|05.17.09 at 7:55 pm ET|
It’s always dangerous to try and gauge the mood of teams and coaches pregame and then try to extrapolate some kind of meaning out of that bit of pop psychology. But with that disclaimer out of the way, if Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy’s address to the media before Sunday night’s Game 7 could be be summed up in a word it would be “edgy” while Celtics coach Doc Rivers was a bit more philosophical.
Van Gundy was asked, again, about starting J.J. Redick ahead of Courtney Lee and Van Gundy indicated, again, that there would be no change. “I’m sort of surprised that this has become an issue,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t really understand why that is. Ray (Allen’s) had a tough series. I don’t think anyone is asking Doc why he’s sticking with him.”
Asked about defending Allen, Van Gundy said, “We’ve done a pretty good job of not giving him a lot of open looks and then he’s missed some shots. When you play the great players–Paul Pierce, Ray Allen–that’s the best you can do.” And that was about it from Van Gundy who didn’t care to entertain a handful of big picture type of questions.
Rivers on the other hand was asked if a win would validate the Celtics title defense. “I think our defense has been noble all season,” Rivers said. “That’s for you guys to decide. That’s always for you guys.”
Rivers seemed almost wistful when asked about the difference between last year’s team and this year’s saying, “This has been different. We know who we would like to be, but it just hasn’t worked out that way all the time. We’re still trying to discover who we are.”
|05.17.09 at 12:23 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Here are two things that have absolutely no bearing on tonight’s Game 7.
The Celtics‘ franchise 17-3 record in home Game 7′s: Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird aren’t walking through that door and if they are they’ll be sitting in the loge seats. Patrick Ewing’s prediction: As other have pointed out, Ewing’s prognosticating skills are about as solid as the guy at Suffolk Downs who plays a can’t miss hunch on the No. 7 horse in the third race.
But there are more than enough subplots to go around for tonight’s penultimate game between the Celtics and Magic. Here are five.
1. UNDER PRESSURE
Normally the home team carries the weight of expectations in a Game 7, but not tonight. The Magic clearly have the heaviest burden because their entire season is based on taking the proverbial next step and if they can’t do it against a beaten up and wounded Celtics team their season will have to be considered a disappointment. ESPN ran an online roundtable discussion and six of the seven writers said the Magic had the most to lose (specifically Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy), and five of the seven picked the Celtics to win. Until proven otherwise this is the Magic’s lot in life: They need to win, but no one expects them to.
Taking that next step can be the hardest in a team’s evolution. Some 20 years later the old Bad Boy Pistons still talk about getting past the Celtics as the most important step in their quest toward winning an NBA championship. Last year’s Celtics skipped the formalities, but they were a unique exception in that their three most important players entire careers had been about building toward that moment.
“That was one of the things we talked about before (last year),” Doc Rivers said after the team’s hour-long shootaround Sunday morning. “This is not a team that needs a test run to win it the following year. We were going to win it now and that’s what we did.”
Orlando has taken a more traditional approach, advancing to last year’s conference semifinals before getting worn down by the Pistons. This is the Magic’s time to either continue that progression or risk treading water.
Pressure has been a funny thing in this series. Orlando almost blew a huge lead in Game 1 and then it failed to close out a winnable game at home in Game 4. Add in the Magic’s Game 5 collapse and that seemed to validate every negative perception they carried into this series.
Then in Game 6 the Celtics were unable to close out the series in what was a very winnable game. That was either poor execution or a statement on the Magic’s resiliency. It’s striking that even after that performance, very few people believe they can win tonight. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.16.09 at 2:21 pm ET|
‘I don’t need to say nothing to Ray,’ Paul Pierce said after practice on Saturday. ‘Ray knows what he needs to do. I mean Ray’s been in the league long enough. We have total faith in Ray. There’s nothing wrong with him.’
Allen is averaging 11.5 points per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, down from 23 points in the first round. He is shooting just 14% from three-point range, including an 0-7 performance in Game 6. Allen has been held to a total of 22 points in the Celtics three losses.
Still Allen is unfazed by the buzz surrounding his battles at the basket. He does not watch television and chalks the hype up to the scrutiny of playoff basketball.
‘I’ll tell you what, every shot that I take is good. Every shot that I put up there, it always looks good to me,” Allen said. “For the last second, you see the ball rolling around the rim and sometimes it toilet bowls and it goes down and sometimes it pops out, and you just, you never know until that ball goes all the way through. So I’ll be making sure the ball goes all the way through tomorrow.’
‘We’ve survived other games in this series with Ray struggling. Even if Ray’s not making shots, he still has a tremendous value for us,’ Rivers said. ‘He’s going to make shots tomorrow. I do feel good about that. If Patrick Ewing can guarantee a win, I can guarantee that Ray will make shots tomorrow.’
|05.16.09 at 1:52 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Patrick Ewing doesn’t need to be playing to guarantee a Game 7 victory over in the Celtics. In fact, he doesn’t even need to have a proven track record of accurate predictions. The Magic assistant coach is certain his team will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.
‘It’s a whole team. Everyone has to step up in a Game Seven. Bring your A-game. Get our there and play with your hearts on your sleeve and come away with a win,’ Ewing said in an interview aired on ESPN. ‘Even though I’m not playing, I’m guaranteeing a win.’
That guarantee sits well with Doc Rivers, who was teammates with Ewing on the Knicks.
‘Oh that’s great. We feel great about that,’ Rivers said after practice on Saturday. ‘I’ve been on those Knicks teams where he had some predictions.’
Rivers could not hide his sarcasm. Click here to see just how well Ewing’s past predictions have panned out.
|05.16.09 at 1:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM – The Boston Celtics have not had more than one day off since a two-day lapse in between Games 3 and 4 against the Chicago Bulls. So Doc Rivers was relieved when the Celtics got another 48-hour break before Game 7 against the Orlando Magic. He put the team to work on Saturday.
‘When you don’t practice you have slippage, and we’ve had a ton of slippage,’ Rivers said after practice. ‘Our film today was all execution ‘ things that you should be doing but when you don’t practice and work on everything, you slip a little bit. I think in Game 5 and 6 we had done that.’
Dissecting game film allowed the Celtics to see their mistakes, including 83 turnovers in the first six games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
‘Execution is always key, down to the littlest thing,’ Rivers said. ‘When you mess up one play and give up a three and you lose by two, that play in the first quarter counts just as much as something in the fourth. And so you just have to try to execute every single time and have great focus.’
One thing Rivers does not intend to adjust after Saturday’s practice is how they will stop Dwight Howard. The Celtics have had a solid plan since the first game and Rivers does not want to change it, just execute it more effectively.
‘Not a thing, really,’ he said. ‘We just have to hold our ground, dig a little more. A lot of those are offensive rebounds from dribble penetration. A lot of Howard’s baskets are not coming from just throwing the ball down to him in the post. It’s coming come guards and small forwards beating us off the dribble. Perk (Kendrick Perkins) does his job by going to help, and it frees up Howard’s ten offensive rebounds. Going into Game 1 we said the single most important thing for us was to stop dribble penetration. That has not changed at all.’
|05.15.09 at 1:05 pm ET|
One of the hottest topics in Game 6 was Dwight Howard’s ability to dominate. The Celtics had stopped him from doing it in the first five contests, but Howard was confident he could take over the paint. As he wrote on his blog, he thinks he accomplished his mission:
“I knew going into this game that if I wanted what I call touches that I had to crash the boards and dominate the game defensively and rebounding … I know that there are other ways to dominate a game than on scoring. My team needs me to be a beast in the lane for us to win. I tried to go after every ball last night and see if they could stop me.”
As for his decree of domination following Game 5, Howard has learned to prove it on the court, not at the podium:
“I guess if I learned anything the past few days after my comments in Game 5 it’s that I need to keep my mouth shut sometimes. Otis had me in his office and we talked about how there are better ways to deal with problems than I did. I’m still young, still learning and I’m going to make mistakes sometimes.”
|05.15.09 at 1:33 am ET|
ORLANDO – The good news for Ray Allen is that, win or lose on Sunday night in Game 7, he has seen the last of Amway Arena until next season.
After his three games there this series, he’s probably hoping he never plays there again.
In the three road games, Allen went 11-for-37 from the field while missing ALL 17 of his three point attempts.
“I try to sit back and let the game develop and let it come to me,” Allen said in the wake of the Game 6 loss at Amway Arena. “And time after time, you just sit back and wait and it never really does. I just try to find a way to have an impact out there. Offensively, you keep fighting it, fighting it and try to get to the free throw line. For the most part, I do things to try and make other guys better like setting screens and occupy my guy.” Read the rest of this entry »