BOSTON ‘ It has been nearly a year since the Magic faced a healthy Celtics squad. On Friday they proved they can beat the Celtics with or without Kevin Garnett.
‘It’s very important especially when they are full strength to show you that we’re still a good team,’ Rashard Lewis told WEEI.com after the Magic’s 83-78 victory (Recap). ‘You know they’re a great team. This is only one game, it’s early in the season and I definitely would not count them out at all. Every time we play the Boston Celtics it’s going to be a tough, tough game.’
The Celtics were 0-2 last regular season against the Magic without Garnett and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Magic without him. But the truth is, the Magic have held their own against the Celtics in recent years. They improved to 5-3 against the Cs since the 2007-08 regular season.
‘I think the biggest thing playing their team is not allowing them to get a lot of second chance points, hold them to one shot, and then run,’ said Dwight Howard.
The Celtics actually outshot the Magic 87-to-70 from the floor, but the Magic shot 10-for-22 from three-point range while Celtics were a mere 2-for-19. Vince Carter attempted 29 field goals — ‘All of them weren’t open, I’ll be the first to tell you that,’ he said with a laugh — the same number as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined. Stifling the Celtics offense was a must-do for the Magic.
‘You’ve got to play defense,’ said Lewis. ‘I think every time we play this team we really buckle down on the defensive end and we try to take their main guys out ‘ Ray Allen at the three-point line, and we try to crowd Paul Pierce and make other guys beat us. Tonight I think we did a good job of that.’
The Celtics lost their lead just three minutes into the first quarter, and the Magic held off a 17-12 fourth quarter run after Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece. Lewis said his team regained their composure after coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and buckled down, realizing how easily the Celtics can fight back from a double-digit deficit. The Magic diminished the Celtics homecourt advantage and held on in the TD Garden’s playoff atmosphere.
‘We’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,’ said Jason Williams. ‘I mean, we feel that we’re just as good as anybody else. So if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win more times than not.’
On Friday night, like they have so many times in recent games against the Celtics, the Magic came out on top. Neither team can read too much into this victory, though. While the Magic know how to beat the Celtics, but they also know either team is capable of winning at any time.
‘I don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,’ said Lewis. ‘Tonight the ball kind of bounced our way and towards the end of the game we were able to get away. It’s not like we blew them out. We won by like four points so it could have easily gone the other way.’
BOSTON ‘ It took less than three minutes for the Celtics to lose control over the Magic on Friday night. After going up 6-5 with 9:43 left in the first quarter, the Celtics never regained the lead in their 83-78 loss.
Turning Point of the Game: Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece late in the fourth quarter but that was as close as the Celtics would get. Carter drained a jumper to push the lead back up to two and the Magic held on to the game at the line.
-Wallace shot 0-for-8 from three-point range. The Celtics as a team shot 2-for-19. The Magic on the other hand shot 10-for-22.
- Dwight Howard averaged 16.8 points, 15.5 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks against the Celtics last season. Tonight he posted 9 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks. His 15 boards were the most the Celtics allowed to one player all season.
- The first half was a tale of two quarters. The Celtics scored season-low 13 points in first quarter. Their previous low was 18 points against the Nets. They gave up a season high-tying 29 points to the Magic, which they also gave up to the Suns. In the second quarter the Celtics outscored the Magic 27-14, one point shy of their season high (28 points against Jazz).
- With this loss the Celtics fell to 1-3 on Fridays, their worst daily record.
“I’m going to be be more constructive,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not Little Mary Sunshine, but I’m going to work on being less negative. Be more constructive.”
Van Gundy is one the league’s most direct coaches in his dealings with the media, and also one of the most sarcastic. Not surprisingly, that has rubbed some of his players the wrong way over the years. Van Gundy said he would try to work on it after a meeting with star center, Dwight Howard, but he did want to clear up what he said was a misconception about the nature of the sit-down.
“Dwight didn’t come to me about anything,” Van Gundy said. “I went to Dwight and said, ‘What’s going on?’ Why are we not playing with enthusiasm?”
Van Gundy went on to say that Howard mentioned a few things (expectations, injuries) before getting around to Van Gundy being too negative in his assessment of the team.
“It’s not as big a deal as it’s been reported,” Van Gundy said. “I thought it was done in a positive way.”
Van Gundy and Howard had a public disagreement after Game 2 of the Celtics-Magic series last season when Howard campaigned for more touches.
Howard said everything was copacetic between the team and the coach. “I just told him that we need to see more positive than negative.”
Asked for his reaction, Doc Rivers said, “His coaching style is just fine, honestly.” A few minutes before Rasheed Wallace came by and good-naturedly yelled that he and the group of reporters huddled around him were a fire hazard, which prompted Rivers to add, “On this team it’s the opposite. I go to Rasheed and say, ‘Can you be calmer?’”
BOSTON — Even though Rajon Rondo enters Friday’s game shooting a mere 25 percent from the free throw line, the Magic are not going to give him extra trips to the charity stripe. Just because free throws have been a weakness for Rondo this season that doesn’t mean the same is true for his teammates.
‘With their team you don’t want to foul unnecessarily,’ said Anthony Johnson. ‘Even though maybe he’s not shooting well, Paul Pierce, KG, all the other guys, they’re going to draw fouls.’
In spite of Rondo’s struggle (4-16 FG), the Celtics are still in the middle of the pack around the league. Ray Allen is ranked eighth in the NBA (89.3%) while Shelden Williams and Pierce are both shooting better than 80 percent.
‘If you waste your fouls on Rondo, it’s going to help them as a team get into the bonus and it’s going to give those guys free points,’ Johnson said. ‘So as much as possible we want to keep them off the line, including him, and try to make them make tough shots over the top of us.’
The Magic have a lot more to worry about with Rondo than just free throws. They are without starting point guard Jameer Nelson (knee) and will depend on veterans Johnson and Jason Williams to contain Rondo.
“He’s a guy that plays with a lot of energy offensively and defensively so you’ve got to always keep him in front of you, don’t allow him to really dictate the tempo with his ball pressure and just putting pressure on our defense getting into the paint,” said Johnson. “So we’re going to have to keep him in front of us and not let him orchestrate and make all the big plays.”
Don’t let Superman take off.
“Step on his launch pad,” Wallace said of his strategy. “He’s a big fella, he can jump. If you step on his launch pad before he can take off and make it a hard shot for him, it’s a 50-50 chance. He going to come with the hook and little jumper, just take that 50-50 chance.”
But just because he wants to make life miserable on Howard’s big feet, don’t get the impression he doesn’t try and help Howard when the two aren’t combatants in the low post.
Wallace actually gives Howard advice on how to become even more of a force than he is now.
“He doesn’t try to brush me off,” Wallace said. “He listens. That’s coming from him being raised well by his mom and dad. I don’t think he’s arroagant. He’s still trying to learn. I think he’s just tipping the iceberg because all we’re seeing right now is him dunking and catching the alley-oops. If he decides to go into the gym and get that little 12-to-15 footer down and they establish a good pick-and-roll with the three guys they’ve got, him and Jameer or him and Rashard, I think they’ll be pretty good.” (more…)