Most expected the Orlando Magic to make it this far, but the same can’t be said about the Boston Celtics. Led by Rajon Rondo, the Celtics shocked LeBron James and the Cavaliers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three years. Meanwhile, the Magic are back in the conference finals for a second straight year after sweeping their way through the first two rounds. These two teams met in the semis last year with the Magic winning that series in seven games. That Boston team did not have Kevin Garnett in the lineup, however, and the Magic were without Jameer Nelson. Odds makers expect Orlando to take an early series lead, listing the Magic as a 6-point favorite with the total set at 189.5 in Game 1. In this article, we’ll take a look at what each team needs to do to win the series. Then, I’ll make my series predictions.
What the Magic need to do to win: First and foremost, the Magic just need to stay hungry. They have won all eight of their playoff games and 14 in a row dating back to the regular season. What’s even more incredible is that 10 of those 14 wins have come by double digits. The Orlando Magic are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, ranking sixth in scoring offense during the regular season, but in order to win this series they’ll have to get the job done on the defensive end. Specifically, they must slow down Rajon Rondo. Rondo is playing the point guard position as well as anyone I’ve seen in a long time. He completely dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 20.7 points, 11.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds. The guy is a threat to post a triple-double every night. If the Magic can find a way to disrupt his rhythm and get his confidence wavering, it will go a long way toward helping them win this series.
What the Celtics need to do to win: Boston will be very confident heading into this series after knocking the team with the best record out of the playoffs, and after pushing Orlando to the limit without Garnett last year. But if the Celtics are going to win this series, they are going to have to do a better job of defending the three-point line than the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks did. The Magic made 45 three-point shots in their series with the Bobcats and 44 more in their series with the Hawks. That’s an average of 11.1 three-point makes per game in the postseason, and they are shooting them at a high percentage. In fact, the Magic made them at a 37.6 percent clip for the season. If Boston can’t keep the Orlando from lighting it up from deep, it’s going to have a tough time winning this series.
Prediction: Magic in 7 – I expect this to be a very tight series, but I have to give the slight edge to Orlando because it owns the home court advantage. In addition, the Magic are the more youthful team, and they have had plenty of time to rest their legs by taking care of their opponents quickly this postseason. I expect fatigue to begin to show more for a very veteran Boston team in this series. Plus, the Magic gained a lot of experience by winning the Eastern Conference championship last season so it knows what it takes to beat a championship-caliber opponent like Boston.
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