smart.

Your Orlando Magic, folks, are playing defense.

That high scoring, trey-launching team that hails from the "we're known for anything but defense" Disney World-esque Orlando.

Yeah, that team.

If you don't believe the tape, just look at the stats.

In game one, Orlando held Boston to 90 points in a win, and then held them under 100 in the game three win. Are they San Antonio reincarnated? No, but the effort they're giving is proving to be enough.

In the two wins over Boston, Orlando held the Celtics to under 34 percent shooting from beyond the arch. In their lone loss? Boston had a field day, launching three after three, while shooting an exceptional 45 percent. They just happened to shoot over 51 percent, overall, as well.

It's no secret that Orlando is better suited to run the floor and shoot the ball, while also having a reliable source on the inside.

Having that reliable source (Howard) being able to bring the same intensity on the other side of the floor doesn't hurt, either.

And if you don't think Howard has been making a huge impact, it, once again, takes nothing more than a glance at the box score.

In the loss to Boston, Howard has zero blocks, shot 5-13, and was in foul trouble for much of the game. Needless to say, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis combined for 29.

But this is where the trend starts. Where the "two wins versus one loss" actually means something.

In the two wins over Boston, Howard had eight blocked shots, 33 total points, and 36 total rebounds. As for Perkins and Davis? A combined 35.

While it'd be easy to credit the guards for their feisty lock-down defense on the outside shooters, or even praise just Dwight Howard for his rejections and rebounds, it just wouldn't be fair.

It'd be leaving someone out. It'd be discrediting the coaching.

No, this is a team effort. And whether the reigning champs want to admit it or not, it's been a much greater effort than theirs.

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