Point guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Rafer Alston
It must suck sometimes to be Rajon Rondo. First you get all bruised up playing those pesky Bulls for seven excruciating games, going up against Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, who might equal the quickness you have. And only two days later the Magic is waiting for you. Going in the paint will be a daring task, with the Defensive Player of the Year waiting there to eat you alive. Guess there will be more bruises then. Alston is nowhere near the player Rose is, but Alston can score, run the floor, dish the ball, and is a great replacement for the injured Jameer Nelson. But Alston also probably wished Courtney Lee was healthy, because now he has to guard one of the better players of the playoffs in Rondo. Advantage: Celtics.
Shooting guard: Ray Allen vs. J.J. Redick
In the year 2021 J.J. will write a book about his playing career, from the slow start in his early years, to the moment which changed it all and made him realize what to do to be a good player in this League: the semifinals of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, where he had to guard one of the best shooters in the NBA. It will be called “The Chronicles of Redick”, and one chapter will entirely be dedicated to Ray Allen. Advantage: Celtics.
Small forward: Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu
Turk shot about 36% from the field in the first round; he’s not himself right now. Stat-wise it looked like Pierce wasn’t the best Celtic against the Bulls, but few have made more clutch shots than him. His jumper from the right elbow is his bread and butter, no matter how closely he was guard by John Salmons. Turkoglu is taller than Pierce, but health is keeping him from playing up to his usual standards. Advantage: Celtics.
Power forward: Glen Davis vs. Rashard Lewis
I didn’t expect to see Big Baby average 18 points in the first round, but he did. He has a good shooting touch, and is surprisingly agile for such a big man. Rashard Lewis really came through in Game 6 and 7 against the Sixers, scoring 24 and 29 points respectively. A great shooter from every distance imaginable, but also fast enough to drive to the basket. Davis and Lewis are two completely different players, but the Magic forward must be closely guarded at all times. Advantage: Magic.
Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Dwight Howard
Like Davis, Perkins had a great series against the Bulls, being a strong defensive presence the Celtics needed after the loss of KG, and getting some buckets too (at 62%). The problem for Perkins will be that he doesn’t have any help defending Flight Howard, since Orlando has more shooters than there were in “3:10 to Yuma”. Mikki “The Snake” Moore and Brian Scalabrine won’t be very helpful in this department. Advantage: Magic.
Boston’s bench is thinner than Lindsay Lohan. They haven’t provided much against Chicago, with Starbury shooting about 25%, and Tony Allen being a non-factor on both ends of the floor. Only Eddie House made some huge shots, and Moore and Scal played decent in Game 7. Orlando’s bench was slightly better, but not much. They simply couldn’t shoot. Michael Pietrus was horrible, No-Neck Johnson is a great veteran and a smart player, but also shot below 40%, Tony Battie brought some D being subbed in for Howard, and we even saw the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, who had exactly one memorable moment. Ask Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert more about this. For the sake of argument let’s expect Pietrus to play better, therefore I will say: Advantage: Magic.
Coaching: Doc Rivers vs. Stan Van Gundy
I don’t know what to think of SVG. He’s quite a character, colorful and I like his honesty, especially in dealing with media. But watching him on the sidelines even makes me a little nervous. Doc Rivers came a long way with his Boston team. From hardly winning any games only a couple of seasons ago, to winning it all. He lost Garnett, he lost Leon Powe, his bench is crap, but he still gets the most out of every player. They’re scrappy, they have that sense of urgency, and they are lead by one of the NBA’s finest young coaches (if I may still call him that). Advantage: Celtics.
What I’d say:
Magic in six. Boston almost played eight games in the first round (seven OT’s!). They had two days of rest, while Orlando finished up their first round series on Thursday (and Howard hasn’t played since last Tuesday). The Celtics are battle-tested, but do they have enough gas left in the tank to go up against Howard and his 3-point shooting crew? Some say that you forget about being tired in the playoffs, but again, the Celtics have played so many minutes, it must have had an impact or some sort of lingering effect on them. They’re tough as nails and as a collective unit still better defensively than the Magic, despite the shot blocking prowess of Dwight Howard. But can they stop him? If Howard dominates from the start, and Rashard Lewis doesn’t wait for four games to finally be the effective scorer that he is, Boston’s season will end here.