By Kevin Rogers
**No. 2 Boston vs. No. 3 Orlando**
Series Price: Orlando -150, Boston +130
Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Skinny: The Celtics and Magic were both expected to win their opening round series, but didn’t expect the road to be as rough. Boston finished off a feisty Chicago team that took the Champs to seven games, with the Celtics picking up a ten-point win in Game 7 Saturday night. The Magic fell down two games to one to the Sixers, losing on a pair of shots in the final seconds. Orlando rebounded to win the final three games of the series, including a Game 6 victory at Philadelphia without the suspended Dwight Howard.
The Magic and Celtics split their four regular season meetings, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. On December 1st, Boston turned a two-point halftime lead into a 19-point home victory, 107-88. Paul Pierce was responsible for opening the game up in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his 24 points, helping the Celtics to a 17-2 start on the season. A month later, Orlando was coming off a 4-0 road trip which included wins at the Spurs, Lakers, and Nuggets. The Magic returned home with four days of rest for a nationally televised game against the Celtics. Boston took control early, limiting Orlando to 36 first-half points in a convincing 90-80 victory. The Magic would take the next two meetings, including an 86-79 triumph at Boston in a Sunday afternoon game in early March. Boston played that game without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, as the C’s were held to 39% shooting from the floor. Orlando edged Boston, 84-82, in the teams’ final regular-season meeting on March 25th, the only loss in an eleven-game stretch for the Celtics from mid-March until April 10th.
Gambling Notes: The Magic have had problems in Beantown for years, but just limiting the numbers to 2005, Orlando is 3-6 straight-up and against the spread. Also, the ‘over’ has hit in six of the last nine meetings in Boston. Under Stan Van Gundy, the Magic have owned the second-best ATS road record in the league the last two seasons, at 69-48-1 (58.9%), including a 36-23-1 mark (61%) as road ‘dogs. Guess who’s the top ATS road team the last two seasons? Yep, those Champion Celtics at 76-45-2 (62.8%). Without Garnett, the C’s are 20-5 to the OVER since March 1, including six of the seven games in their dramatic series against the Bulls.
Series Outlook: Did the Celtics find a second-wind by just getting past the Bulls in the first round? Perhaps that’s all Boston needed, a test from an upstart team. The Magic are hardly an upstart team, advancing to the second round for the second straight season. Orlando depends on the outside jumper from the likes of Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and J.J. Redick. Lewis woke up in the final two games of the Sixers series, combining for 53 points to help the Magic move on. The Celtics may not have enough bodies to contain Howard on the inside, but I like Boston to claim this series in six games.
Futures: The third-seeded Magic are actually favored to win this series over the second-Celtics. If you have enough confidence in Orlando to capture this series, you would have to lay -140 (Bet $140 to win $100). The Celtics were series ‘dogs in the NBA Finals last summer despite the home-court advantage, and see themselves in a similar spot against the Magic. The Celtics come in as +120 dogs (Bet $100 to win $120).
Re: Celtics-Magic Preview
Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics Preview
The Associated Press
A look at the Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics semifinal series (with regular season and playoff records):
Season series: Tied, 2-2. Orlando won the final two meetings, with Kevin Garnett missing one and playing sparingly in the other. Rajon Rondo also sat out a Boston loss. The Magic never reached 90 points, averaging 84.5, but limited the Celtics to 80.5 per game in the last two games. Paul Pierce averaged 23.3 points against the Magic, while Rashard Lewis went for 21.5 per game for Orlando.
Storyline: After surviving their seven-game classic against Chicago, the Celtics have little time to rest before the Magic visit. With the teams so evenly matched all season, Boston could be looking at another long series.
Key matchup I: Kendrick Perkins vs. Dwight Howard. Howard had four double-doubles against Boston, but the Celtics could probably live with the 12.5 points and 13 rebounds he averaged in the first two meetings. He averaged 21 points and 18 boards in the Magic's victories, and with the Celtics so depleted up front, Perkins has to avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor to guard the Defensive Player of the Year.
Key matchup II: Rondo vs. Rafer Alston. After a sensational start to the playoffs, Rondo shot only 6-of-25 in the final two games of the first round, though his assist and rebound totals were still strong. He had similar shooting struggles against the Magic, going 8-of-21 in the last two games he played. Orlando won both games against Boston after acquiring Alston, who averaged 15.2 points in the first round.
X-factor: J.J. Redick. He stepped in for the injured Courtney Lee and scored 15 points on five 3-pointers in the clinching victory over Philadelphia, and he'll probably stay in the starting lineup as long as Lee is out. Besides his offense, he needs to not be a defensive liability against Ray Allen.
Prediction: Celtics in 7.