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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,
Barnes or Carter, Celtics aren’t changing 05.16.10 at 2:58 pm ET
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ORLANDO — Stan Van Gundy started the chess match early when he suggested that he would have Matt Barnes guard Ray Allen instead of Paul Pierce, who would then become Vince Carter’s assignment.

This opens up a number of interesting questions such as: Does Van Gundy think Allen is a bigger threat than Pierce? Would the Celtics switch up their coverages? Then there’s the issue of Barnes’ health. He has been struggling with back spasms.

On the latter, Van Gundy said that Barnes is feeling better and will be ready to play. As for the other? “We’ll see,” Van Gundy said before Game 1.

The Celtics are unconcerned. They’re not going to change up their assignments.

“We’re not changing.,” Doc Rivers said. “We’re going the same way we’re going to go. Whenever there’s a switch like in the last series when [Anthony] Parker guarded [Rajon] Rondo, you’re always concerned about the cross matchup in transition because the guy you’re guarding is not in front of you. You have to resist the temptation to cross the court and try to find your guy and leave a guy open. That actually works both ways.”

Interesting, because Allen thinks this could play in the Celtics advantage.

“I would think that they’d be more worried about Carter getting back on defense, so maybe the cross matchup would probably work better in our favor,” Allen said. “If I’m guarding Vince he’d have to run back in transition on me. I’ve noticed throughout the year, Vince would be on one side running back with me and then the other man will run all the way back across the floor.”

Once again, the key for the Celtics is getting out on the break.

“Transition is big,” Allen said. “You get the rebound, push it up and Paul and I just run, they have to make a decision because sometimes you can’t get back to your guy. It does make you think.”

Read More: Matt Barnes, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Vince Carter
The Magic were the team to beat all along 05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET
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WALTHAM — At first glance, the comments from Doc Rivers about his hometown Orlando Magic seem like just more lip service in an effort not to give his opponent any bulletin board material.

But deep down, the Celtics head coach meant what he said and he wanted to make sure his players understood it before they boarded their plane Saturday afternoon for Orlando and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

‘€œLike we told our guys, Cleveland wasn’€™t our goal and neither is Orlando,” Rivers began. “Having said that, Orlando is the team, coming into the season, that you felt if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando. They’€™re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland. I wanted our guys to have focus on that.’€

Captain Paul Pierce remembers the feeling of walking off the court on that Sunday night in early May last year when the Magic stunned the defending champion Celtics in Game 7 at the Garden in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

‘€œYou’€™re talking about pretty much two different teams,” Pierce said Saturday. “Obviously, what Jameer [Nelson] means to that team from not having him a year ago and Vince Carter and us adding KG to the starting lineup in this series and bringing in Rasheed [Wallace]. Definitely, two different teams for the most part. A lot of core guys are still there. It should be an interesting matchup.’€

Pierce said this a great chance for the men in green.

‘€œIt feels good,” Pierce said. “You get an opportunity to play against the Orlando Magic at their full strength and us at our full strength, so you have the two best teams in the Eastern Conference at full strength going at it to see who’€™s going to the championship. They’€™ve been playing very well, if not the best of everybody in basketball the last month. We’€™ve got our work cut out for us.

‘€œWhen you got into the off-season and don’€™t win the championship, you use things like that for motivation. That was one of my motivations, just the way we went out, especially on our home court really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, if we can get this series win, it can erase some of that.’€

Ray Allen was another veteran stung by last year’s exit in Boston.

‘€œThis is a great opportunity, coming back and knowing they put us out last year,” Allen said. “I think there are two different scenarios now. It’€™s two different teams but we know where our history lies and where we want to go and they’€™re a team in our way.’€

Allen will be one of those with the responsibility of trying to match up with Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus and helping to take away weapons from point guard Jameer Nelson.

‘€œThey’€™ve built their team around having strong point guard play, somebody who can penetrate the ball and Dwight being so powerful inside,” Allen said. “So, we have to each guard a man-and-a-half. We have to guard our man and then help when they do pass because they try to build us out against our defense.

‘€œObviously, we take player tendencies into account but I think the first game is going to dictate how the second game is going to go and each game is going to be different from the previous one and so forth.’€

Whatever the match-ups, Rivers has prepared his team to be ready for a Magic team that is as versatile as they come in the NBA. If they’re not ready, they have no one to blame but themselves.

‘€œHopefully, our antennas are up, if they’€™re no we’€™re going to struggle,” Rivers said. “It’€™s no secret what they do, they use Howard as a great post guy and try to suck in everybody. Jameer Nelson tries to crack you off the dribble and then go draw and kick and look for threes. That’€™s what they do.’€

‘€œWe have a go-to guy in Kevin [Garnett] that we’€™re going to go to. And they have their team leader back. He’€™s their team leader in a lot of ways. I think they get a lot of their toughness from him. He makes big shots for them. I think it’€™s two different teams anyway, especially them. They’€™ve changed their personnel completely.’€

Read More: Celtics, Magic, NBA playoffs, Paul Pierce
Better safe than sorry with Perk 05.15.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Kendrick Perkins, the player primarily responsible for guarding Orlando’s Dwight Howard, was held out of practice on Saturday with a sore right knee. Perkins wore wraps on both knees and kept ice on his right one until the end of practice.

“He tried to go early and it bothered him a lot.” Rivers said. “He wanted to go I said, ‘I don’t need you tonight. You’re not going to help me today in practice. I need you tomorrow.'”

Following practice in Waltham, the Celtics left Saturday for Orlando and Sunday afternoon’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

Read More: Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Kendrick Perkins, Magic
Big Baby won’t look back at ‘Shovegate’ 05.14.10 at 9:20 pm ET
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Last year Glen Davis sparked controversy after bumping into a 12-year-old Orlando Magic fan following his game-winning shot during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

On Sunday, he will return to Amway Arena for the Celtics Conference Finals matchup against the Magic, and he isn’€™t looking back.

‘€œI’€™m not worried about that,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™ve been back during the year. It is what it is, but just play the game. Everything happens for a reason. Mistakes happen.’€

The incident (sensationalized as ‘€œShovegate’€) prompted the boy’€™s father to email the NBA league office and demand an apology from Davis. But Davis has said all along that the bump was caused by game-winning excitement, not intentional harm. Even though the father dropped his complaint, the incident still tarnished Davis’€™ reputation in Orlando.

The jeers don’€™t bother Davis, though, especially if they come as a result of a winning performance.

‘€œEverybody gives me a couple of boos here and there, but I don’€™t mind that,’€ he said. ‘€œI love it. It means I’€™m doing what I’€™m supposed to be doing.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Glen Davis, Orlando Magic,
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