|For Celtics, there was much ado about Hedo||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.”
Turkolgu also matched up well against Pierce on defense. In the first three contests of this series, Pierce is averaging nearly 22 points per game against the struggling defensive efforts of Carter and Matt Barnes. Last season he averaged just under 19 points per game in the conference semifinals, but Rivers says Pierce was disappointed by his performance.
“I just think Paul’s in a good groove,” Rivers said. “I think he didn’t like the way he played last year and I think Paul has a good memory. I really believe that. I think he realized he didn’t play well against Orlando last year and we still took them to seven. And I think that bothered him. That’s good.”
But even though Pierce acknowledges how the departure of Turkoglu has impacted the Magic, he does not attribute his offensive success to his absence. Instead, he points to Rajon Rondo’s distribution of the ball, playing team basketball, and the overall increase in effort.
While he remembers the way Turkoglu and the Magic sent the Celtics home early last season, he isn’t dwelling on it.
“You think about it,” Pierce said. “You never want to leave the court with a loss when your goal is to win a championship. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But I also let the past be the past. I’m motivated by winning a championship, not by what’s happened last year.”
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