By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
Now we have a series. This matchup between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic has become real physical and testy. We had technical fouls, ejections and concussions in Game 5. It is incredible how quickly this series has flipped, and all the momentum has swung in favor of the Magic. This series is no longer about offensive sets or defensive adjustments. It is now all about attitude and toughness. There are no more secrets; everyone has played their hand. Game 6 on Friday night will be about who brings energy and toughness, and who can keep their composure.
The Celtics have won a NBA championship. They have a veteran team, with Kevin Garnett as their leader. They know exactly what it will take to win this series and I expect a big-time performance from them Friday night. The big question is how will the Magic react? Will they be happy just to have won Games 4 and 5, or will they have the toughness and resolve to get this series back to Orlando for a Game 7?
Game 6 Adjustments
In Game 6, the Magic need to play as fast as possible. The faster the pace, the better for Orlando. They must run on all misses and makes and put the Celtics on their heels from the opening tap.
The Magic’s offense has reappeared. They are playing with much more energy and aggressiveness -- everything is working. They are putting extreme pressure on the Celtics with their pick-and-rolls, getting dribble penetration with the picks and getting excellent movement of the ball. The Magic are spacing the court and putting the ball right on their shooters’ hands. Jameer Nelson has been the key to Orlando’s resurgence. He is playing spectacular, breaking down the Celtic defense, attacking off pick-and-rolls, scoring or finding the open man. Nelson has run wild in the last two games, averaging 23.5 points and seven assists the past two games. He has been the major reason the Magic are still alive in this series.
The Magic have found their 3-point touch and it could not have come at a more important time. Orlando made more 3-pointers than any other team in the NBA, and they difficult team to beat when they are making shots. In Game 6, the Magic were 13-for-25 (52 percent) behind the arc. When the Magic are winning the battle down low like they did in Game 5 – Orlando outscored Boston 40-28 in the paint -- and knocking down the 3-point shot, they are impossible to beat. The Magic will need that offensive balance to win Game 6.
Boston must get back to playing Celtic defense. They have lacked the defensive intensity they had earlier in this series and have not been able to get multiple stops at the defensive end of the floor. The Celtics allowed the Magic to score 113 points in Game 6, shoot 52 percent from both the field and the 3-point line, shoot 35 free throws and outrebounded them 43-26. Boston must improve its pick-and-roll defense because it has been a major problem the past two games. The Celtics must not allow Nelson to turn the corner and find open shooters. It puts too much pressure on the defense and eventually allows Howard to roll to the rim for dunks.
Free-throw shooting may eventually decide this series. The Celtics decided to institute a hack-a-Howard strategy on Friday night. They were down 13 with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter when Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen gave four intentional fouls and put Howard to the line. This strategy may not have made a difference in Game 5 but it could in future games. Look for Doc Rivers to revisit this strategy in Games 6 or 7 because of Howard unreliability at the line (he’s shooting 52 percent this postseason). Conversely, Howard must be able to step up and hit free throws if the Magic are to win this series.
The remaining games in this series could be decided by the bench. J.J. Redick, who has played well the entire series, got tremendous support from the rest of the Magic bench in Game 5. Redick scored 14 points and the other bench players chipped in for 23 points. The Magic got strong performances from Jason Williams, Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass.
With Glen Davis possibly out for Game 6 with a concussion, the Celtics will need a big performance from Rasheed Wallace. Wallace was a major contributor for the Celtics knocking down three of five 3- point shots and leading the team in scoring with 21 points. The Celtics will need someone on their bench to step up and help them in Game 6. Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley and possibly Sheldon Williams will all have to chip in for the Celtics to get a win.
Prediction: Magic win Game 6