|05.18.10 at 11:53 pm ET|
The Celtics knew the Magic would come out fighting in Game 2 after they were dealt a blow on their own court in Game 1, and the Magic proved them right on Tuesday night. In spite of owning an eight-point lead after three quarters, Boston let the Magic back into the game in the fourth and nearly watched a win slip away. But a key bucket by Rajon Rondo and some big free throws by Paul Pierce gave the Celtics a 95-92 win (click here for the full recap) and a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
Three things that went right
Celtics found Pierce early — and often: Paul Pierce scored 22 in Game 1, and matched that by halftime in Game 2. After being guarded by a scrappy Quentin Richardson and defensive-savvy LeBron James in previous rounds, Pierce took advantage of his matchup against a more offensive-minded Vince Carter. He was nearly perfect in the first quarter, going 4-for-5 from the floor, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 at the line for 12 points in just eight minutes. He followed it up with another 10 points in the second quarter despite being knocked to the ground by Dwight Howard on a flagrant foul. Pierce finished the night with a team-high 28 points (8-for-16 from the field), thanks in part to his ability to draw fouls (9-for-11 at the stripe).
Rondo had his way: Rajon Rondo was oblivious to the big bodies being thrown at him in the paint. He attacked the hoop as if the lane were empty to burn the Magic at the basket. Rondo scored 25 points (10-for-16 from the field and 5-for-6 at the line), including a critical jumper to give the Celtics a 93-90 lead with 1:32 to go. In addition to his offensive contribution, Rondo ran the floor with eight assists, two steals, and just two turnovers. He outplayed Jameer Nelson, who finished the game with nine points (on 4-of-12 shooting) and just four assists.
Celtics go home with the edge: The Celtics return to Boston just two games away from eliminating the Magic and heading to the NBA Finals. While the Magic have shown they can fight back late, they have been unable to do so on their own court. If they can’t build an early lead against the Celtics in Games 3 and 4, they will be forced to overcome a late deficit in front of the Garden crowd.
Three things that went wrong
Magic owned the fourth quarter ‘¦ again: The Magic overcame a late-game deficit during the regular season against Boston, and nearly pulled off the feat in Game 1. Their determination did not change in Game 2. The Celtics led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but the final 12 minutes became prime time again for the Magic. They depleted the Celtics edge and regained the lead, 90-89, with 3:35 left in the game. The Celtics were forced to start from scratch and rebuild an advantage with minutes to go. They caught a break when Vince Carter missed a pair of free throws that could have brought the Magic within one with 30 seconds left, but they cannot rely on that moving forward. Even though they pulled out the win, they were outscored 22-17 in the fourth quarter. This is the second game in which they have fumbled a late edge (they were outscored 30-18 in the fourth in Game 1) and must play 48 minutes of basketball moving forward to avoid another surge by the Magic.
Foul trouble remains a problem: The Celtics struggled with foul trouble early on, just as they have been for most of the postseason. Kendrick Perkins and Paul Pierce were whistled for two personals in the first quarter. By halftime, Perkins and Glen Davis had three fouls while Pierce, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace had two apiece. (This was not lopsided, though. The Magic were called for one more foul in the first half.) Fast forward to the fourth quarter, where first it was Kendrick Perkins, then Paul Pierce who fouled out. Rasheed Wallace sidelined by five fouls of his own, Glen Davis was forced to be the big man in the middle. Even though Dwight Howard didn’t take advantage of size over Davis, the Celtics were vulnerable in the paint. The absence of Pierce also posed a potential detriment to the C’s, as they were without one of their most clutch shooters late in a close game.
Dwight did damage: Dwight Howard more than doubled his Game 1 performance with a game-high 30 points on Tuesday night. Howard shot an efficient 9-for-13 from the floor and 12-for-17 from the free throw line. Foul troubles prevented Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace from staying on the court as long as the Celtics would have liked to defend Howard. (On a positive note for the Celtics, they limited Howard to just eight rebounds.)
|05.18.10 at 8:32 pm ET|
The Washington Wizards won the NBA Lottery on Tuesday night in Secaucus, New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets had 250 of the 1000 chances or a 25 percent chance of gaining the first overall pick for the NBA Draft in late June. John Wall of Kentucky and Evan Turner of Ohio State are considered two of the likely choices to go first overall to the Wizards. The Nets actually finished third behind Washington and No. 2 Philadelphia.
“I have no idea,” Wizards general manager Ted Leonsis said when asked on ESPN whether he would take Wall with the No. 1 overall pick.
Irene Polin, the widow of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, represented the franchise and wore the world championship ring of her late husband when the franchise won its first and only title as the Washington Bullets in 1978.
|05.18.10 at 7:55 pm ET|
ORLANDO — It has been suggested that the Celtics should be thrilled to go back to Boston with a split, which they have already earned with their Game 1 victory. That’s not their mindset, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that Doc Rivers isn’t aware of the possibility.
“You can talk about it, but you don’t know until the game starts,” Rivers said prior to Game 2. “You’ll know early, at least I will. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to get them out of it during the game, if possible. But it something that is always on your mind of you win a game or a couple of games because it is human nature. That’s something we all fight.”
The Celtics haven’t always handled prosperity well this season. They have won four straight games in the playoffs and they only had two such streaks since mid-December. But this is obviously a whole new set of circumstances.
|05.18.10 at 7:37 pm ET|
ORLANDO —Dwight Howard finished second in the MVP voting and was voted to the NBA’s First Team. He is a monster defender, as evidenced by his Defensive Player of the Year award.
But sometimes Howard can’t win, because too often in this game players get judged by their offensive numbers, and by any measure his were sub-par in Game 1. He scored 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting and turned it over seven times, which is a direct reflection on the Celtics defense.
Howard’s been getting some heat for his play, with some suggesting that he needs to score 30 points in Game 2 to justify his standing among the league’s elite. Stan Van Gundy, for one, disagrees.
“No, and here’s one of the problems,” Van Gundy said. “I think that it is a tough thing and you have to be a very strong person today if you are one of the best players. Whether it’s Dwight Howard or LeBron James because they will tear you apart in the media and say, ‘You need to do this, this and this to prove to us,’ and that may not be what your team needs you to do to win the game. Are you about your reputation at siliencing your critics, or are you about doing what you need to do to help your team win?”
Still, Kendrick Perkins is aware of the scrutiny, and what it might mean for him.
“It’s scary in a way,” Perkins said. “If he comes out and tries to do too much and is on point, it’s scary. Everybody goes through this at one point. I don’t think he played a bad game in my opinion. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do defensively. What happens is, y’all gas the man up and get him mad. Then I come out and I got my hands full.”
Van Gundy noted that part of the burden lies with him and the rest of the Magic. While he didn’t say it, look for Orlando to try and get Howard moving toward the basket on the pick and roll to make Perkins try and keep up with him. But if Howard has another game like he did in the opener, the criticism will surely follow.
“He’s going to be have to just be able to deal with the criticism, as unfair as it is right now,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a great player. We wouldn’t be anywhere near the level that we have been without him. For whatever reason, no matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t matter that the Boston Celtics turned things around with their defense in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how many times people say that defense wins. The bottom line is the media won’t stop judging guys on their offense.”
If nothing else, Perkins can empathize with Howard.
“Dwight’s a good dude,” he said. “He’s got to focus on what he’s supposed to be doing. He can’t worry about what other people say.”
He’s got enough to worry about with Perkins, and maybe vice-versa tonight.
|05.18.10 at 11:45 am ET|
ORLANDO — Whenever he is asked about the toughest players to cover in the NBA, Kevin Garnett always pays respect to Rashard Lewis. At 6-foot-10, Lewis is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, but he also can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.
Lewis shot 2-for-10 in Game 1 and scored just six points, a far cry from last season’s playoff matchup when the Celtics couldn’t come up with an effective counter without Garnett in the lineup.
“KG was phenomenal,” Doc Rivers said. “Not only with Rashard, but with help and recovering. We’re asking him to recover from pick and roll angle to 3. Usually you recover from pick and roll to roll where you’re running under the basket. That’s the complete opposite direction. For him to train his mind to do that is really tough to do. With Rashard, you show [on the pick and roll] and you have to sprint the opposite direction. Eighty games of going that way and now you’re going this way, mentally that is really difficult. You can even see it in practice where he shows and takes a step this way, with Rashard if you take that one, you’re not getting back in time. He did a great job in Game 1.”
Garnett’s offense did not come as readily. He shot 4-for-14 and found himself out on the perimeter. Credit the Magic defense with making it difficult for him to get the ball in the post.
“They double team without the ball,” Rivers said. “You don’t see that very often. With [Kendrick Perkins] in there or [Rajon] Rondo, they use their guy to front and back Kevin so you can’t get it to him. We have to get it to him on movement plays. Once we get it to him I feel very confident.”
|05.18.10 at 11:29 am ET|
ORLANDO — The Magic took 22 3-pointers in Game 1 and made just five of them. Part of that was the active Celtics defense and part of that was just Orlando missing makeable shots.
“They’re going to play harder, they’re going to play with more energy and they’re going to be better,” Doc Rivers said Tuesday before the team’s shootaround. “They’ll shoot the ball better. What we’ve focused on in the last 48 hours is showing all the open shots that they did have. They were rushed but they were open and we can’t allow those. They did a lot of good things. Some of it was their doing and some of it was us and we have to get away from what we allowed.”
One of the keys to defending the Magic is taking away the corner 3-pointer, which is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, and they makes good use of the shot, averaging almost eight attempts per game. Orlando shoots 41 percent from the left corner and 43 percent from the right corner (hat tip to Celtics Hub, which has a nice breakdown).
“For them it’s huge,” Rivers said. “For the league, that’s our spot. We have the ‘No corner 3’ rule. We’ve had it for about five years. It’s true. It’s the shortest shot for the 3-pointer and it’s the one that they take the most.”
|05.18.10 at 11:06 am ET|
ORLANDO — An unsourced rumor on the AOL FanHouse website Monday night linked Doc Rivers and LeBron James to the Chicago Bulls as part of a package deal. Rivers denied it Tuesday morning as the team went through a shootaround in preparation for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard it, but no,” Rivers told WEEI.com. “That’s silly.”
Rivers is a Chicago native, and the Bulls do have a head coaching vacancy after they fired Vinny Del Negro. But Rivers has a year left on his contract with the Celtics and he has maintained that he will either be with the Celtics or he will spend the year in Orlando, where his family has a home.
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