|05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.
Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.
The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.
RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:
THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).
Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.
DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR
Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:
This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.
|05.22.10 at 10:30 pm ET|
A look at the first half of the Celtics‘ domination over the Magic in Game 3 …
Three things that the Celtics did well
Making (nearly) every possession count on both sides of the floor
From the time Paul Pierce hit a contested jumper on the opening possession, it was evident. The Celtics were not going to sit back and allow the Magic steal a game at the TD Garden. They attacked when they could attack, hit the open three when it was there, passed it to the open man effectively. In total, The C’s shot an astounding 51.2% in the first half. At the other end, the Magic rarely took a shot that wasn’t contested in some form. The C’s held Dwight Howard in particular to just 2-for-7 from the field, and the Magic as a team hit only 23.5% of their shots in the first quarter before raising that to 38.7%, still a low number by most standards.
Rondo being Rondo
Rondo’s 10 points, five assists and one rebound don’t immediately leap off the page like some of his previous stat lines, but it was the highlight reel that he alone created that this first half will be remembered for. His rebound and consequent head fake of Marcin Gortat and easy layup excited the crowd. The hustle and scrap he showed by diving to grab a ball at the feet of Jason Williams in the second quarter proved again why the Celtics are well on their way to a 3-0 lead in this series. The Celtics have Rajon Rondo. The Magic don’t.
Big Baby’s off the bench
Glen Davis has performed admirably in these playoffs, but he’s only hit double-digits in points twice before tonight. He already has 10 points in just 11 minutes and has been an absolute spark off the bench. His acrobatic layup with the foul and the little diddy he did afterwards gave the team a jump in the second quarter. Then, the C’s defense barely skipped a beat when he took over for Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett in the post coverage of Dwight Howard.
Three things that the Celtics did not do well
Sitting on leads
After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead, the Celtics appeared to sit back just a little, and before anyone knew it, it was a one-point game again at 7-6. Later, the Magic turned a 43-19 C’s lead into a 43-27 lead in the second quarter. Although the Celtics undoubtedly outperformed the Magic in the first, they can’t allow the Magic to keep pecking away for fear that perhaps the dam will break as it nearly did in Game 1.
Too often trying to make the ‘big’ play
When you have a 20-point lead in the first half, it’s easy for any team to start trying to show off, especially at home. That happened to the Celtics at points in the first half. They tried to blow the roof off the Garden with showboat plays that lead to turnovers. They can’t allow that to happen in the second half or those turnovers could turn costly quickly.
Letdown once Rondo and other starters left floor
As good as Davis and his fellow bench players were, there was a slight letdown in the C’s play once they hit the floor. The C’s actually allowed one more point than they scored when Davis was on the floor. Tony Allen had a much more difficult time covering Jameer Nelson than Rondo did. The bench players need to maintain the intensity of the starters when they’re on the floor if the Celtics are going to put the Magic to bed in the second half.
|05.22.10 at 10:04 pm ET|
How good things were going for Doc Rivers on Saturday?
His team was up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic. His 24-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo is playing his best basketball of the season. His team raced out to a 24-point lead in Game 3 and making the Orlando Magic look silly.
But what makes him most proud – as it would any father – is what his youngest son has accomplished.
Austin Rivers stands 6’3″, plays shooting guard for Winter Park High School and just led his team to its first state title in school history.
“That was awesome. That was one of the better experiences I’ve had as a parent, as a fan,” Rivers beamed when asked about his son before the game.
“Watching your kid win a state title when the school had never won in their history, it was an amazing feeling. I don’t know if you can get that feeling unless your kids do something like that. It was special.”
How good is his son?
“I can’t say how good he is because he’s my son,” Rivers said. “For me, I don’t know. I saw him at least 11 times. I got home a lot, games just worked out. They actually played a game here in Springfield, Mass., which was great for me because I got to see that, as well. I got home to see him a lot and that was great to do.”
Austin Rivers is considered a top 10 basketball prospect in the class of 2011.
Helping his son get into a basketball school would not, of course, be new territory for the Celtics coach. His oldest son Jeremiah played basketball for Georgetown before transferring to Indiana University, while his daughter Callie plays volleyball for the University of Florida, where she dates Patriots draft pick and linebacker Brandon Spikes.
|05.22.10 at 8:16 pm ET|
‘We’re not done,’ he told WEEI.com prior to Game 3.
Howard was loose and said the team is not getting down about their deficit, noting, ‘We feel like a million bucks. It’s a new day.’
The Magic have used the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 to mentally refocus. They have watched game tape and honed in on getting back to the fundamentals of Magic basketball.
Rashard Lewis noted they are zoned in on improving their ball movement and getting into an offensive rhythm early, something he said they have not done yet in this series.
“Boston was in a better rhythm than us playing, and hopefully they won’t be tonight,” Lewis told WEEI.com, adding, “We’ve got to come in with a lot of energy and a lot of effort in order to beat this team.”
|05.22.10 at 7:43 pm ET|
Brian Scalabrine took his place on the active roster but didn’t play. It was the first time in the playoffs that the Celtics had a lineup shift. Williams last saw action in Game 5 of the Cleveland series, but it is possible the Celtics could need him if any of their big men get in foul trouble.
|05.21.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has told his team time and time again about ‘Old School’ NBA, especially as it relates to the playoffs.
But Saturday night, when his team takes to the floor against the desperate Orlando Magic, he doesn’t want his team to get caught up in what is likely to be a physical game with Dwight Howard and the Magic. He also doesn’t want his team to get pushed around either as the Magic try to come in and physically prove to the Celtics they haven’t checked out of the Eastern Conference finals, despite losing the first two games on home court.
“They should be feisty and we should be, too,” Rivers said following a high-spirited Friday practice, their final before Game 3. ” It’s the playoffs. It’s Game 3 and we’re trying to defend our home turf, now and they’re trying to take it away. There’s every reason it should be feisty and it will be and we should be feisty, too.
“Obviously, you want to always keep your head but that doesn’t mean to back down. That means you want to play with composure, play with intensity and you’ve got to play hard.”
Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins agreed with Rivers, saying they are expecting a ‘feisty’ Orlando Magic team for Game 3 Saturday night at TD Garden. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference finals 2-0 and can take an overwhelming 3-0 lead with a win, a deficit no team has ever overcome in NBA playoff history.
“It could get feisty in there. You have to expect it,” said Pierce, who was still bearing a pair of scratch marks on his forehead above his left eye after being decked by Dwight Howard in the second quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“Doc always say the bigger man walks away,” added big man Kendrick Perkins, who will once again be assigned to Howard. “You just have to go out there and play, play Celtics basketball.”
|05.21.10 at 5:44 pm ET|
According to a report by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau is a finalist for the head coaching vacancy with the New Orleans Hornets. Avery Johnson was thought to be the leading contender for the job, but he made noise about having control over personnel as well and New Orleans has reportedly no interest in that proposition.
Wojnarowski identifies Portland assistant Monty Williams as the other leading candidate, but leaves open the possibility of other assistants or former coaches such as Mike Fratello and Lawrence Frank emerging.
The Hornets job has obvious benefits; namely coaching Chris Paul, and for a defensive-minded coach like Thibodeau, the possibility of bringing out Emeka Okafor’s game. But it also has drawbacks.
The team is currently in the process of being sold from George Shinn to Gary Chouest and the Hornets have failed to make much of an impact the Crescent City since moving from Charlotte. Additionally, they are also backloaded with bad contracts for players like Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic and James Posey. They do have some talent in Paul, David West and young players like Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
Thibodeau has been in the running for head jobs in the past, but he may never be hotter than right now as his defense has knocked out Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and is halfway toward eliminating Dwight Howard. That’s three of the five players on the All-NBA team and his work has not gone unrecognized.
“He’s terrific,” Doc Rivers said during the Cleveland series. “He’s the best defensive coach, I think, in the league. I don’t know if there’s a better one and our guys buy into it. I think that’s very important. If they don’t buy into what you’re doing, it’s not going to work. We have a group of guys who are willing to buy in to what we want them to do to what Thibs wants them to do, and that’s why it works.”
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