On the surface, it looks like a good test for the Celtics. The 13-4 Orlando Magic, winners of 4 in a row and currently just 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the East, come into town with Dwight Howard coming off a monster 32 point, 21 rebound game.
But Jameer Nelson, who is chipping in 14.4 ppg and 5.1 assists… is out with strained right hip flexor. Mickael Pietrus, averaging 13 pts and 3.7 rebounds, is out for at least the next 3 weeks. Those are key role players being replaced by Anthony Johnson and JJ Redick. That's a bit of a drop off. Hedo Turkoglu has dropped off a little and Rashard Lewis has never scared me.
So that leaves Orlando with Dwight Howard. That's a hell of a chip to have… but it's not enough against the champs. Rajon Rondo might need to wear a bib tonight because he might be drooling so much at the chance to torch Anthony Johnson (I'm setting Johnson's turnover over/under at 5). Redick is not going to be able to hang with Ray Allen, and Lewis won't come close to touching Pierce. That means all 3 perimeter guys can get by their defenders, draw Howard up, and dish off for some easy dunks… and maybe some fouls on Dwight.
And by the way… the Magic are sending Brian Cook, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie in off the bench. Maybe Adonal Foyle if the foul situation gets ugly. If our bench doesn't run roughshod over that group, then we've got problems.
Some people might look at this game a test for the Celtics… but once you get past Dwight Howard… the Magic look like an easy win for the champs.