Game seven in this semi-final series will be played on Sunday, May 17, 2009. What should you look for and what will it take to turn the tide either way? Well, here are five key points for each team that could be the difference between victory and defeat.
1) The Celtics, a team that has had to deal with the loss of some key players, including Kevin Garnett, has seen just about every guy get involved in this brawl of a series. Each player has to come to win and they can win if they play a lunch pail game.
2) Paul Pierce, at small forward, must continue to produce. Pierce is the heart and soul of this team and as he goes so too do the Celtics. Pierce leads the club in scoring in this post season, averaging 21.4 PPG.
3) Upfront these guys must play unrelenting defense. Center Kendrick Perkins has averaged 11.3 RPG and scored 12.2 PPG. He needs a double-double tomorrow. By the way, he leads the team in blocked shots with 2.69 PG.
4) In the backcourt, the quick hands of point man Rojon Rondo are essential. Rondo has notched 2.54 steals per game. Amazingly, he’s also grabbed 10.0 RPG and made 9.8 APG. Also Rondo’s 17.4 PPG is nothing to sneeze about. Opposite him is shooting guard Rae Allen who has had a tough go of it in this Orlando-Celtics playoff series. Allen has to step up and start hitting his shots. He can beat the Magic.
5) Boston must contain Dwight Howard. Howard is a massive player with the potential to put up huge numbers on any given night. His energy can transform Orlando, taking them from 10, 20 or 25 points down in the third to a game-seven win in the final period.
1) This team certainly lives and dies by Dwight Howard. But Howard has been vocal about how he feels—that he has not been given enough shots in the Orlando-Boston series. In the playoffs, Howard has contributed 20.3 PPG, grabbed 16.6 RPG and blocked 2.55 shots. But he has been under utilized in the semi-finals. The theory, at least one theory, is that by going to Rashard Lewis and others more often there’s less pressure on Howard, making him more effective. However, against Boston, his shot completion rate has dropped from 68% in round one to 55%. His average points against the 76ers in the first round stood at 24 per game while versus the Celtics it has been 17.2. To be effective, Howard has to get on the same page with coach Stan Van Gundy. Creating an “us” versus “him” feeling between players and coach will only hurt the team.
2) Rashard Lewis has played well versus the Celtics but his success rate from downtown is just 30% and his foul shooting stands at 79%. Both are well below what he did versus Philadelphia and below any of his other averages. Lewis has to step up and produce in game seven.
3) The Magic need to take fewer three-point shots and hit more of them. These guys throw the three too much and that hurts them. Working it inside or going inside-out is more effective for the Magic.
4) Keep the Boston Garden crowd out of the game by controlling the tempo and rhythm of the contest. Unrelenting defense is essential when it comes to ensuring Boston fans, the team’s sixth player, are neutralized. The Magic must utilize their ability to create turnovers to do this. If they are able to steal, block and rip rebounds on one end and on the other end produce points, they will control the game and the crowd.
5) Get points from reserve shooting guard Mickael Pietrus. Versus Boston, he’s played an average of 26.5 MPG and put up 11.3 PPG. Compare that to his 5.2 PPG against the Sixers when he played 21.0 MPG. A 20% increase in time on the court has yielded an increase of 100% in point production! Wow! Play this guy in game seven.
This has been a great series. Partly due to the fact that Boston has had to deal with key loses. When Garnett went down most pundits acknowledged that Boston was in big trouble and many of them picked Orlando to take the series. I picked the Magic in six! Well they may do it in seven. But with Howard complaining and causing unrest and the Magic unable to fully realize their game plan, this series has become a one-game toss-up. The Celtics have home court, vets who won it all last season and a few weapons that I have not mentioned. Game seven goes to the Celtics.