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NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 6: Celtics have a Magic reason to close out

May 13, 2010, 3:52 PM EDT

The Boston Celtics believe they’re the best team in basketball.

That doesn’t really make them any different than any of the other teams left in the playoffs, save the Phoenix Suns (The Phoenix Suns: our NBA Playoffs Mickey and Mallory). But one thing they do know in the back of their heads is that a fully-rested, disciplined, ready Orlando Magic team against a worn-out, exhausted, punch-drunk Boston Celtics team is not a scenario they want.

Which is why the Celtics have no choice.

They must win Game 6 tonight to close out this series.

Understand that the Celtics still don’t consider the Magic a “real” threat. Not even after the Magic dumped them from the playoffs last year, in their own home in a Game 7, nor after the Magic won their season series 3-1. Paul Pierce during the Finals last year referred to the Magic as poodles while the Celtics were “rottweilers” and the Celtics feel that if Kevin Garnett had been healthy, Boston would not have fallen.

But one thing they do know, they are physically limited by the wear and tear of age, and need the four days of rest that would meet them were they to win tonight.

The Magic killed the Celtics last year not necessarily through exploitation of their legs in some run and gun system, but by maximizing the floor space and putting the Celtics in situations where they were forced to desperately try and recover from one side of the floor to the other. Combine that with Rashard Lewis’ ability to stretch the floor at the four spot and Dwight Howard wreaking more and more havoc as the series went on, and you had a recipe for disaster that the Celtics still almost climbed out of.

But there are many reasons to believe an ECF between the two would go differently. Kevin Garnett has the range to guard Lewis much better, Rajon Rondo is even more of a force, they have a few younger bodies to use as perimeter defenders, and Kendrick Perkins still has reason to believe he can hold down Howard.

What the Celtics can’t afford is to get off on the wrong foot.

Consider, in 2008, when the Hornets pushed the San Antonio Spurs to the brink, forcing a Game 7 in New Orleans, which the Spurs won. Then, after a plane malfunction, the Spurs wound up not leaving the airport until very early in the morning, causing their schedules to be wrecked. They were blasted in Game 1 versus the Lakers. Don’t be confused, the Lakers were the better team that year. But you still can’t afford to put an old team at a physical disadvantage. And having to play a Game 7 in Cleveland would put more miles on this team, worsening whatever lingering injuries they may have, and risking getting off on the wrong foot against the Magic.

Do that, and the Magic will sweep your legs out from under you.

The Magic are playing the best basketball of any team coming into the Conference Finals, regardless of how the Boston-Cleveland series finishes. But the Celtics definitely have the ability to overcome that play with their defense and versatility. They will, however, need to have time to develop a gameplan, and to get their bodies and minds right.

Because if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that the Magic will be ready. Boston must close out Cleveland tonight.

  1. chili22 - May 13, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    Newsflash: if the Celtics lose tonight, Cleveland probably wins the series so they won’t have to worry about their tired legs.

  2. zach - May 13, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    i liked it but i’m a cavs fan.

  3. will - May 13, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Magic? really? didn’t the celtics play without garnett and have to go a 7 game series against the bulls? the magic haven’t proven anything, but that they can win against a hurt team and an inferior team. Howard is not olujawon, or even a patrick ewing. I think that jack sikma could do better than howard! before you call the celtics old and tired, remember what you called the Lakers in 1988, the same thing. Sorry but who comes out of this series will go to the NBA finals. How about more sports reporters forget about a regular seasons when the celtics were hurt, and stop making excuses for Lebron. you told us how good the mavericks in 2007 were, how did that work out? Doc rivers played against the celtics in 88 when his young team had the celtics down 3-2 eventually loosing game 6 by 2 points and 2 points in game 7. The celtics are still being treated like underdogs, just like when they won it all in 2008.

  4. KG - May 13, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    Magic, Really. If I recall all the same things were said about the Magic last year too. Look who came out of the east though, and I think they went through Boston and Cleveland. People need to pull their heads out of their rear ends and realize that the Magic are for real. The Celtics have a great legacy but its about as old as their players and Cleveland? For real? Lebron James is the only bright spot in the entire state and maybe not for much longer. Please people, wake up! The Magic are a force in the NBA! Put your fear aside and just admit it.

  5. Mike - May 13, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    Matt Moore, you sound like a typical Celtic fan, rather than a true sports writer.
    It’s funny how you remind the readers that the Celtics were without Garnett, but failed to mention the Magic were without Jameer in that series. Imagine where the Celtics would be without Rondo?
    As a writer you should learn to give both sides of the story. Orlando has a ton of advantages against the Celtics.
    And for the record, Garnett has done little in his career to stop Lewis. And this season Lewis averaged 18.6 on Garnett, while Garnett only scored 9.3 on Lewis.

  6. AD - May 13, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    Cleveland done tonight. Orlando done in 5. Keep looking past the Celtics. See who has the last laugh.

  7. Mike - May 13, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    The Celtics are the ones who need to prove it, Orlando is the conference champs, beating the Celtics in the playoffs and in the last two regular seasons 5-2.
    You can talk all the trash you want, but the facts are the facts and Boston can’t hang with Orlando.

  8. Ron - May 14, 2010 at 1:34 AM

    Lakers and Magic again in the finals.

  9. scott - May 24, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    The magic better watch 2004 alcs and 2010 flyers/bruins highlights cause thats about the only chance they have now.
    what is amazing is it seems the celtics have dominated orlando and cleveland to the point that the two teams have just given up…they beat the cavs twice by double digits in cleveland and only leading by 9 in game 6 with 1:20 left, the cavs just dribbled out the clock. and the magic looked deader then ted kennedy on saturday night.

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