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The Celtics have started the season 8-0, which is amazing. More amazing is the ways they’ve found to win. You have your blowout win, which I could say they’ve done 6 times. You have your overtime win, with the C’s outlasting the Raptors in the second game of the season 98-95. Friday night against the Heat was an example of the last-second game-winning shot win, brought to you by Paul Pierce.
I said the Heat were good and are especially good when Dwayne Wade is healthy (they are WAY better than their 1-8 record indicates). The tight game with the Heat was huge for the C’s because it allowed the players to play in high-pressure situations, and they played well. It’s easy to get flat-footed and not play up to your standards when you’re blowing out everybody else by 15 points. This type of win will help the Celtics refocus on the new task at hand, a date with the 8-2 Orlando Magic in southern Florida. I’m almost certain the C’s will not win on the road Sunday night. They can’t go 82-0.
The Magic boast a pretty well-balanced team. Dwight Howard anchors the team in the middle, and provides a good matchup down low against Kevin Garnett for rebounds. Rashard Lewis could give the Celts trouble from beyond the arc. Point guard Jameer Nelson finally seems to have honed his skills and will present problems for our PG Rajon Rondo.
In their most recent game, the Magic beat up on the Nets 95-70 in New Jersey. Dwight Howard led the way with 21 points and 19 rebounds, becoming the youngest Magic player to grab 3,000 rebounds (at 21 years, 343 days). Small forward Rashard Lewis added 27 points of his own. While the win was impressive, the Nets have been terrible this season and were playing without Vince Carter.
C’s Key to the Game: If the C’s can force Dwight Howard to the line early and often, it would be a big step toward a win. As it is, Howard is only shooting 65.4% (which isn’t as bad as Shaq or Ben Wallace, but still not good). Thus, the C’s need to ensure that when they do foul him, he has no chance of making the shot. Let’s make it a hack-a-Dwight strategy.
Final Prediction: If Orlando can get Howard and Lewis going early, it could be a tough game. I see the Celtics losing a close game by 5 points or less. If there’s any time for the undefeated Celtics to lose, it’s tomorrow night against the 8-2 Magic in Orlando.