Game 1 Summary
St. Petersburg, FL- Ending a 14 game winning streak by the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics stole game 1 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals by a score of 92-88. Boston came into the game fresh off of a 4-2 elimination of Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavs in the second round, while the Magic had easily swept their two early-round opponents. The Celtics held Orlando star center Dwight Howard to just 13 points and 12 rebounds, while forcing him into 7 turnovers. Boston was in control for most of the game, with the Magic making a fourth quarter run before ultimately losing by 4 points. The game was not as close as the final score. The Magic, who were held to just 41% shooting in the game, were led by Vince Carter’s 23 points. Point guard Jameer Nelson chipped in 20 points, but only had 2 assists. Amazingly, no player on the Magic had more than 3 assists, which underscores the defensive dominance of the Celtics in this first game of the seven game series on Sunday night.
The Surging Celtics
Boston seems to have found its rhythm in the 2010 NBA playoffs, relying on a suffocating defense along with a balanced offensive attack. The ageless Celtics were able to hinder Howard throughout the game by doubling him quickly and using Kendrick Perkins (4 points, 2 rebounds, 4 personal fouls) and Rasheed Wallace (13 points, 4 assists, 4 personal fouls) to match up physically with the all-star every time he received the ball in the paint. This approach frustrated Howard on several occasions, leading to a technical foul and several missed lay-ups. Boston also received solid games from forward Paul Pierce (22 points, 9 rebounds) and guard Ray Allen (25 points, 7 rebounds). Point guard Rajon Rondo added a quiet 8 points and 8 assists for Boston. The veteran Celtics have suddenly become a title contender as they have tapped into the fountain of youth, playing the kind of defense-centered team approach that led them to the NBA title in 2008.
The younger Orlando Magic looked confused and anxious in the first half and never seemed to regain any momentum throughout the game. The Celtics looked composed and confident, and besides their customary second half hiccup, they were the better team on all fronts Sunday afternoon. When Orlando made a run, it seemed that the Celtics would counter and wrest back momentum. A very poised and experienced bunch, it was evident that the Celtics came to play.
Game 2 Prediction
With the second best regular season record in the NBA this year and a core group that has playoff experience, expect the Magic to regroup and come out fighting on Tuesday night in Orlando. Though I picked the Magic to win game 1 by four, I could have easily selected the Celtics. These teams are that evenly matched. In game 2 you will see a game more indicative of the final quarter of Game 1 than the first half. The Magic are better than how they performed on Sunday. Orlando should recover and shoot more consistently from the field, which would open things up for Howard in the middle. Still, nothing is guaranteed as the Celtics have demonstrated that they can win big games and perform under pressure. Nothing will come easy for either team in this series, but I can’t see the Magic losing 2 consecutive games at home.
Game 2 Prediction: Magic by 5