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Celtics have room for improvement 05.17.10 at 1:28 pm ET
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ORLANDO — The important thing is that they got the win, but the Celtics know that if they are going to head home with two games in their back pocket that they have work to do. First and foremost, is cleaning up on the boards.

The Celtics allowed 15 offensive rebounds in Game 1 against the Magic and they know that can’t continue.

“That’€™s real disturbing,” Paul Pierce said. “That’€™s something we gave up mostly in the second half.”

Pierce is sort of right on that count — the Celtics allowed eight of the 15 in the second half — but the problem became more noticeable in the fourth quarter when the Magic made their run. As is often the case, a decent number of the Magic’s second-chance points came off dribble penetration and freelancing from their defensive system.

“It wasn’€™t their bigs in some places, it was their guards,” Doc Rivers said. “[Matt] Barnes hurt us a couple of times. We double teamed three times and they scored all three times where we were not supposed to double team, and then the dribble penetration. [J.J.] Redick killed us off the dribble.”

By Rivers count the Celtics double-teamed on three occasions, and they got burned each time.

“It’€™s instinct,” Rivers said. “We had a horrible one, where we doubled Dwight [Howard]. Dwight was five feet off the block and we went and doubled him and Jason Williams was standing by himself behind the 3. That’€™s just an instinct and we do allow that, but we have to be smarter against this team. They kill you when you double them. If you double team this team they’€™ll hurt you.”

The Celtics also want to figure out their pick and roll coverage. Jameer Nelson burned them in the second half when they went under the screen. He’s too good a shooter to allow him open looks.

“We’€™ve got to figure out a way to stop Jameer Nelson in the pick and roll,” Pierce said. “He really got hot in the second half. We’€™re far from being where we want to be.”

Read More: Celtics, Jameer Nelson, Magic, Paul Pierce
Perkins is a fifth wheel no longer 05.17.10 at 1:15 pm ET
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ORLANDO — When you think of the Celtics, you think of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce willingly sharing the collective glory. Or maybe you think about Rajon Rondo’s emerging brilliance. Rarely do you think about Kendrick Perkins, the team’s defensive anchor in the paint.

That’s cool with Perk, whose perpetual scowl masks an open and honest individual who doesn’t really mind whether he gets the credit or not.

“Nope,” he said Monday before the team practiced. “I actually like it. It’€™s cool to have it, but I’€™m really beyond it. I just do my work. Danny [Ainge] told me something a long time ago. As long as your teammates are fans of yours and the coaches are fans of yours and the organization is fans of yours then you don’€™t need no any other fans.”

The Celtics certainly appreciate his work.

“Every night with Perk, he’€™s the tackling dummy.,” Doc Rivers said. “He’€™s getting hit, he’€™s getting punched. He’€™s getting knocked down and all he’€™s getting is picked up off the floor. But he does it. He doesn’€™t mind doing it. It’€™s just as important as a jump shot. Shooters get all the glory. He’€™s an offensive lineman.”

That changes a little bit in this series as he is matched up against Dwight Howard. This is where Perkins has made his reputation as a post defender, by not giving an inch against the NBA’s most intimidating physical specimen.

“You can’€™t come into the game like, ‘Oh, I’€™m playing Dwight, I’€™m playing Superman,’ ” Perkins said. “You have to come into the game willing to get dirty. I put my nose into the fight. That’€™s what it is.”

While Howard had his way with the Bobcats and Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Perkins was going toe-to-toe with Shaquille O’Neal, and he’s got the bruises to show for it.

“It’€™s about the same.,” Perkins said of the physical challenge. “Shaq’€™s big and strong. Dwight’€™s big and strong. Dwight’€™s quicker and more athletic so it’€™s a different challenge. You can get hurt against either one of them. I feel it though. Everywhere. You better believe that.”

Perkins goal with Howard is rather simple. Limit his catches deep in the post and try to push him further away from the basket. If the end result is a missed shot, it means that he’s done his work before the ball even got there.

“You try to limit his dunks,” Perkins said. “Any time he has a chance to get a dunk you want to wrap him up and send him to the foul line. When he gets a dunk he gets going. He can make a jump hook, he doesn’€™t really feel that. He gets his energy off of getting dunks.”

And it doesn’t help to have Rasheed Wallace behind him either since their styles are so different.

“I play him differently than everybody else,” he said. “Rasheed plays mind games with him. I’€™m just going to be a straight-up physical presence.”

Perkins isn’t doing anything that he doesn’t normally do, right down the scowl, but by staying consistent, he’s getting his due.

Read More: Kendrick Perkins,
Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: Magic’s Carter the key 05.17.10 at 9:32 am ET
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Jeff Van Gundy, who provides analysis for NBA games on ESPN and ABC, joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics‘ victory over the Magic on Sunday in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Van Gundy was asked how the Celtics are able to limit Dwight Howard and the Magic offense while other teams struggle against Orlando. “Different personnel, different intensity and different plan ‘€” I just think it’s that simple,” said Van Gundy, whose brother Stan coaches the Magic. “From a personnel standpoint, they’re big and they’re strong. They stay one-on-one, from a plan standpoint. And the Celtics’ intensity is just at a different level defensively than most teams in this league.”

Howard is the marquee player in this series, but his inability to score on post moves showed he still has a way to go. “He’s improved some offensively, but I just don’t think he’s ever going to be the guy that you can play through and win a championship,” Van Gundy said. “And that’s why Vince Carter, to me, is the most important player in this series. Because if he doesn’t have a big series for Orlando, I don’t think they can win not only the series, I don’t think it will be a competitive series.”

Van Gundy also talked about the Celtics’ win over Cavaliers. “The only thing that shocked me about the Cleveland series was the margin of defeat,” he said. “I was shocked in Cleveland that they were able to win by such big amounts.”

Added Van Gundy: “What impressed me the most was they got absolutely hammered at home in Game 3 against Cleveland. To me, you don’t really know about a team’s chemistry until you withstand losing in a beatdown. And they got beaten down in that game. But instead of pointing the fingers at strategy of coaches or this or that, what you saw in Game 4 was Celtic intensity, Celtic defensive pride, and Rondo’s great game. And then from there, they’ve been off and running again. When you get your character and your chemistry tested like that and you respond, you have the opportunity to win it all.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Dennis & Callahan, Jeff Van Gundy
Fast Break: Celtics-Magic 05.16.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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Final Score: Celtics 92, Magic 88
Series: Celtics 1-0

The Celtics looked to be on cruise control for the first three quarters before their offense went cold and the Magic nearly pulled off a comeback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics held on for a 92-88 victory in Orlando, but the win did not come without uncertainty down the stretch.

It was fitting that a game featuring a pair of First Team All-Defensive Players (Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo) would start off as low-scoring duel. Neither team shot the ball well in the first quarter, combining for just 36 points. The Celtics took a 22-14 lead after shooting 37 percent compared to 20 percent by the Magic.

Ray Allen led all players with 8 points while Pierce added seven in just eight minutes (he was sidelined with two early fouls). Howard led the Magic with six points, although the C’€™s defense forced him to shoot 1-for-5 from the field.

In spite of five boards from Howard, the Celtics had a more balanced attack on the glass. The outrebounded the Magic, 16-10, behind five boards from Kevin Garnett, four from Ray Allen, and three from Rondo.

The Celtics went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second quarter to push the lead up to 15, 29-14. The Magic got back in the game, though, as Marcin Gortat provided a spark off the bench in place of Howard. He got to the basket with ease and scored six points in three minutes. The Magic cut the deficit to 33-24 before Ray Allen and Tony Allen pushed the C’€™s lead back up to 41-32 at halftime.

Jameer Nelson opened the third quarter by knocking down eight points (including two 3-pointers) in less than two minutes. The Magic swapped buckets to keep the game within three points before the Celtics went on a 17-2 run and took a 62-44 lead with just five minutes left in the quarter. Pierce scored 13 points in the third alone while the Celtics outscored the Magic, 33-26, to go up 74-58 after three.

The Celtics watched a 16-point fourth quarter lead dwindle to just five points, 88-83, with 1:30 to go. The Magic were aggressive coming out of the third, going on an 11-5 run to cut the Celtics lead to 10 points. The C’€™s responded with a run of their own to push their edge back into double digits. But the Magic continued to chip away as the quarter went on and took advantage of a Celtics offensive drought.

The C’€™s were scoreless for five-and-a-half minutes in the fourth. During that time, Ray Allen lost the ball on a fast break against Nelson, resulting in a jump ball between Rondo and J.J. Reddick with a minute left. Reddick won the jump and retained possession as the ball went out of bounds off of Garnett at the Magic’€™s basket. Howard made a layup to bring the Magic within three, 88-85, before Pierce drew a foul with 12 seconds remaining and pushed the Celtics lead to five. Carter drew a foul and intentionally missed the second shot, which a racing Nelson laid in with eight seconds left. Ray Allen iced the Celtics win with a pair of free throws as Lewis missed a 3-pointer as time ran out.

Game 1 Notables:

High Scorers:
Celtics –
Ray Allen: 25 points (8-16 FG, 2-5 3PG, 7-7 FT)
Magic –
Vince Carter: 23 points (9-18 FG, 5-6 FT)

Defensive Stoppers:
Celtics –
Kevin Garnett (11 rebounds)
Magic –
Dwight Howard (12 rebounds, 5 blocks)

Point Guard Battle:
Celtics –
Rondo: 8 points (4-10 FG), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers
Magic –
Nelson: 20 points (8-18 FG, 2-7 3PG), 2 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 turnovers

Five reasons why the Celtics won 05.16.10 at 6:23 pm ET
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At first glance at the Celtics’ 92-88, Game 1 win over the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, here are five reasons why the C’s were able to jump out to a 1-0 series lead:

They found their Garnett-Jamison matchup: While the Celtics rode Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison’s inability to guard Kevin Garnett in the last series, the C’s found a similar advantage in the matchup between Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. After having to deal with the physical defense of LeBron James in the series against the Cavs, Pierce clearly knew he was going to try to take advantage of Carter guarding him this time around, starting with a 3-pointer for the Celts’ first points of the game. Carter first tried to play off of Pierce, and then when the veteran guard got up on the C’s star it resulted in drives to the basket Carter couldn’t defend. Ray Allen also took advantage of his pairing with Matt Barnes/Mickael Pietrus, consistently staying aggressive in going to the hoop, especially in the first half.

They made Howard look human: Dwight Howard missed a total of five shots in the entire four-game series with the Hawks, yet missed four in the first half Sunday. Sure, it was an off game for the best center in the NBA, but the most important aspect of the performance was the ability of Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace to man-up on Howard without any help. When Howard did get one-on-one chances on the block he showed little to no ability to make any kind of post move that would make the C’s change their strategy. Orlando actually had much more luck with backup center Marcin Gortat in the game, a matchup that didn’t seem to favor Perkins. (Gortat finished as a plus-9, while Howard finished as a minus-8.)

The Celts were able to focus on Orlando’s 3-point game: The Magic went 0-for-9 from 3-point land in the first half, and it was no accident. With the Celts able to do what no other Magic playoff opponent has managed — defend Howard one-on-one — the Celtics could concentrate on extending their defense to the 3-point line. Orlando was able to free up some 3-point shooters in the second half, but because of it went away from staying aggressive going to the basket.

Rondo played point guard while Nelson played scorer: While it wasn’t Rajon Rondo’s best game, he certainly held his own against one of the key components of the Orlando offense, Jameer Nelson. Perhaps Rondo’s most important contribution was his ability to control the tempo at key times, pushing the ball back at the Magic each time it appeared as though a run by the hosts was on the horizon. Nelson, meanwhile, offered some value in the Magic’s half-court sets, but he wasn’t nearly the pace-setter his counterpart proved to be. Rondo was perhaps a bit too aggressive in the final few minutes — perhaps better served eating up some clock instead of driving — but it didn’t diminish his overall value.

The bench guys did exactly what was needed: Other than a seven-second appearance by Michael Finley, the Celtics subs consisted of Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace. That was it. But for good reason. Each of the trio offered exactly what the Celts had hoped. Allen supplied athleticism on the wing, Davis gave the Celts some much-needed interior offense while guarding Howard on occasion, and Wallace simply injected his own brand of chaos. It was Wallace’s presence that proved perhaps most important, not only chipping in with 13 points (5-for-6 from the floor), but frustrating Howard with his own unique brand of defense.

Halftime Wrap: Celtics-Magic 05.16.10 at 4:49 pm ET
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It is fitting that a game featuring a pair of first team All-Defensive players would be a low-scoring duel.

The Celtics lead the Magic, 41-32, at halftime.

Neither team shot the ball well in the first quarter, combining for just 36 points. The Celtics took a 22-14 lead after shooting 37 percent compared to 20 percent by the Magic. Ray Allen led all players with 8 points while Pierce added seven in just eight minutes (he was sidelined with two early fouls). Dwight Howard led the Magic with six points, although the C’€™s defense forced him to shoot 1-for-5 from the field. In spite of five boards from Howard, the Celtics had a more balanced attack on the glass. The outrebounded the Magic, 16-10, behind five boards from Kevin Garnett, four from Ray Allen, and three from Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second quarter to push the lead up to 15, 29-14. The Magic got back in the game, though, as Marcin Gortat provided a spark off the bench in place of Howard. He got to the basket with ease and scored six points in three minutes. The Magic cut the deficit to 33-24 before Ray Allen and Tony Allen pushed the C’€™s lead back up to 41-32.

Ray Allen leads all players with 12 points at halftime. After shooting 84 percent in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Hawks, Howard is 1-for-5 from the floor. Vince Carter has 10 points for the Magic, who are 0-for-9 from 3-point range. The C’s have a 24-21 advantage on the boards.

Ray Allen on respect: Who cares? 05.16.10 at 3:06 pm ET
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ORLANDO — There’s been a lot of talk about respect lately. The Magic feel like they don’t get any, and the Celtics could claim a gripe in that their win over the Cavaliers has been overshadowed by LeBron-mania.

Ray Allen, like the rest of the Celtics veterans, isn’t worried about it.

“That’s the bottom line, it’s like, who cares?” Allen said before Game 1 of the Conference Finals. ” At the end of the day, you win that fourth game in the Finals and you’re in the back of the building until 4 a.m. that’s when all the talk is in your direction. Again, we have one goal. It’s not for people to talk about us, it’s to be the last team standing.”

Allen is old enough, and mature enough, to also understand that of course LeBron James is going to get the lion’s share of the media attention since his pending free agency has been the talk of the basketball world since he signed his last contract.

“In the NBA it’s probably one of the biggest storylines of the year and will be on into the summer,” Allen said. “We’re still here playing so everyone has to watch us and talk about us. I don’t need to force somebody to watch me and tell me I’m great or this team is great. It will take care of itself.”

As for the Magic, the Celtics don’t need to be told that they are the defending conference championships. Doc Rivers alluded to it before the Cavs series even started and he made the point again Sunday.

“Our goal was not to beat Cleveland,” Rivers said. “Our goal was to try to get to the Finals. We’ve stated from Day One that the team you have to beat to get to the Finals is Orlando. Everyone else crowned Cleveland. We didn’t. Orlando was the best team in the East last year. I don’t know why everyone forgets that.”

Respect will be paid one way or another in this series and for these two teams it will be earned on the court.

Read More: Cavaliers, Magic, Ray Allen,
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