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Thursday, January 26, 2012
5-on-5: Celtics vs. Magic (Game 17 of 66)

By Chris Forsberg

AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCan the Celtics limits Dwight Howard for a second straight game against the Magic?
Each Thursday, we join forces with our friends and TrueHoop partners at CelticsHub to go 5-on-5 about key issues surrounding the Celtics. Given that today is also a gameday with Boston visiting Orlando this evening at the Amway Center, we've geared the questions to also preview the matchup. So let's go 5-on-5 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and the CelticsHub gang of Hayes Davenport, Ryan DeGama, and Brendan Jackson.



Did the Orlando win change your mind about this Celtics team?


Forsberg: No, not yet. It’s an encouraging win, especially on the second night of a back-to-back and playing without a third of the roster. But let’s see that sort of defensive intensity (and results) on a consistent basis before we declare this ship righted. Just like no one should get too low after some of these early season losses, let’s not put too much stock in one quality win.

Davenport: Not really. I thought they were a back-of-the Conference playoff team, and I still do. The win was amazing: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of players perform that far beyond expectations. But wins like that will come out of nowhere, and don’t necessarily prove anything about a team’s title hopes. The Wizards beat the Thunder a week before, but I’m not sure that should make them buyers at the trade deadline.

DeGama: The C’s have been such a wimpy bunch of Bruce Banners this year that I didn’t think they had any Incredible Hulk left in them. Turns out they can get angry. And who expected Sasha and Avery to do all that SMASHING? One win doesn’t alleviate the rebounding and offensive problems, but maybe Boston can rally around the beating they laid on Orlando Monday night. That’s what I’m hoping for: the feel good story of a team that remembers how to bully others.

Payne: No, but that was because I was never all that down on the team in the first place. Sure, the losses were disappointing and there might have been some reason to panic at times, but I was figuring it would only be a matter of time before the club got its act together. Could the C’s still get blown out on Thursday? Definitely. But regardless of Thursday’s outcome, Monday’s win over the Magic counts as progress.

Jackson: Not really. The win against Orlando was great, but there needs to be some sustainability in order for me to completely change my mind. Can this team continue to beat good teams? Furthermore, beating Orlando did not miraculously make this team healthy, which has been the biggest detriment to their success this season.



What happens tonight in Celtics vs. Magic, round two?




Forsberg: It’s hard to imagine the Magic struggling as much as they did the other night. Expect more of those shots to fall, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. It might come down to how effective guys are jumping back into the fray. This one will likely be decided in the first quarter. If the Magic continue to struggle, Boston might be in their heads a bit from the other night, and can take advantage. If those outside shots start falling, it’s going to be a battle.

Davenport: After Monday’s blowout, I may not ever try to predict a game again. But I don’t think this game will go as well as the last one did. Jermaine O’Neal may actually follow through on his plan to sit out a game this season, which means that Greg Stiemsma would start in his place. I understand some have advocated Stiemsma’s promotion for a while, but Dwight Howard may not be the best matchup for the Blonde Bill Russell. Careful what you wish for, Stiemsmaniacs.

DeGama: The C’s could be even more shorthanded than they were Monday and yet — I think they’ll win again. There’s something inescapably fragile about these Howard-era Magic teams that Boston consistently exposes (the same way Rafael Nadal gets into the head of Roger Federer, for all six of you tennis fans out there). Stan Van Gundy’s a great coach and he’ll have his guys ready, but if Boston comes out throwing haymakers, Orlando may again find themselves punch drunk. Assuming JO is in there, I’ll take the C’s to win a close one.

Payne: The Celtics win again, in what will be a closer, down-to-the-wire contest. Boston’s going to have to absorb an early punch or two from the Magic (figuratively, not literally — although with Jermaine O’Neal and Dwight Howard in the paint, who knows), but then the C’s can grind it out from there. They just have to be ready to bring the same defensive energy that they showed up with on Monday. As Pierce reminded everyone after Monday’s win, now that they’ve proven they can perform like that, there’s no reason for them not to.

Jackson: A much closer game and an Orlando win. The Magic carried that terrible feeling after the loss in Boston through to Indiana where they laid the absolute wood on the Pacers. You know, the team the Celtics have yet to beat this season. Orlando did this by revving up the defensive intensity and I expect them to do the same against Boston.

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Follow Chris Forsberg on twitter at @ESPNForsberg. Follow Greg Payne on twitter at @GregPayne_ESPN. Follow CelticsHub on twitter at @CelticsHub.