Scouting Breakdown: Magic vs. Celtics
Against the finesse front line of the Bulls, the loss of Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe was not as much of a factor as it will be against a big, deep Orlando team that is healthy up front and has plenty of bodies to throw into the mix.
The Magic survived some adversity of their own in the first round, as they blew their home-court advantage by letting an 18-point second-half lead get away in Game 1 against the Sixers, then losing Courtney Lee to a fractured sinus in Game 5 after he was hit in the head with an elbow from teammate Dwight Howard. Howard then added to it by throwing an elbow at Samuel Dalembert to earn a suspension in Game 6. It was a tribute to the Magic's depth that they could overcome this against a scrappy Sixers team, and it may be that depth that is the difference against Boston in this series.
Boston's offense versus Orlando's defense
• Boston comes out of the Chicago series with the fifth-best offensive efficiency (107.6 points per 100 possessions) in the playoffs. The Celtics are shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line. Against Chicago, they played at the third-fastest pace of the playoffs.
• The Magic had one of the top three defensive teams in the NBA all season long, and have the third-best defensive efficiency of the 16 playoff teams. They are eighth in defensive field goal percentage and fifth in rebounding.
• In splitting the four regular-season games with Orlando, Boston shot 46.3 percent from the field, but made only 12 of 45 (26.6 percent) 3-point shots. Boston led the league in regular-season 3-point shooting at 39.7 percent.
• The Celtics rely on Rajon Rondo's speed and creation, and he will pick his spots to get shots for himself and others. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce get all the plays run for them, and Boston will look to isolate the Magic's perimeter defenders against its two best scorers.
Orlando must decide how it wants to adjust to Lee's absence. He is the team's best on-ball defender and would have been assigned to Allen. J.J. Redick provides more offense, but Mickael Pietrus could give Allen more problems with his size and quickness. Coach Stan Van Gundy has been unimpressed with Pietrus' defensive efforts this season. So at times, the Magic could play Tony Battie at the 4, move Lewis to guard Pierce at the 3, and put Turkoglu at the 2 spot. Flexibility and depth are advantages the Magic have, especially when Lee returns midway through the series.
• Against the Bulls, Boston got outstanding offensive play from Glen Davis, who shot well from midrange on pick-and-pop action and crashed the offensive glass. He can use his size on the inside against the longer, leaner Rashard Lewis.
• Kendrick Perkins has a very underrated offensive game in the post, and Boston may try to go to him early to bait Howard into foul trouble. But Perkins will also have an increased role as a ball screener, trying to involve Howard in as much action on the perimeter as possible -- keeping Superman from hunting blocks at the rim.
• The Celtics desperately need Eddie House to score off the bench, as he did with his four 3s in Game 7 against Chicago. They also need some scoring from an additional bench player.
• Look for Pierce isolations to be the first option at crunch time, with Rondo and Allen involved as well on big possessions down the stretch.
Orlando's offense versus Boston's defense
• The Magic are the sixth most efficient offense in the playoffs (107.2 points per 100 possessions) and shot 46.5 percent from the field against the Sixers -- fourth best among playoff teams. They shot 34 percent from the 3-point line in the first round, down from 38 percent as the seventh-best 3-point shooting team in the regular season.
• Defensively, the Celtics are just a shell of the team that led the NBA in defensive field goal percentage (43.1) and was second in the league in rebounding differential (plus-4.53 per game). Without Garnett and Powe, they lack size, depth and defensive leadership, and they struggle to get the big stops in crucial situations that was their cornerstone in last year's championship run. They had major difficulty defending off the dribble against the Bulls. Fortunately for Boston, that shouldn't be as much of a problem against Orlando.
• The Magic shot a dismal 40.3 percent against the Celtics in their four regular-season games, and shot just 31.5 percent from the 3-point line. Boston outrebounded the Magic in all four games.
• Rafer Alston will start the Magic offense with penetration or by coming off ball screen action, and Rondo will look to pressure and disrupt rhythm. Unlike Derrick Rose, Alston is a 3-point threat, so he will keep Rondo honest off the ball, not allowing Rondo to roam free for steals.
• Turkoglu and Lewis are taller perimeter shooters, with Turkoglu being a better driver and Lewis being a better shooter and post-up player. They both play more like wings than forwards, which can create a matchup problem for Davis. He will have to chase Lewis around the perimeter, and Lewis may even try to use his length posting Davis at times.
• Howard is the only post option for the Magic, and he will usually start with a ball screen, and then roll into the paint to pin his defender under the rim or slide to the post. He will spin and catch the lob if overplayed when the ball is on top, and will look to attack the middle with a power step into the lane on the catch.
Perkins will try to use his size to bang Howard off his spots, and Boston will have to pick and choose when to double, as the Magic have 3-point shooters surrounding the arc. Perkins is really the only shot-blocking threat Boston has left, and he must be strategic in how physical he can be with no depth behind him.
• Rondo may have to be the primary help defender on Howard, using his quickness to sneak in and disrupt Howard as he puts the ball on the floor.
• Orlando will use Redick, Pietrus and Lee as the last offensive option -- with Redick spotting up and Pietrus and Lee more able to dribble attack.
Alston: He was steady at the point against the Sixers, averaging 15.2 points and making 11 of 28 3-pointers. More importantly, he had a 4-1 assist-turnover ratio, and his steadiness will be tested against Rondo. The Magic didn't beat Boston this year until Alston arrived at the trade deadline -- they won both games with him running the offense. He averaged 9 points and 7 assists.
Rondo: He is the creator at both ends of the floor for Boston, the engine that drives the train. Rondo was spectacular in the Chicago series, averaging nearly a triple-double with 19.4 points, 11.6 assists and 9.3 rebounds. He piled up 30 assists in the last two games as he fed Pierce and Allen, and averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 assists in three games versus the Magic, missing the March 8 loss with a sprained ankle.
Redick: With Lee expected to miss at least the first two games of the series, the Magic will start either Redick or Pietrus in his spot. Although Pietrus played more in the Sixers series, it was Redick who got the start in Game 6 and hit 5-of-7 3s for 15 points. Redick had three steals in the last two games, while Pietrus had none for the entire series. Redick also got one start against Boston this season back on Dec. 1, 2008, scoring six points in 31 minutes in a Magic loss.
Allen: One of the best pure shooters in the NBA, Allen started the playoffs with a four-point, 1-for-12 clunker in Game 1 and worked his way up to a 51-point Game 6 performance on 18-for-32 shooting, going 9-for-18 from 3 and hitting key end-of-game shots throughout the first round.
He shot 46 percent from 3 against Chicago, including the game winner in Game 2 which saved the series for Boston. He averaged 20.3 points on 50 percent shooting against the Magic this season, and scored 32 in Boston's March 8 loss -- including 17 in the fourth quarter. With Lee sidelined, Allen will be on the attack.
Turkoglu: He is the Magic's fourth-quarter scorer, and although he shot poorly throughout the Sixers series (11.8 points on 36 percent shooting), he hit the game winner at the buzzer in Game 4.
Turkoglu averaged 17.5 points and made 10 of 26 3s versus Boston this season. With Lee sidelined, look for more aggressiveness in this series, as he battles Pierce at both ends.
Pierce: Pierce is the go-to-guy for Boston on big possessions, but he struggled from the field versus Chicago, averaging 23.1 points on just 42 percent shooting. He shot 50 percent in only two of Boston's seven first-round games, but came up big in Game 5, going 5-for-5 from the field down the stretch in the fourth quarter to put Boston up 3-2.
Averaged almost identical numbers (23.3 points and 43 percent from the field) against the Magic in four games this season, scoring 24 and 27 in the two Boston wins.
Lewis: He might be the key offensive threat for the Magic in this series, averaging 21.5 points on 50 percent shooting in four games vs. Boston this season.
He averaged 19.2 points vs. Philadelphia, but had 24 and 29 in Games 5 and 6 on 52 percent shooting. His perimeter-oriented game creates a dilemma for the Celtics at power forward.
Davis: He has filled in admirably for Garnett, and his 18.7 points on 47 percent shooting versus Chicago were more than double his regular-season average. He also contributed almost four offensive rebounds per game in that series, and logged major minutes with Boston's front line depleted.
Davis started only one of the four games versus Orlando this season, and committed five fouls and did not score in 18 minutes. His matchup with Lewis could be a concern for Boston.
Howard: Boston's thin front line could mean a monster series for Howard, and he must make sure he doesn't lose his composure as he did against the Sixers, as rough tactics are sure to be coming from the Celtics. He had huge numbers in the first round, with 24.0 points, 15.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks on 68 percent shooting. More importantly, Howard shot 66 percent from the foul line, up from 59 percent in the regular season.
His numbers were down against Boston this season, averaging just 16.8 points on 49 percent shooting, but he had 24 points and 21 rebounds in the Magic's March 25 win, when Garnett was limited.
Perkins: The anchor of Boston's defense, Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, with fouls being the focus due to Boston's lack of depth up front. Perkins averaged 13.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks on 62 percent shooting against Chicago.
In four games versus the Magic, he averaged 9.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Pietrus: If Redick's ability to defend Allen is a concern, Pietrus could get extended minutes and even get the start in Lee's absence. Pietrus played 21 minutes per game in the first round, but did not score more than six points in any game until his 14 points in Game 6.
Anthony Johnson: He shot poorly (13-for-35) in the Sixers series while playing 16 minutes per game. He will back up Alston at the point and averaged 4.5 points and 2.3 assists in four games against Boston this season.
Marcin Gortat: He provides frontline depth and starts when Howard is out. He came up big against Philly in Game 6, with 11 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes. He hasn't played much against Boston this year, but had six points and five rebounds in 23 minutes in the Magic win on March 8.
Tony Battie: He provides another big body to wear Boston down inside. His minutes have been limited in the playoffs, but he had seven points and six rebounds in the closeout game with the Sixers in the first round.
House: Boston needs his energy off the bench, and House provided the spark in Game 7 versus Chicago, going 4-for-4 from 3 and scoring 16 points. He averaged 6.0 points on 42 percent shooting in 19 minutes a game against the Magic this season.
Mikki Moore: His minutes disappeared against the Bulls, as both teams played smaller lineups. But he will be needed in this series in the tag team against Howard. He had seven fouls in 23 minutes over two games versus Orlando this year, which could be his role in this series.
The story of this series completely changes with Boston's injury situation up front. The Magic now have a size and depth advantage inside, and Howard does not have to be concerned about being tag-teamed around the basket. Boston was basically a five-man team until House and Scalabrine gave it production in Game 7 against the Bulls, and its lack of depth will be exposed even more against Orlando.
The Magic were one of the best road teams in the league this season, and with Boston running on fumes coming off its first-round marathon, Orlando could realistically take both games in Boston, as Chicago almost did. The Magic are a better defensive team than Chicago was, and much deeper all around, even without Lee.
Boston will need to shoot at a high percentage and get heroic defensive efforts from everyone on its roster, which may be too much to ask in this series.
Prediction: Magic in 6
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.
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