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Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: Magic’s Carter the key

05.17.10 at 9:32 am ET
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Jeff Van Gundy, who provides analysis for NBA games on ESPN and ABC, joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics‘ victory over the Magic on Sunday in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Van Gundy was asked how the Celtics are able to limit Dwight Howard and the Magic offense while other teams struggle against Orlando. “Different personnel, different intensity and different plan ‘€” I just think it’s that simple,” said Van Gundy, whose brother Stan coaches the Magic. “From a personnel standpoint, they’re big and they’re strong. They stay one-on-one, from a plan standpoint. And the Celtics’ intensity is just at a different level defensively than most teams in this league.”

Howard is the marquee player in this series, but his inability to score on post moves showed he still has a way to go. “He’s improved some offensively, but I just don’t think he’s ever going to be the guy that you can play through and win a championship,” Van Gundy said. “And that’s why Vince Carter, to me, is the most important player in this series. Because if he doesn’t have a big series for Orlando, I don’t think they can win not only the series, I don’t think it will be a competitive series.”

Van Gundy also talked about the Celtics’ win over Cavaliers. “The only thing that shocked me about the Cleveland series was the margin of defeat,” he said. “I was shocked in Cleveland that they were able to win by such big amounts.”

Added Van Gundy: “What impressed me the most was they got absolutely hammered at home in Game 3 against Cleveland. To me, you don’t really know about a team’s chemistry until you withstand losing in a beatdown. And they got beaten down in that game. But instead of pointing the fingers at strategy of coaches or this or that, what you saw in Game 4 was Celtic intensity, Celtic defensive pride, and Rondo’s great game. And then from there, they’ve been off and running again. When you get your character and your chemistry tested like that and you respond, you have the opportunity to win it all.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Dennis & Callahan, Jeff Van Gundy

Fast Break: Celtics-Magic

05.16.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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Final Score: Celtics 92, Magic 88
Series: Celtics 1-0

The Celtics looked to be on cruise control for the first three quarters before their offense went cold and the Magic nearly pulled off a comeback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics held on for a 92-88 victory in Orlando, but the win did not come without uncertainty down the stretch.

It was fitting that a game featuring a pair of First Team All-Defensive Players (Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo) would start off as low-scoring duel. Neither team shot the ball well in the first quarter, combining for just 36 points. The Celtics took a 22-14 lead after shooting 37 percent compared to 20 percent by the Magic.

Ray Allen led all players with 8 points while Pierce added seven in just eight minutes (he was sidelined with two early fouls). Howard led the Magic with six points, although the C’€™s defense forced him to shoot 1-for-5 from the field.

In spite of five boards from Howard, the Celtics had a more balanced attack on the glass. The outrebounded the Magic, 16-10, behind five boards from Kevin Garnett, four from Ray Allen, and three from Rondo.

The Celtics went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second quarter to push the lead up to 15, 29-14. The Magic got back in the game, though, as Marcin Gortat provided a spark off the bench in place of Howard. He got to the basket with ease and scored six points in three minutes. The Magic cut the deficit to 33-24 before Ray Allen and Tony Allen pushed the C’€™s lead back up to 41-32 at halftime.

Jameer Nelson opened the third quarter by knocking down eight points (including two 3-pointers) in less than two minutes. The Magic swapped buckets to keep the game within three points before the Celtics went on a 17-2 run and took a 62-44 lead with just five minutes left in the quarter. Pierce scored 13 points in the third alone while the Celtics outscored the Magic, 33-26, to go up 74-58 after three.

The Celtics watched a 16-point fourth quarter lead dwindle to just five points, 88-83, with 1:30 to go. The Magic were aggressive coming out of the third, going on an 11-5 run to cut the Celtics lead to 10 points. The C’€™s responded with a run of their own to push their edge back into double digits. But the Magic continued to chip away as the quarter went on and took advantage of a Celtics offensive drought.

The C’€™s were scoreless for five-and-a-half minutes in the fourth. During that time, Ray Allen lost the ball on a fast break against Nelson, resulting in a jump ball between Rondo and J.J. Reddick with a minute left. Reddick won the jump and retained possession as the ball went out of bounds off of Garnett at the Magic’€™s basket. Howard made a layup to bring the Magic within three, 88-85, before Pierce drew a foul with 12 seconds remaining and pushed the Celtics lead to five. Carter drew a foul and intentionally missed the second shot, which a racing Nelson laid in with eight seconds left. Ray Allen iced the Celtics win with a pair of free throws as Lewis missed a 3-pointer as time ran out.

Game 1 Notables:

High Scorers:
Celtics –
Ray Allen: 25 points (8-16 FG, 2-5 3PG, 7-7 FT)
Magic –
Vince Carter: 23 points (9-18 FG, 5-6 FT)

Defensive Stoppers:
Celtics –
Kevin Garnett (11 rebounds)
Magic –
Dwight Howard (12 rebounds, 5 blocks)

Point Guard Battle:
Celtics –
Rondo: 8 points (4-10 FG), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers
Magic –
Nelson: 20 points (8-18 FG, 2-7 3PG), 2 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 turnovers

Five reasons why the Celtics won

05.16.10 at 6:23 pm ET
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At first glance at the Celtics’ 92-88, Game 1 win over the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, here are five reasons why the C’s were able to jump out to a 1-0 series lead:

They found their Garnett-Jamison matchup: While the Celtics rode Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison’s inability to guard Kevin Garnett in the last series, the C’s found a similar advantage in the matchup between Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. After having to deal with the physical defense of LeBron James in the series against the Cavs, Pierce clearly knew he was going to try to take advantage of Carter guarding him this time around, starting with a 3-pointer for the Celts’ first points of the game. Carter first tried to play off of Pierce, and then when the veteran guard got up on the C’s star it resulted in drives to the basket Carter couldn’t defend. Ray Allen also took advantage of his pairing with Matt Barnes/Mickael Pietrus, consistently staying aggressive in going to the hoop, especially in the first half.

They made Howard look human: Dwight Howard missed a total of five shots in the entire four-game series with the Hawks, yet missed four in the first half Sunday. Sure, it was an off game for the best center in the NBA, but the most important aspect of the performance was the ability of Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace to man-up on Howard without any help. When Howard did get one-on-one chances on the block he showed little to no ability to make any kind of post move that would make the C’s change their strategy. Orlando actually had much more luck with backup center Marcin Gortat in the game, a matchup that didn’t seem to favor Perkins. (Gortat finished as a plus-9, while Howard finished as a minus-8.)

The Celts were able to focus on Orlando’s 3-point game: The Magic went 0-for-9 from 3-point land in the first half, and it was no accident. With the Celts able to do what no other Magic playoff opponent has managed — defend Howard one-on-one — the Celtics could concentrate on extending their defense to the 3-point line. Orlando was able to free up some 3-point shooters in the second half, but because of it went away from staying aggressive going to the basket.

Rondo played point guard while Nelson played scorer: While it wasn’t Rajon Rondo’s best game, he certainly held his own against one of the key components of the Orlando offense, Jameer Nelson. Perhaps Rondo’s most important contribution was his ability to control the tempo at key times, pushing the ball back at the Magic each time it appeared as though a run by the hosts was on the horizon. Nelson, meanwhile, offered some value in the Magic’s half-court sets, but he wasn’t nearly the pace-setter his counterpart proved to be. Rondo was perhaps a bit too aggressive in the final few minutes — perhaps better served eating up some clock instead of driving — but it didn’t diminish his overall value.

The bench guys did exactly what was needed: Other than a seven-second appearance by Michael Finley, the Celtics subs consisted of Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace. That was it. But for good reason. Each of the trio offered exactly what the Celts had hoped. Allen supplied athleticism on the wing, Davis gave the Celts some much-needed interior offense while guarding Howard on occasion, and Wallace simply injected his own brand of chaos. It was Wallace’s presence that proved perhaps most important, not only chipping in with 13 points (5-for-6 from the floor), but frustrating Howard with his own unique brand of defense.

Halftime Wrap: Celtics-Magic

05.16.10 at 4:49 pm ET
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It is fitting that a game featuring a pair of first team All-Defensive players would be a low-scoring duel.

The Celtics lead the Magic, 41-32, at halftime.

Neither team shot the ball well in the first quarter, combining for just 36 points. The Celtics took a 22-14 lead after shooting 37 percent compared to 20 percent by the Magic. Ray Allen led all players with 8 points while Pierce added seven in just eight minutes (he was sidelined with two early fouls). Dwight Howard led the Magic with six points, although the C’€™s defense forced him to shoot 1-for-5 from the field. In spite of five boards from Howard, the Celtics had a more balanced attack on the glass. The outrebounded the Magic, 16-10, behind five boards from Kevin Garnett, four from Ray Allen, and three from Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second quarter to push the lead up to 15, 29-14. The Magic got back in the game, though, as Marcin Gortat provided a spark off the bench in place of Howard. He got to the basket with ease and scored six points in three minutes. The Magic cut the deficit to 33-24 before Ray Allen and Tony Allen pushed the C’€™s lead back up to 41-32.

Ray Allen leads all players with 12 points at halftime. After shooting 84 percent in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Hawks, Howard is 1-for-5 from the floor. Vince Carter has 10 points for the Magic, who are 0-for-9 from 3-point range. The C’s have a 24-21 advantage on the boards.

Ray Allen on respect: Who cares?

05.16.10 at 3:06 pm ET
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ORLANDO — There’s been a lot of talk about respect lately. The Magic feel like they don’t get any, and the Celtics could claim a gripe in that their win over the Cavaliers has been overshadowed by LeBron-mania.

Ray Allen, like the rest of the Celtics veterans, isn’t worried about it.

“That’s the bottom line, it’s like, who cares?” Allen said before Game 1 of the Conference Finals. ” At the end of the day, you win that fourth game in the Finals and you’re in the back of the building until 4 a.m. that’s when all the talk is in your direction. Again, we have one goal. It’s not for people to talk about us, it’s to be the last team standing.”

Allen is old enough, and mature enough, to also understand that of course LeBron James is going to get the lion’s share of the media attention since his pending free agency has been the talk of the basketball world since he signed his last contract.

“In the NBA it’s probably one of the biggest storylines of the year and will be on into the summer,” Allen said. “We’re still here playing so everyone has to watch us and talk about us. I don’t need to force somebody to watch me and tell me I’m great or this team is great. It will take care of itself.”

As for the Magic, the Celtics don’t need to be told that they are the defending conference championships. Doc Rivers alluded to it before the Cavs series even started and he made the point again Sunday.

“Our goal was not to beat Cleveland,” Rivers said. “Our goal was to try to get to the Finals. We’ve stated from Day One that the team you have to beat to get to the Finals is Orlando. Everyone else crowned Cleveland. We didn’t. Orlando was the best team in the East last year. I don’t know why everyone forgets that.”

Respect will be paid one way or another in this series and for these two teams it will be earned on the court.

Read More: Cavaliers, Magic, Ray Allen,

Barnes or Carter, Celtics aren’t changing

05.16.10 at 2:58 pm ET
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ORLANDO — Stan Van Gundy started the chess match early when he suggested that he would have Matt Barnes guard Ray Allen instead of Paul Pierce, who would then become Vince Carter’s assignment.

This opens up a number of interesting questions such as: Does Van Gundy think Allen is a bigger threat than Pierce? Would the Celtics switch up their coverages? Then there’s the issue of Barnes’ health. He has been struggling with back spasms.

On the latter, Van Gundy said that Barnes is feeling better and will be ready to play. As for the other? “We’ll see,” Van Gundy said before Game 1.

The Celtics are unconcerned. They’re not going to change up their assignments.

“We’re not changing.,” Doc Rivers said. “We’re going the same way we’re going to go. Whenever there’s a switch like in the last series when [Anthony] Parker guarded [Rajon] Rondo, you’re always concerned about the cross matchup in transition because the guy you’re guarding is not in front of you. You have to resist the temptation to cross the court and try to find your guy and leave a guy open. That actually works both ways.”

Interesting, because Allen thinks this could play in the Celtics advantage.

“I would think that they’d be more worried about Carter getting back on defense, so maybe the cross matchup would probably work better in our favor,” Allen said. “If I’m guarding Vince he’d have to run back in transition on me. I’ve noticed throughout the year, Vince would be on one side running back with me and then the other man will run all the way back across the floor.”

Once again, the key for the Celtics is getting out on the break.

“Transition is big,” Allen said. “You get the rebound, push it up and Paul and I just run, they have to make a decision because sometimes you can’t get back to your guy. It does make you think.”

Read More: Matt Barnes, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Vince Carter

The Magic were the team to beat all along

05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET
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WALTHAM — At first glance, the comments from Doc Rivers about his hometown Orlando Magic seem like just more lip service in an effort not to give his opponent any bulletin board material.

But deep down, the Celtics head coach meant what he said and he wanted to make sure his players understood it before they boarded their plane Saturday afternoon for Orlando and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

‘€œLike we told our guys, Cleveland wasn’€™t our goal and neither is Orlando,” Rivers began. “Having said that, Orlando is the team, coming into the season, that you felt if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando. They’€™re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland. I wanted our guys to have focus on that.’€

Captain Paul Pierce remembers the feeling of walking off the court on that Sunday night in early May last year when the Magic stunned the defending champion Celtics in Game 7 at the Garden in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

‘€œYou’€™re talking about pretty much two different teams,” Pierce said Saturday. “Obviously, what Jameer [Nelson] means to that team from not having him a year ago and Vince Carter and us adding KG to the starting lineup in this series and bringing in Rasheed [Wallace]. Definitely, two different teams for the most part. A lot of core guys are still there. It should be an interesting matchup.’€

Pierce said this a great chance for the men in green.

‘€œIt feels good,” Pierce said. “You get an opportunity to play against the Orlando Magic at their full strength and us at our full strength, so you have the two best teams in the Eastern Conference at full strength going at it to see who’€™s going to the championship. They’€™ve been playing very well, if not the best of everybody in basketball the last month. We’€™ve got our work cut out for us.

‘€œWhen you got into the off-season and don’€™t win the championship, you use things like that for motivation. That was one of my motivations, just the way we went out, especially on our home court really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, if we can get this series win, it can erase some of that.’€

Ray Allen was another veteran stung by last year’s exit in Boston.

‘€œThis is a great opportunity, coming back and knowing they put us out last year,” Allen said. “I think there are two different scenarios now. It’€™s two different teams but we know where our history lies and where we want to go and they’€™re a team in our way.’€

Allen will be one of those with the responsibility of trying to match up with Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus and helping to take away weapons from point guard Jameer Nelson.

‘€œThey’€™ve built their team around having strong point guard play, somebody who can penetrate the ball and Dwight being so powerful inside,” Allen said. “So, we have to each guard a man-and-a-half. We have to guard our man and then help when they do pass because they try to build us out against our defense.

‘€œObviously, we take player tendencies into account but I think the first game is going to dictate how the second game is going to go and each game is going to be different from the previous one and so forth.’€

Whatever the match-ups, Rivers has prepared his team to be ready for a Magic team that is as versatile as they come in the NBA. If they’re not ready, they have no one to blame but themselves.

‘€œHopefully, our antennas are up, if they’€™re no we’€™re going to struggle,” Rivers said. “It’€™s no secret what they do, they use Howard as a great post guy and try to suck in everybody. Jameer Nelson tries to crack you off the dribble and then go draw and kick and look for threes. That’€™s what they do.’€

‘€œWe have a go-to guy in Kevin [Garnett] that we’€™re going to go to. And they have their team leader back. He’€™s their team leader in a lot of ways. I think they get a lot of their toughness from him. He makes big shots for them. I think it’€™s two different teams anyway, especially them. They’€™ve changed their personnel completely.’€

Read More: Celtics, Magic, NBA playoffs, Paul Pierce
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