Magic vs. Celtics: Four key questions

Updated: May 6, 2009, 7:32 PM ET
ESPN.com

Howard/PierceBrian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce and the Celts built some momentum at the end of Game 1. Will it carry over?

The Celtics are in a 1-0 hole. Is it time to panic? What must they do?

Are the Magic on their way to representing the East in the Finals? How far can they go?

Our experts chime in.

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how alarmed should Boston's fans be?

Henry Abbott, ESPN TrueHoop: The "10" alarm came with word of Kevin Garnett's and Leon Powe's injuries. Now the Celtics are entrusting key minutes to players who would barely make the roster of a lottery team. In this series, they're facing a better team, and it will take some leprechaun magic to advance.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Level 8. Having to come from behind in games and coming from behind two series in a row both sap energy. And the Magic haven't hit their full stride. They might find a rhythm in their two home games.

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: 2. Without KG and Powe, it's no surprise the Celtics lost to the Magic. In fact, they almost won, even with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo struggling. And the Celtics definitely can win in Orlando, so "alarmed" is not the right word. I'd say "disappointed" is better.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: 7. Between the fatigue and injury issues, this wasn't going to be an easy series for the Celtics to begin with. Losing Game 1 made it that much tougher. And I'd be more inclined to award moral victory points for the comeback if the same thing hadn't happened in their final two regular-season meetings with the Magic.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: 9. And here's why: Doc Rivers said at practice Tuesday that Brian Scalabrine was the team's best player in Game 1 and Stephon Marbury was second-best. That should earn a 9 all by itself, and we'd make it a 10 if not for the resilience the Celtics have shown last postseason and in these playoffs.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: 8. The Celts aren't just woefully short up front against Orlando's bigs without KG and Powe. Hedo Turkoglu is a sizable handful for a weary Paul Pierce at the 3-spot. Those are bigger issues than losing home-court advantage, which is retrievable.


2. What are two things the Celtics must do better?

Abbott: Tony Allen missing wide-open shots is no way to go down. Either he has to hit those shots or someone else has to play. But for now, it's a gimme for Orlando to leave him open while choking off the better options.

It also would be good if the Celtics would avoid going an entire half without doing anything well. Makes it tough to win.

Adande: The Celtics need to create that fortress in the lane they erected so successfully in past series, especially against the Lakers. Orlando scored 42 points in the paint in Game 1. Make the Magic get their points from outside. It doesn't take too much coaxing to get them to shoot from there.

A drawback to chasing the Orlando shooters: It keeps Paul Pierce and Glen Davis away from the boards, where they need to do more rebounding. Rajon Rondo can't keep outrebounding them by three apiece every game, can he?

Broussard: They can live with Dwight Howard's scoring only 16 points -- and despite Howard's 22 rebounds, the Celtics won the battle of the boards.

But they absolutely must get big games out of Ray Allen and Rondo. Both players shot 2-for-12 in Game 1, and Rondo had seven turnovers. In fact, every member of their new big three has to play well for them to win. Because the Celtics are no longer a great defensive team, they have to put up big-time points, so they need Pierce, Allen and Rondo to score big.

Hollinger: First, I think we can safely say Ray Allen has to outscore J.J. Redick. Boston needs to kill in that matchup; it's the one position at which it has an enormous advantage on paper. But in Game 1, both Orlando shooting guards outscored Allen.

Second, Rondo has to make Rafer Alston guard him. Alston was laying 15 feet off him in Game 1, just daring him to shoot, and it really clogged up the lane for Boston. And the more Rondo missed, the more Alston backed up.

Sheridan: Pressure defense worked pretty well for them in Game 1, so it's a matter of applying more of that pressure earlier and getting enough easy baskets in transition and off turnovers to make up for the difficulties they are having running their half-court sets.

Also, they need to make a concerted effort to see whether Pierce or Ray Allen can start with a hot hand.

Stein: 1. Rondo is the key to everything for the Celts in this series. He has to play at his peak to offset what Boston lacks inside, and his first half of Game 1 was nowhere close to the Playoff Rondo we've come to expect.

2. Rebound in Game 2 with a good start and the sort of buzzer-to-buzzer performance that lets Orlando know the tough turnaround from the Chicago series was the main reason Boston lost Game 1. No matter how much Doc Rivers claims fatigue wasn't a factor, Boston had basically zero prep time for the Magic, who are not exactly Bulls-like. So Game 2 always was going to be massive for the Celts.


3. What are two things the Magic need to do better?

Abbott: The Magic have been giving up big leads all playoffs long. You could see the Magic offense getting notably less interesting as the Celtics started to make their run in Game 1. (Mickael Pietrus: dribble dribble dribble 3.) Stan Van Gundy has a zillion interesting plays. No need for things to get so stagnant. And Dwight Howard in the post is a better starting place than contested jumpers when you need to manufacture some points.

A determined and rested Rajon Rondo teamed with a crafty Paul Pierce certainly is a combination capable of getting Howard in foul trouble. Not sure what can be done about that, but it's at least worth worrying about.

Adande: Orlando needs more patience and poise. If things get tight in the fourth quarter, work the offense for the best shot and don't rush it. And whatever the Magic do, they need to not remind Dwight Howard that he isn't as good a free throw shooter as the 12-for-17 rate at which he has made them in his past two games.

Broussard: The Magic need to get mentally tougher. The fact that they gave away the 28-point lead was not an aberration. We saw them lose big leads a few times against Philadelphia in the first round, as well. I understand an opponent's going to make a run, but the Magic have to be strong enough to keep the foot on the gas when they get a big lead.

Orlando must also continue to attack the basket: Don't just settle for 3s. Boston is incredibly thin on the front line, so Orlando should attack, attack, attack to get the Celtics in foul trouble.

Hollinger: Close out these games, obviously. Game 1 was the third straight time Orlando has had a huge lead on Boston but had to hang on for dear life at the end. They still count as wins, but it's a bit unnerving, especially given that the Magic's late-game offensive attack appears so anemic.

Second, the Magic still haven't found their 3-point touch. They struggled from beyond the arc in the Philadelphia series until Game 6 and didn't shoot any better in Game 1, despite playing their best shooter (J.J. Redick) heavy minutes. It didn't burn them in Game 1, but it will at some point.

Sheridan: Kendrick Perkins actually defended Howard quite well, and the Magic need to resist the urge to try to force-feed him into the offense if he is having trouble establishing deep low-post position.

Someone also needs to tell Rafer Alston to stop trying to be Jameer Nelson and to quit taking 3-point shots. Orlando has plenty of others who are far more capable.

Stein: 1. Getting Courtney Lee back on the floor for Game 3 is only Step 1. Getting his confidence back to where it was early in the Philadelphia series would be big so they could throw him at Rondo … and rely less on up-and-down Pietrus.

2. The Magic have to consistently shoot the ball well. We all know they love to put up those 3s, but making them is a must -- unless they can consistently beat Boston down the floor -- because the Celts (like Cleveland) so expertly pack the paint.


4. Seven wins from the NBA Finals. How many of those seven will Orlando get?

Abbott: I'll say five. Three to close out the Celtics, and two more to achieve a Game 6 loss at home to Cleveland. Orlando is the second-best team in the East, and the Celtics are a few war-torn heroes with tremendous resolve and some spare parts.

Adande: Five. The Magic have stolen home-court advantage from Boston. They caught the Celtics in one of the ripest upset situations ever in Game 1, which could turn out to be all the edge they need. But they won't take more than two games against Cleveland.

Broussard: Two. I picked Boston in seven games, and I'm sticking with that. I wouldn't be surprised to see Orlando win the series, but I'm still going with the Celtics. It should scare the Magic that Boston almost beat them with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo playing so poorly.

Hollinger: I'll go with five. I like Orlando to win this series, and the Magic seem to match up well against Cleveland -- but not so well that they will go on to win the conference championship. To get the opportunity, they'll need to keep locking up Boston's perimeter players the way they did in Game 1.

Sheridan: Well, I like to take things four W's at a time, and I don't expect the Celtics to go down quietly -- although I have predicted they'll go down in six. As for the next round, I know the Magic match up fairly well with Cleveland, but that team is really rolling right now and seems a lock to get through the conference finals with relative ease. At this point, I'd be surprised if the Eastern Conference finals went six games.

Stein: Five is the best-case scenario. Winning three more games against the KG-less Celts? Obviously doable. But I can't see Orlando taking more than two games off Cleveland. The Cavs will have rolled up a whole lot of mojo by then.