ORLANDO -- The best stretch of this season opens here Sunday. The recast Magic and revived Celtics each have everything any contender could want -- defense, firepower, balance, depth, experience, health and superior coaching. Both sides are loaded with charismatic talents aiming to win at the expense of their personal numbers.
The Celtics arrive for Game 1 some 65 hours after finishing their upset of the top-seeded Cavaliers. As that series wore on, the Celtics defense rallied to wear down
The Celtics are less concerned about fatigue than about maintaining their intensity after a regular season pockmarked with inconsistency. "I'm confident we're going to get the effort, because we've done that,'' said Boston coach
Boston has come on late in the season, but the Magic have maintained a high standard for months. They've gone 30-4 since late February, culminating in a pair of postseason sweeps against Charlotte and Atlanta while throttling the Hawks by a league-record 25.3 points per game.
The question now is whether their five days off in between series will hurt them against the hot Celtics. The answer is likely not, considering the demanding style of coach Van Gundy during their practices.
Two matchups will be especially interesting. After missing Boston's seven-game loss to Orlando last postseason,
"I can honestly say each month I've gotten stronger,'' said Garnett. "The playoffs come around, it's time to pick it up another notch and that's all I've been trying to do. I'm a workaholic when it comes to trying to better myself -- nothing's changed, just trying to better myself."
The other crucial duel involves the undersized point guards,
The Magic acknowledged that Van Gundy is likely to open Game 1 by crossmatching