|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.’
|05.23.10 at 3:41 pm ET|
‘I believe we deserve all the credit,’ Ray Allen said following practice on Sunday. ‘It’s only two teams playing. We’re putting them in the situation that they’re in, and we’re adjusting and trying to find the ways that we can confuse them as much as we can, and make it tough defensively on them and offensively. They’re not going out there and doing it to themselves.’
Following their Game 3 loss, the Magic conceded they have been outhustled and outplayed the entire series. Players were baffled by their collapse, saying they have not seen the real Magic team yet. Others said they are beating themselves.
But the Celtics are not paying attention to the downtrodden morale of their opponent.
‘None of my concern,’ said Kevin Garnett. ‘That’s them. That’s how they think. Nothing more, nothing less than that. I can’t really be worried with what they’re thinking over there and how they’re playing or what’s going through their head.’
The Celtics have made it this far by staying honed in on each other the entire postseason. Some questioned whether or not they would even survive the first round, let alone make it to the NBA Finals. Now that they are just 48 minutes away from advancing, they are focused on the confidence they have in one another, not the uncertainty felt by the Magic.
‘I didn’t have any doubts in this team,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘I never doubted us because I felt once we got to the playoffs, guys would be able to settle in a little more, travel wouldn’t be as much, we could really focus in on the team, and really do our scouting report. And I think just looking at a seven-game series, I always thought it’d be tough to beat us four times.’
The Heat and Cavaliers have already found out just how tough it is. The Celtics hope to teach the Magic the same lesson on Monday night.
|05.23.10 at 12:09 pm ET|
As we all know by now, the Celtics have become a different team than the one they were in the regular season and the numbers bare that out.
Fair warning: This post uses non-traditional metrics to look for statistical trends. They are taken straight from the Celtics page on basketballreference.com and are by no means the end all and be all of analysis. As the guru of advanced basketball stats Dean Oliver once told me, numbers are useless if they don’t help tell a story, so we’ll use these to help paint a picture of how the Celtics have turned things around.
The important thing to remember is that these stats are adjusted for pace (possessions used during a game), which simply allows us to compare the numbers found in the box score to other players on other teams, regardless of how fast or slow they play. If you’re interested in understanding more, B-R has a very useful glossary page.
As you might expect, some interesting trends have developed with the Celtics over the course of 14 playoff games: Read the rest of this entry »
|05.23.10 at 1:08 am ET|
Even the most optimistic Celtics fan that thought the Green could take Game 3 and go up, 3-0, didn’t expect what happened Saturday night.
The Celtics blew out the Magic, 94-71, in a game not that close to come within one win of a return trip to the NBA Finals.
But dance Big Baby did when he connected on a lay-up with eight minutes to go in the second quarter and stomped around the baseline as he was also fouled in the process. He might as well have been stomping on the heart and soul of the listless Magic.
“It’s not surprising as far as how well we are playing because we know we are capable of doing that,” Davis said. “We are capable of putting together some good games, its just our turn, I think this year we have had some ups and downs, didn’t close out games like we were supposed to, didn’t finish games like we were supposed to. Now it’s just turning around for us, we are staying focused and we are making sure we are doing our job, everybody has a job and everyone is doing their job, we are just making sure that we do our job.’
For the record, Davis drilled the free throw as well, giving Boston its first 20-point lead of the game at 39-19.
Davis not only finished with 17 points but six rebounds in 27 minutes off the Celtics bench.
‘I think the thing that I figured out being a young player, being on a team that is so loaded, you have to find your role and play your role to the max,” Davis said. “I just bought into what Doc was saying, bought into what the team was saying, and just making sure that I am there for my teammates. That’s all that is.
‘My role is just being an energy guy, making sure that I play defense, get rebounds, Doc lets me offensively do what I want to do, hit the open jump shot, play in the post, he lets me do that. But at the same time he makes me still remember my role and what I am capable of doing. I am capable of setting a great pick, you realize if you set a great pick, you are going to be open because your man is going to guard the man that you are guarding and that’s your shot. So just playing to my role, doing what I need to do and realizing what I am capable of doing.’
Davis, sounding confident if not cocky, also said he’s been able to find his rhythm the last three years in the playoffs.
‘It’s just the rising of the occasion, that’s all it is,” he added. “I just love to play, you realize when I get my opportunity to play, I play. That’s all I do, is just play the games, and big games are my specialty for some reason.’
Davis said the Celtics will not let the Game 3 blowout affect their approach in Game 4, with fans already chanting ‘Beat LA, Beat LA.’ But as Bruins fans will tell you, it takes four wins to close out a series. And Davis is more than aware of this.
“I understand the fans with the ‘Beat LA,'” said Davis. “We have one more game to win and this team is highly capable of winning three in a row, we have been playing great but at the same time we need to realize it is not finished until we win the next game.
“Just staying focused in our game plan, making sure we do what we have to do to win the ballgame. We know what it takes to win, we’ve seen it, and we’ve done it. Now we just have to keep on doing it, consistency, and that’s what we are doing, just trying to play at a high level of consistency throughout the whole year. It wasn’t working like that at first, we have ups and downs, come out third quarter not playing well, but we are putting it together at the right time at the right moment and that’s what its all about.’
And winning four games to win a series is all the Celtics care about on Monday night.
|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.
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