Myth about the Magic: No one is paying attention to them.
Cavs fans can dispense with all the "Magic are going to sneak up and get us" talk and Magic fans can pull the plug on the "No one respects us" talk. The Magic are not going bump in the night anymore. They're the worst-kept secret in sports. They've arrived, the national media is stroking them, they're soaking up their share of the spotlight. If they ambush any team in the playoffs, that team gets what they deserve.
What makes them dangerous to Cleveland and Orlando:
1. They're the champs. They've been to the summit, they know what it takes to get there, they've already proven they can win a championship together. Come playoff time, the burden is still on the Cavs and Magic to knock them off.
2. Stopping the Big Three is asking a lot. And I'm not talking about Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Allen can score, but come playoff time against top-flight defenses, he will be reduced to a one-dimensional specialist. The Big Three I refer to is Garnett, Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
Rondo is arguably the most important cog in the Celtics' attack. He is the penetrator who draws in defenses and creates open looks for Pierce and Garnett. That's especially important as Garnett has aged into a second-decade player and has traded in his low-post game for a mid-range jumper.
3. TD Banknorth Garden is quite possibly the most hostile playoff environment in the league. Staples Center in Los Angeles and our very own Quicken Loans Arena will certainly get into the conversation, but the Celtics' house will be filled with thousands of loud, obnoxious, likely inebriated Red Sox fans looking to keep their voice boxes conditioned until October. Gloria James doesn't want to know what they're saying about her whenever LeBron is within earshot.
What makes them vulnerable:
1. A suspect bench. Sure, the Celtics are still winning at a tremendous clip this year, but there is no denying that this is a team minus James Posey and P.J. Brown from last year's title team. The bench is thin when compared to other contenders, especially the Lakers and Cavs. Boston could have less of an ability to absorb injuries and fatigue.
If the Celtics were actually considering signing noted locker room hand grenade Stephon Marbury if and when he became a free agent, that a sure sign that Danny Ainge and Celtics management have spent more than a little time fretting over their bench depth. They know it's something that could be exposed over the course of a seven-game series.
2. A lack of team speed. The Celtics do many things well, but running the floor isn't one of them. We saw it in the Cavs' January 9 win over the Celtics: If you can speed the game up, you can take them out of their comfort zone and possibly tire out their 30-somethings sooner.
Myth about the Celtics: They're the biggest band of crybabies in the NBA.
Kevin Garnett's constant act of taunting the opposition, screaming and beating his chest like an amphetamine-crazed Ray Lewis has certainly gotten old. Anyone west of the Massachusetts state line is sick of hearing Paul Pierce referred to as "The Truth." Unfortunately, however, you must be without sin to cast the first stone. And the fact is that strutting, preening, taunting -- and especially whining -- is an epidemic in the NBA.
LeBron is among the league's biggest ref-whiners, following in the grand tradition of Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki does it. Kobe Bryant does it. Rasheed Wallace sure as heck does it. So while the Celtics might have taken a sense of entitlement and verbalized arrogance to something of an extreme, they're far from alone in the league.