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Game 7: Foul trouble for Howard

05.17.09 at 9:06 pm ET
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Magic center Dwight Howard picked up his third foul at the 2:06 mark of the second quarter when he reached in on a Kendrick Perkins jump shot. Howard and Hedo Turkoglu each have three fouls for Orlando who still holds at 42-33 lead.

The Celtics have played much better this quarter as Doc Rivers has gone to his small lineup in various combinations. Ray Allen has also shown signs of life by utilizing his mid-range game. Allen still hasn’t been able to connect from 3-point range, but he has eight points and looks far more aggressive than he has at other points in this series.

Game 7: First quarter update

05.17.09 at 8:39 pm ET
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With about four and a half minutes to go in the quarter and the magic leading by 13 points, Rafer Alston tried to throw an alley-oop to Dwight Howard. The play had no chance of being successful and Howard wound up coming down out of bounds. It was either an indication that the Magic are playing confident, or that they were about to start getting too fast and loose.

After the botched dunk, the Celtics started making plays and scored eight of the next 10 points to get the lead into single digits. Ray Allen hit a pull-up jumper, Glen Davis drove the lane and banked in a layup and Paul Pierce scored four points. Just as soon as they got back in the game, however, Mickael Pietrus nailed a 3-pointer to make it 27-17 after one quarter.

The Magic are shooting 53 percent and are 5-for-6 from 3-point range, while the Celtics are shooting just 39 percent and have already committed five turnovers.

Doc Rivers also made a subtle adjustment bringing in Eddie House for Rajon Rondo at the three-minute mark. The Magic aren’t even making an attempt to guard Rondo outside and after he bricked a pair of jumpers House came on to try to make the Magic pay for doubling Pierce.

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Game 7: Turnovers and three’s

05.17.09 at 8:22 pm ET
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Coming into Game 7 the thought was that one of these two teams would start making 3-pointers and that would put the other team in a big bind. Well, it was the Magic who got off early from long distance as Rafer Alston, Hedo Turkoglu and Rahsard Lewis all banged 3-pointers early. Not only that but Dwight Howard also got off to a fast start making three of his first four shots as the magic took an early 19-9 lead at the 5:26 mark.

The Celtics, meanwhile have already committed three turnovers and have had trouble getting into their offense as the Magic are aggressively trapping Paul Pierce every time he touches the ball. The turnovers have run the gamut–an offensive foul on Ray Allen, a 24-second violation and a travel on Kendrick Perkins inside.

Allen hit his first shot, a 20-footer coming off a curl screen, but he proceeded to miss his next two shots. Orlando is 8-for-11 to start the game.

The Impact of NCAA Experience in Game 7

05.17.09 at 8:05 pm ET
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Veteran experience can be one of the biggest advantages in the NBA playoffs. The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, though, are relying on two of their more inexperienced players to help them advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Fortunately for 23-year-olds Glen Davis and Courtney Lee, they have been in high pressure situations before ‘€“ the NCAA Tournament.

Davis was one of the driving forces on the LSU Tigers’ Final Four run in 2006, the school’s first in 20 years. Playing on a big stage prepared him for performing in the spotlight of the NBA, especially since being thrust into the Celtics starting lineup.

‘€œThis is the seventh game, the elimination game. Either win or go home,’€ Davis said prior to Game 7. ‘€œEvery game in the NCAA Tournament is either win or go home. So it’s a good experience because it helps you understand the meaning of each game, and you understand the meaning of Game 7. No matter how you look at it, it helps you mentally prepare yourself to win or go home.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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Perk: We cool

05.17.09 at 7:58 pm ET
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Speaking just 90 minutes before tipoff Sunday night at TD Banknorth Garden, Kendrick Perkins wants all who bleed green and white to know this much, the Celtics are not nervous about a fourth Game 7 in the last two years.

He also wants those same people who will be spending the night biting their nails to know they’re not exhausted either.

“Yeah, we cool. I don’t think it’s a problem,” Perkins said of the team’s stamina. “I think guys have a lot of energy. Our bench has been playing well for us of late, Scal has come in and gave us some productive minutes, Steph has come in and played well. I think guys are alright. It’s the playoffs so you’ve got to find some type of energy somewhere.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 7 pregame: The coaches

05.17.09 at 7:55 pm ET
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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.”

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Game 7: What to watch for

05.17.09 at 12:23 pm ET
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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 »

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