The secret to beating the Orlando Magic is no secret at all.
If you have good interior defenders, you single-cover Dwight Howard as much as possible and ask your other defenders to crowd perimeter shooters to take away 3-point shots.
The Boston Celtics did that when they eliminated the Magic during the 2010 Eastern Conference finals. The Atlanta Hawks followed a similar script when they knocked the Magic out of last year's first round. And the Celtics did it again Monday night, limiting the Magic to single-game franchise lows of 56 points and 24.6 percent shooting.
"We have trouble scoring against them," Magic guardJ.J. Redicksaid. "That's not a secret. They're a great defense, and we've had so many battles with them that they've kind of figured us out."
Another battle against the stingy Celtics looms Thursday at Amway Center.
Stan Van Gundy resorted to a coach's cliché when he was asked how important this latest matchup will be. Win or lose, he said, the result will only count once in the standings.
Van Gundy is factually correct.
But, at some point, the Magic probably will have to solve the Celtics' defensive scheme. If Orlando does not face Boston this postseason, then Orlando may face Atlanta. If Orlando does not play Atlanta, perhaps the Chicago Bulls — who are coached by former Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau — will employ the same defensive game plan as the Celtics' and the Hawks' game plans.
Thursday, the Magic can start overcoming the obstacles.
"It's not another game," said the Magic's Glen Davis. "We want to beat them. We want to beat them bad because we didn't show them who we really are. They played a good game."
Davis understands the challenges better than most. In both the 2009 playoffs and again in the 2010 playoffs, he was one of the big men who would guard Howard one-on-one.
Davis said a key for Orlando now — and something the team failed to do Monday — is to move the ball.
Van Gundy, Redick and Ryan Anderson also emphasized the importance of ball movement and, if necessary, running a second and third pick-and-roll each possession.
"I think the answer for us is we've got to somehow get their bodies off of us or try to get 'em to put two guys on the ball," Van Gundy said. "A lot of that is going to be screening and ball movement. And the pace of the game has to be very quick. I don't mean necessarily it's got to be up-and-down."
This is largely what point guard Jameer Nelson meant when he said the Magic were "selfish" in their defeat Monday night. When Howard encountered problems down low, Orlando players too often tried to beat their defenders one-on-one. That's a recipe for disaster for Orlando, because the team lacks players who can create their own shots off the dribble.
"Obviously, if Dwight has a mismatch down low and they're single-covering him, we've got to get him the ball," Anderson said. "But sometimes we can be really stagnant when Dwight gets the ball and kind of just stand around."
On Monday, the Magic had problems just starting their halfcourt offense because Boston guard Avery Bradley put so much pressure on Nelson as Nelson brought the ball upcourt.
Publicly, Howard maintains that the loss in Boston merely was one bad game and that every team eventually has an awful performance.
But the Celtics have given the Magic so many problems in recent years that Howard must know Orlando has to find a way to beat Boston.
Redick all but acknowledged that when he was asked whether Thursday's matchup is more important than a typical regular-season game.
"Yes," he responded. "It absolutely is. We got embarrassed. We got embarrassed. So, yes, it is."
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