|Game 4: A strategic shift||05.10.09 at 9:49 pm ET|
The Celtics came out for what might be the most important half of their season intent on putting the game in the hands of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They have been running high isolation pick and rolls with Pierce at the point and Allen setting the screen.
Pierce, who scored 18 points in the first half, kept it going in the early minutes of the third quarter making a pair of jumpers and getting to the line. Allen, who was held to just four points on four shots also made a couple of pull-up jumpers. It’s a pretty radical shift in strategy but so far it’s paid dividends.
|Game 4: Halftime Update||05.10.09 at 9:24 pm ET|
The first half of Game 4 has been dictated by foul trouble. The tone was set early when Glen Davis was benched 46 seconds after the tip with his first personal. By the end of the first half, 29 fouls had been called and 25 free throws were taken.
Paul Pierce (18 points) scored seven straight points in the second quarter to lead the Celtics before being whistled for his third. Rashard Lewis (11 points) is the high scorer for the Magic.
Ray Allen still struggles on the offensive end. He has attempted just four field goals (4 points) and is 0-for-2 from three-point range.
There are two match ups to keep an eye on in the second half — the longtime battle between Pierce and Turkoglu as well as the emerging duel between Perkins (8 points, 9 rebounds) and Howard (9 points, 10 rebounds).
|Game 4: A foul situation||05.10.09 at 8:51 pm ET|
With 8:11 left in the second quarter the fouls are really starting to build up. Big Baby Davis and Marcin Gortat each have three fouls and the following players have two fouls each:
|Game 4: First quarter update||05.10.09 at 8:42 pm ET|
After one the Celtics are down 28-25, but it has been a noticeably different Celtics team than the one we saw Friday night. Rajon Rondo has been aggressively attacking the basket and he is too quick for Rafer Alston to handle.
Dwight Howard picked up two early fouls, but the Magic got a lift from their bench, particularly Marcin Gortat who came in for Howard and scored six points. The Celtics got caught in a strange situation when it looked like Kendrick Perkins picked up his second foul for an illegal screen. Perkins went to the bench, but after the substitution had been made the refs changed the call to Paul Pierce. Without Perkins in the game, Gortat was able to get two offensive rebounds over the smaller lineup and converted the second into a score.
Orlando started the game shooting 3-for-12, but with the second unit in the game, they made seven of 11.
|Game 4: Early update||05.10.09 at 8:26 pm ET|
At the first media timeout, the Celtics have come out aggressive and feisty and have a 13-10 lead. Two things are noticeably different from Game 3. First, Dwight Howard has been called for goaltending three times. The Celtics were adamant after Game 3 that several of his blocks should have been ruled interference.
The other difference is Orlando is not making shots at nearly the same clip. The Magic are just 3-for-12 and Howard in particular has been limited to his sweeping hook across the lane game, and not the catch and dunk.
Foul trouble will also be something to watch. Brian Scalabrine came in for Big Baby Davis after just 45 seconds but picked up two quick fouls. No offense to Scal, but a far bigger factor is that Howard also got two early and he is out of the game for now.
|Redick to start, Lee for House?||05.10.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
J.J. Redick got the start for the Magic in Game 4 despite Courtney Lee’s impressive Game 3 showing. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he thought Lee would be a good matchup for Eddie House who has torched Orlando through the first three games. True enough, but that’s still Ray Allen operating at the starting two-guard spot, and while Allen is shooting just 30 percent he’s still one of the all-time great shooters the league has ever seen.
An interesting move to say the least.
|To survive, or to grow||05.10.09 at 7:58 pm ET|
Stephon Marbury sat by himself in the Celtics locker room. At the other end of the room Rajon Rondo was seated in front of the TV watching film of Game 3. Between Marbury and Rondo was about 50 feet of stony silence. There was no time for idle chitchat in the hours before Game 4, and the mood was deadly serious, even for a locker room that is not exactly known for being a barrel of laughs.
During his pregame press conference Doc Rivers was short and to the point. Any defensive adjustments? “We have to stay in front of them,” Rivers said, not that he would have given away the gameplan in any event.
Across the way, Stan Van Gundy was waxing philosophical about the position his team finds itself in. It’s no secret that the Magic have developed a bad reputation for not handling success all that well. With his team just hours away from possibly taking a commanding 3-1 lead in its own building, Van Gundy addressed it.
“I don’t think confidence is, or ever will be, a problem at any point,” he said. “No matter what happens. being able to keep our composure when things get tough. That’s where we keep gaining a playoff maturity. As you go along every win gets tougher and tougher. You’ve got two wins in the second round against the defending champs. That’s great. The third one will be harder and the fourth one will be the hardest of all to get. We have to understand that.”
Van Gundy stopped for a second and continued, “I’ll be interested to see our approach tonight. We have been at our best, as I think Boston has, when things don’t look as good. At some point if you want to grab control of a series, you have to do it in back to back games.”
This is a crucial test for the Magic. Are they mature enough, grown up enough even to handle success? That’s the key question and from Van Gundy’s answer it seems that he’s not even sure about it himself. Across the way Rivers was asked about having a veteran team, but he didn’t agree with the assessment.
“I don’t know if this is considered a veteran team,” Rivers said. “Last year was a veteran team with Kevin (Garnett) playing and (James) Posey and PJ Brown. last year they just knew where to be. You kind of knew who you were going to be every night. Not that you knew that you would play well every night, but you knew what they were going to give you every night.”
And so for the Celtics this too is a crucial test. Can they rally themselves one more time and win a game on the road that while not technically a “must win” is as close as you can get to that distinction. Throughout the playoffs last year, and even the Bulls series, there has not been a point when the Celtics had to go into someone else’s building and win a game.
Those are the stakes as Game 4 tips off.