|05.25.10 at 12:03 am ET|
The Magic are still alive in the Eastern Conference Final, knocking off the Celtics in a 96-92 overtime battle in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series.
The Celtics rallied from a 85-78 deficit late in the fourth quarter to force the extra five minutes, but were held scoreless for the first 3:14 of OT. Jameer Nelson (23 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers in overtime and Dwight Howard added four points to give the Magic the win and a pulse in the series, which continues Wednesday night in Orlando.
Three Things That Went Wrong
No Answer for Howard
Give Howard credit: He did not go down quietly. He dominated Kendrick Perkins (no small feat) and Rasheed Wallace, a pair that has given him problems during the series. Howard finished the game with 32 points (on 13-of-19 shooting) and 16 rebounds, also blocking four shots. Deserved all the hits he took after Game 3 but was a monster on Monday night. Was absolutely the difference in overtime, killing the Celtics on the glass. Needs to work on free throws (looked almost Knoblauch-esque at the end, going glass once), but in Game 4 you saw why Howard is an All-NBA player. If he just plays well on Monday the season is over for Orlando. They needed an MVP performance, and he delivered.
Where Was the Composure?
Sure, Garnett should have been miffed at Howard for the elbow, but don’t you just let it go? Did he learn nothing from the Miami fracas with Quentin Richardson? Is it worth risking a possible suspension in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to get into it with Howard in a series that you led 3-0? I’m not saying that Garnett did anything suspension-worthy, but he put himself in a spot where it could have easily happened. And he has to know better than that.
And Kendrick Perkins completely overreacted to a Howard foul later on in the quarter. A tough foul? Yes. A dirty foul? Nope. This is the NBA playoffs, not a preseason game at the Mohegan Sun. Have to be ready for some physical play. Throw in a ‘Sheed T in the fourth quarter (and he wasn’t done with the ref, he could have been kicked out) and it was not a study in character in Game 4.
And I’ll throw the lousy offensive possessions down the stretch in here as well. No shot attempt in the final play of regulation, following a terrible Pierce shot from the possession prior? And did you like that Glen Davis 3-point attempt at the end of the game? Strange stuff.
Other Than Davis, A Rough Night For the Bench
Wallace, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson (Nate had the worst cameo since M. Night Shyamalan in Signs) combined to shoot 3-of-10 from the floor. Wallace morphed back into the guy that we saw in the regular season, hitting on 2-of-7 shots (and missing all four 3-point attempts.)
Three Things That Went Right
The Truth Did the Heavy Lifting (For the First 48 Minutes, Anyway)
Pierce carried the Celtics in the first half, scoring 19 points on 6-8 shooting. He was also able to get to the basket at will in the early going, attempting 10 free throws in the first 24 minutes of Game 4 (making seven.) He took over in the fourth as well, with a dunk, jumper and three-point play to help the Celtics wipe out an 85-78 Orlando lead. Pierce finished the game with 32 points, which continues a terrific series for the Celtics’ captain. Rondo was the unquestioned MVP of the regular season and each of the first two rounds for the Celtics, but it has been Pierce who has led the way for Boston in this series.
Big Baby Brings the Energy
This is why Glen Davis is on the floor in the fourth quarter of a tight Eastern Conference Finals game. In a three-minute stretch he ran down a long rebound off of a Rasheed Wallace missed 3-pointer, took a charge on Vince Carter, scored on a screen-and-roll, hit an 18-footer and blocked a Rashard Lewis shot. On a night when Kendrick Perkins brought nothing to the table credit Doc for sticking with Davis down the stretch. He’s simply making too many plays not to out on the floor for 20+ minutes a game at this point.
(And how about that block on Howard in OT? I know Howard followed it up for a hoop, but still. I’m not sure Glen Davis is even 6’6 and he’s doing that? What is underplayed when the Big Baby story is told is his athleticism.)
Double-Double For KG
Another strong effort for Garnett, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He logged 41 minutes in Game 4 and didn’t seem to be lacking for energy in overtime.
|05.24.10 at 10:27 pm ET|
“I think that’s a bunch of crap,” Van Gundy said. “I think they had injuries, period. I don’t think they were holding anything back. Kevin Garnett had a serious knee injury that takes a lot of time to get back to full strength. When we were at the All Star Game, at that point, I didn’t either Garnett or Pierce were at full speed or looked healthy, still. I thought Kevin was still having trouble with mobility in that leg and Paul’s foot was bothering him. Injuries mean a lot.”
Van Gundy saw both Garnett and Paul Pierce during the All Star break in Arlington, Texas. He said he knew at the time, the Celtics weren’t at full strength. The Celtics finished fourth in the East with a 50-32 record, behind Cleveland, Orlando and Atlanta.
“They weren’t 41-41 were they? The way everybody talked about them they exploded out of the blue after winning 41 games,” Van Gundy added. “Didn’t they win 50 games? Fifty games is a hell of a season, and those guys weren’t healthy. I don’t they were out there saying, ‘Let’s hold it back.’ I think that’s ridiculous and I think it’s insulting to them, quite honestly.”
Doc Rivers knows a thing or two about getting shown the door. He was dismissed early in the 2004 season following a 1-10 start in Orlando after earning coach of the year honors in 2000. He has watched as Mike Brown won 60-plus games in back-to-back seasons and led his team to the NBA Finals in the year before.
“I don’t know what you have to do to keep your job,” said a perplexed Rivers.
|05.24.10 at 9:53 pm ET|
The Orlando Magic came to play Monday night in Game 4 after being embarrassed in Game 3 and made a point of showing it early on.
They took a 51-47 lead at halftime over the Celtics, amazingly their first such lead after 24 minutes in the series so far.
Orlando, which shot 61.5 percent in the first quarter, built their largest lead of the game at 10 points, 42-32, with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
The Magic were led by Dwight Howard, with 17 points and six rebounds.
The other thing to keep a close eye on in the second half is the condition of Rajon Rondo, who left with a minute to go with trainer Bryan Doo to treat muscle spasms in his right leg.
|05.24.10 at 8:30 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins couldn’t recall the exact diagnosis for his right wrist injury. What he knew was that he tweaked it catching himself on a fall in Game 3. But he had heard so much medical terminology from Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte since then that he couldn’t keep track. He settled on a sprain, though he was not one hundred percent certain. It didn’t matter to him, though. He was going to play through it, no matter what it was.
The same sentiment was expressed just one locker over, where Tony Allen downplayed Doc Rivers‘ revelation of a twisted ankle Allen suffered in the first quarter of Game 2. Even though Rivers said the injury affected him in Game 3, Allen isn’t letting it hold him back on Monday night.
‘It ain’t stopping me from playing the next game,’ he said prior to Game 4. ‘It’s just pretty sore. I’m sure there are a lot of guys who would come out right now and be honest with you and say there’s something wrong with them. But Doc spoke on my injury and I’m here to tell you all he’s a concerned dad. But no I’m cool, though. I’m cool for the most part. I’m playing in the next game and I’m ready to go.’
|05.24.10 at 8:12 pm ET|
Throughout the Eastern Conference finals the Magic have seemed to be a step behind the moment. Game 1 came and went and the Magic seemed unprepared for the Celtics physical play. Then down 2-0 Orlando was run off the court early by the Celtics and never recovered.
Now that it’s literally a must-win game for Orlando, Stan Van Gundy was asked if he would know if his team was ready early in the game.
“I don’t even think that’s the real question,” Van Gundy said prior to Game 4. “I think the question will come, whether it’s early or later on in the game, the question comes whenever you get hit, especially when you’re in this situation.”
The Magic didn’t react well to that Celtics punch in Game 3 and Orlando has faced criticism that they laid down with their season on the line. Doc Rivers wasn’t going near that one.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve always said keep your own bedroom clean, let everyone else clean their own. It would be great if it was us because that would mean that we’re playing well, but I can’t answer that.”
Things can change fast in this league. Take the Celtics who spent most of the regular season answering those types of questions. Now they are an efficient, focused machine. It was only a week ago when people were saying the same thing about the Magic.
|05.24.10 at 12:32 pm ET|
Magic guard Jason Williams let off a little steam in the locker room following the Celtics‘ Game 3 rout Saturday night. Williams wasn’t happy that reporters were crowding his locker in an attempt to listen to an interview with Matt Barnes. Here’s the video of Williams’ rant.
|05.24.10 at 12:27 am ET|
WALTHAM — The sudden disappearance of Rashard Lewis is not the only thing missing from the Magic team that defeated the Celtics in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
This time around they are playing without Hedo Turkoglu, who left Orlando last summer and signed a multi-year deal with the Raptors. Even though the Magic acquired Vince Carter in his place — a role Carter’s teammates say he has filled well — the Celtics have noticed a difference in matchups without Turkoglu on the court.
It is one they have benefited from in the conference finals.
‘Definitely with Turkoglu, he adds a size matchup being at 6-10 he can play the 2, the 3, the 1. Obviously, a walking matchup problem,’ Paul Pierce said following practice on Sunday. ‘I just think the things that he does playing with the ball and off the ball in the post, he’s one of the more versatile small forwards in the NBA and one of the toughest that I’ve seen to guard. Them not having him, I think it really works in our favor.’
Last season Turkoglu averaged over 16 points in the seven-game semifinals series. Not only did he score, he made it easier for his teammates to do so by spreading the floor. (In the deciding Game 7, Turkoglu scored 25 points while dishing 12 assists.)
Take Lewis as an example. This postseason series he is averaging just five points while shooting 25 percent from the field and going 1-for-13 from 3-point range. Even though he got more open looks last season because of Kevin Garnett‘s absence, the Celtics guarded him differently when Turkoglu was on the floor.
‘Turkoglu, one of the things I think he does so well is he’s a facilitator,’ said Doc Rivers. ‘He’s a big shot maker, but he is such a great passer with length. It’s tough to get deflections off Turkoglu, where all their other guys, you can get your hands up and you can get deflections. Turkoglu and LeBron [James] probably make the best cross-court passes in the league. So that’s been a little bit different for us. And Rashard is now at the 4, where really we played Turkoglu more at that position even though he was at the 3.’
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