NBA: Significant Eastern Confrontation in Orlando (8:00 PM ET, ESPN)

NBA: Significant Eastern Confrontation in Orlando (8:00 PM ET, ESPN)

The time has arrived and its crunch time for Boston. Not in the manner the defending kings of the NBA has envisioned, competing for the best record in the NBA


2009-03-25

The time has arrived and its crunch time for Boston. Not in the manner the defending kings of the NBA has envisioned, competing for the best record in the NBA, which helped them win the title last season. This is different, playing for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, since they have about as much a chance of catching front-running Cleveland as Rush Limbaugh doing a live interview on MSNBC. Orlando is the host and the 3.5-point favorite and ESPN is where you'll find this showdown on your TV dial.

The Celtics and Orlando have 18 defeats, thou the Magic have played two fewer games, which could work to Boston advantage should they lose. The Celtics are attempting to reinsert Kevin Garnett back into the starting line-up at his regular minutes. Though Garnett has yet to play 20 minutes in a game since returning, the Celtics have won all three games (2-1 ATS) upon his return after producing 7-6 and miserable 3-10 ATS record while he was away.

"We have such a great chemistry when our starting five is out there," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said after defeating the Clippers 90-77 Monday. "We don't like him on the bench. We like him on the floor."
Though coach Doc Rivers squad is 38-23 ATS in road games when playing against a team with a winning record since 2007, injuries have robbed them of depth and useful minutes off the bench. Workhorse Leon Powe is out with a knee strain. Tony Allen hasn't played since Feb. 11 after injuring his left thumb and his exact return is in doubt for the remainder of the regular season. Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine have all spent time in the trainer's room of late.

Being able to muster the courage and resolve against an equally beat-up San Antonio team last week for a win, showed what this team's soul is made of, however taking on a young and up and coming team seeking to dethrone the king is another adventure. Orlando is 27-7 and 20-14 ATS at the Amway Arena and knows this is big.

"There is a lot on the line," said Magic point guard Rafer Alston. "We'd better be prepared for battle."

The Magic understand the road to NBA Finals still goes thru Boston. Being this late in the season, the results are magnified and Orlando is in a mild scheduling disadvantage. After tonight, the Magic have to play five of last 11 contests on the road, which hasn't been a conundrum having the second best road record at 25-11 (25-11 ATS). Why Stan Van Gundy's team can't let opportunity slip away is only three of the Celtics remaining nine contests are away from TD BankNorth Garden.
Two games against New York hardly prepares a team for a defensive struggle, yet that is what is in store for the Magic. Orlando has to be ready for possession by possession basketball and is 16-3 ATS versus good shooting teams making 46 or more percent of their shots this season.

The oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com have the Magic as 3.5-point favorites, with the drifting to 191. Orlando is 15-5 ATS after a combined score of 205 points or more for two straight games and 9-1 UNDER breaking the century mark in points scored three consecutive contests. Boston does get to play the underdog role often and is 12-3 ATS as a pooch of 3.5 to 9.5 points. The Celtics are 10-1 UNDER in road games off a home win by 10 points or more this season.

ESPN will broadcast this influential affair starting at 8 Eastern, with Orlando having won four of last five at home, with three covers.

StatFox Power Line Orlando by 6

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