The Boston Celtics will face off against the Orlando Magic Sunday night for a chance to advance to the NBA Finals. The Magic are the ultimate test for the Celtics, who are looking to quiet any opinions that say they are too old to make the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will look to their big-three: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett to beat a team that has dominated throughout the playoffs.
The absence of Garnett in last year’s Eastern Conference semi-final hurt the overall team chemistry of the Celtics, who fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers after a hard-fought series with the young Chicago Bulls.
Garnett is now leading the way for the Celtics, averaging 17.6 points-per-game, 8.3 rebounds, and one steal per game. Another player making a huge impact for his team after being absent in the playoffs the year before is Magic pointgaurd Jameer Nelson.
The Magic missed Nelson in last year’s playoffs due to a tear in his right shoulder. This year, Nelson is back and exceeding fans' expectations. His 20.5 points leads the team in the post-season. He is in double-figures every night, as the Magic have swept every team on the way to Sunday afternoon’s Game 1.
Rajon Rondo will more than likely be called on to defend the elusive Nelson. Rondo has been the star for the Celtics in the post-season, averaging 18 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds-per-game. The Celtics will depend on Rondo’s ability to create offense, while holding Nelson in check.
Even if Rondo succeeds in his defense of Nelson, the Celtics have the daunting task of planning a defensive strategy sound enough to stop the Magic. The Magic have dominated on the road to the Eastern Conference championship, winning 28 out of their last 31 games, and sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs.
Orlando’s Dwight Howard realizes the importance of focusing on his current opponent.
“I think for us if we want to win the series, we have to do all the things we did in the first two series,” Orlando’s Dwight Howard said. “And if we do that, we should win. We should win this series, but we all have to believe that and we have to understand that it’s not going to be easy.”
Celtic’s coach, Doc Rivers, knows that Orlando is the team to beat this late in the season.
“Orlando was the team coming into the season where if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They’re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland, and I want to make sure our guys focus on that.”
Online Sportsbooks have the Orlando Magic favored to take Game 1 from the Boston Celtics by 7 1/2 points.