Want to know why Orlando wins? Read on, fine people
Jameer Nelson vs. Rajon Rondo
You could make the case – quite strongly – that each has been his team’s most valuable player throughout the playoffs and this will be one of the most compelling matchups of the series.
Nelson has trouble guarding ultra-quick point guards (who doesn’t?) and Rondo’s ability to get in the paint and dish drives the Boston offence an awful lot. But, the imposing presence of Dwight Howard back there will help the Magic.
Rondo’s not as good a jump shooter as Nelson and he’s had his troubles at the foul line despite putting up some gaudy numbers.
Nelson’s a tough, tough kid who seems to thrive in big games.
Advantage: Even and it could be the matchup that determines the series.
Vince Carter vs. Ray Allen
Carter still settles for too many jump shots on too many occasions (sound familiar, Raptor fans?) but he’s quite capable of going off at a moment’s notice. It’s his first time on this stage, it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts but not having to be the engine to drive his team has to help.
Allen? He’s found some fountain of youth in the last few games and might have been the difference in the Cleveland series. His defensive liabilities might be masked if Carter doesn’t attack him and his catch-and-shoot jumper remains as pretty as any in the game.
Advantage: A slight one to Orlando, especially if Carter’s aggressive on offence.
Matt Barnes vs. Paul Pierce
Barnes seems to be one of those guys you hardly notice, until he’s being congratulating on a team victory. He’s pesky and tough, can knock down an open shot and the type of relative grinder that all good teams have.
That said, guarding Pierce is no picnic, even if Boston’s all-star didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the Cleveland series. Pierce has one of the top mid-range games going and he can also stretch defences with three-point shooting.
And it’s not like Pierce should find himself in foul trouble because Barnes isn’t a focal point of the Orlando offence. Pierce could actually get some rest on defence, which will help his offence.
Advantage: Boston by a fair margin.
Rashard Lewis vs. Kevin Garnett
Lewis is a power forward in name only; he drifts to the three-point line, likes to finish on the break and really doesn’t have any post-up game to speak of. But what he does is cause big matchup problems by drawing big men away from the basket where his teammate Howard can operate unmolested.
The thing is, if there’s another long, lanky, quick big good enough to step out and guard Lewis, it’s Garnett, who has become rejuvenated in a mightily impressive playoff run so far. And if you thought KG abused Antawn Jamison by posting him up and scoring almost at will, wait to you get a whiff of what he might do to Lewis.
Advantage: Boston but if Lewis knocks down five threes a game, it’s a wash.
Dwight Howard vs. Kendrick Perkins
There should probably be a third group in this particular matchup: The refs.
Perkins would seem to be big enough and almost strong enough to defend Howard but he’s also got a penchant for fouling and if he’s on the bench a lot, Howard will go nuts scoring.
Of course, Howard’s no shrinking violet in the fouling department either but he seemed to get himself under control in the Atlanta series. Howard’s also got a few more offensive moves now than he’s ever had – a righty hook in the lane is virtually unstoppable – and he’s still a pretty good passer out of the inevitable double-teams.
Advantage: Orlando by a wide margin.
Jason Williams, JJ Redick, Mickeal Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson for Orlando; Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Michael Finley, Marquis Daniels for Boston.
You want shooters? The Magic has shooters. Almost all of those guys can come off the bench and light you up and Pietrus and Gortat are more than passable defenders, too. It’s one of the big strengths of the Orlando roster, they don’t lose an awful lot when they start subbing guys in.
Not so much for Boston, that’s for sure. Tony Allen did a good job defending LeBron James in the Cleveland series and he can score in transition. Wallace is an enigma, Davis is strong but he’s sure not Dwight Howard strong and he’s foul trouble waiting to happen.
Advantage: Orlando by a wide margin.
Stan Van Gundy vs. Doc Rivers.
Both are pretty good at in-game adjustments but the real story here is that both are among the best coaching quotes in the league, it’ll be fun to listen to them.
Doc wins the sartorial contest hands down; Stan’s a million miles ahead when it comes to obvious angst.
And some other stuff to think about and questions to answer in your own minds:
Orlando’s coasted through eight playoff games with nary a worry; how will they handle the first sign of adversity?
Boston’s old, very old, but will they catch a break with three days off between Games 2 and 3? I think they win Game 3, being rested and at home, regardless of where the series is at that point.
Do you want Vince to play for a title? Didn’t think so.
Over and under on technical fouls, combined, per game? How about 1.5. Which side do you like?
Primal screams by KG to get himself fired up? Two per night at least.
Oh, and one quick note to the conspiracy theorists: If the league fixes things, how come it blew another Kobe-LeBron championship series?
All right, folks, that’s it for today; we’ll be back tomorrow with the same stuff for Lakers-Suns, soon as I figure out who I like in that one.
If you want one last shot at this week’s mailbag (which I hope is a nice Saturday evening on the deck kind of assignment) shoot ‘em off by clicking here and I’ll see what I can do.