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Doc: Redick most consistent for Magic 05.27.10 at 9:30 pm ET
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J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick

It’s no coincidence that Ray Allen’s scoring has been inconsistent against the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. It is part of J.J. Redick’s plan, one that has been in the works for years.

As Redick revealed to ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons at the start of the series, he has been studying Allen’s game since he was in college.

“When I got to Duke, coach [Chris] Collins, who was kind of like our guard coach, he used to show me tapes of Reggie [Miller], Ray and Rip Hamilton. Those are the three guys I studied at Duke,” Redick said. “And, obviously watched them shoot the ball, but those guys are really, really good at creating space and then coming off the picks.”

Redick’s comprehensive knowledge of Allen’s skills and tendencies has helped him defend Allen for the second postseason in a row. Redick has an edge on anticipating Allen’s next move because he has emulated them so many times himself. Take Allen’s ability to run off screens as an example.

“Well, I kind of think it’s because that’s what I used to do at Duke,” he said. “I kind of understand the mentality of coming off picks, coming off baseline screens. And really, it’s all about having contact and making sure there’s not that much separation. Ray, as you know, he gets it off so quick, you really have to be on his body.”

Redick’s insight has helped him stay ready on defense. Allen’s scoring has ranged from 25 points to four, shooting as hot as 8-for-16 from the field to 1-for-6.

While Redick’s performance has been overshadowed by more prominent storylines in the series, it has not been lost on Doc Rivers. The coach is well aware of Redick’s contributions on both ends (he is averaging 12 ppg, 45.5 percent FG, 56.3 percent 3PG, 95.5 percent FT) and the impact he has made against the Celtics.

“We can’t know he was going to be Pistol Pete [Maravich] coming into this series, but we did expect him to be a great player,” Rivers told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “J.J. Redick has hurt us all year in the regular season. It was one of the things we talked about going into the series. J.J. Redick has been very, very important.  He was last year in the playoffs against us, he’s played very well against us in the regular season, and he’s played well again against us in the playoffs now.

“He’s a guy that everyone’s talking about Dwight Howard and Jameer [Nelson]. I think J.J. Redick has been their most consistent player in this series.”

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Three things that went wrong and right in Game 5 05.26.10 at 11:34 pm ET
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The Celtics knew they had to overcome the Magic’s pick-and-roll in order to win the series. But after a disastrous Game 5 loss,  they have added a possible suspension, two concussions, and failed perimeter defense to the list.

In a snapshot: Kendrick Perkins was ejected after being whistled for a pair of technical fouls and could be suspended, Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels suffered concussions, and the Magic drained nearly 15 3-pointers.

The Celtics, who were on the verge of sweeping just days ago, are headed back to Boston after dropping two straight to the Magic.

Three things what went wrong (and they went so, so wrong)

Possible suspension for Perk: Kendrick Perkins was whistled for two technical fouls in the first half, resulting in an automatic ejection. The bigger problem is he was called for his seventh T of the postseason, an automatic one-game suspension. However, since the league does review technical fouls, one or both could be rescinded and Perkins could play on Friday night in Game 6.

Magic struck first: The Celtics have maintained the entire postseason that the key to winning on the road is striking first. But by the end of the first quarter, their initial 5-0 lead was a distant memory. The Celtics were outscored 31-22 from that point on, giving up 15 points from behind the arc. All of the Magic starters scored at least three points, while Kevin Garnett did not attempt a single field goal. The Magic fought for their shots, outrebounding the Celtics 12-7, and was more efficient at finding the open man (7-4 assists). The C’s allowed the Magic — and their home crowd — into the game early and were never able to kick them out.

Perimeter D disappears: The C’s knew what they were up against at the start of the series. “Their shooting is what has always given us problems,” said Ray Allen. “Their 3-pointer, we’ve got to take that away from them.” Tony Allen echoed, “Considering they’re a team that shoots a gang of 3′s feeding off of Dwight Howard who’s very dominant in the post, we’re going to have to be ready. No if, ands and no buts.” The Celtics were ready in the first four games, holding the Magic to just 31 percent from 3-point range. But their perimeter defense imploded in Game 5. The Magic scored 39 points from long-range off of 52 percent shooting.

Three things that went right (well, not so bad)

Rondo bounced back: Questions of injuries buzzed around Rajon Rondo following a poor performance in Game 4. But whether it was muscle spasms or just an off night, Rondo was more effective offensively in Game 5. He scored 19 points, 10 more than in the previous game in six less minutes. It wasn’t his finest showing of the playoffs, but it showed he is back on the right track.

Robinson was reliable: Doc Rivers has said Nate Robinson will win the Celtics a playoff game. Robinson didn’t pull off the feat, but he was effective. With Rondo in foul trouble and Tony Allen benched for most of the game with a twisted ankle, Rivers turned to Robinson in the second half. He defended the point well, scored five points in six minutes, and even blocked Dwight Howard’s shot.

Celtics are going home: The Celtics didn’t want to have to play a Game 6 in Boston (they didn’t want to play a Game 5 in Orlando in the first place), but they are returning to their homecourt as they look to finish things up. The C’s are 6-2 at TD Garden during the postseason. Records aside, they have to take advantage of the energy the Celtics home crowd is sure to provide on Friday night.

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A day for Celtics Game 5 success? at 12:11 am ET
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On Wednesday, the Celtics will look to wrap up the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 against the Magic in Orlando.

If they are able to do so, it would not be the first time a Celtics team has pulled off a significant Game 5 win on May 26.

On May 26, 1987, Larry Bird infamously stole an inbounds pass from Isiah Thomas and dished to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning basket against the Detroit Pistons in the Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics went on the win the series in seven games before ultimately falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

(Click here for extended footage.)

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Report: Hornets make formal offer to Thibodeau 05.25.10 at 10:53 pm ET
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ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has reported the New Orleans Hornets have made a formal offer to Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau for their head coaching position. But with the Celtics in the midst of the Eastern Conference Finals, a timetable for Thibodeau’s decision was unknown.

Thibodeau has been credited for the Celtics defensive success, which is holding opponents to just 90.4 points this postseason. The Hornets allowed nearly 103 points per game during the regular season, tied for 21st in the league. The C’s, on the other hand, were tied for fifth with 95.6 points allowed during the regular season.

According to the report, the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets are still considering Thibodeau for their head coaching vacancies as well.

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Rondo front and center on Sports Illustrated at 10:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo Sports Illustrated Cover

(Sports Illustrated)

Rajon Rondo is featured on the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, which hit newsstands on Tuesday.

(For those worried about an SI cover jinx, yes the magazine came out a day after Rondo suffered muscle spasms during the Celtics Game 4 overtime loss to the Magic, but his stat line actually fared worse in Game 1.)

Cover superstitions aside, Rondo is ready to bounce back on Wednesday as the Celtics look to wrap up the series against the Magic in Orlando, where they have already won two games.

“We didn’t get to close out, but we gotta move on to Game 5,” he said following Game 4. “We gave them confidence, now we’ve got to try to take it back away. They’re pretty confident at home, so we’ve got to get off to a good start on the road.”

Rondo isn’t the only player in the Eastern Conference Finals to be featured by Sports Illustrated with “Celtics” across his chest. Click here to see which member of the Magic once wore green.

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For Celtics, there was much ado about Hedo 05.24.10 at 12:27 am ET
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turkoglu_hedo-vceltics

Hedo Turkoglu gave the Celtics trouble in last year's playoffs before leaving Orlando as a free agent. (AP)

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Celtics take credit where credit is due 05.23.10 at 3:41 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics are one game away from eliminating the Magic and advancing to the NBA Finals, and they believe credit should be given where credit is due.

“I believe we deserve all the credit,” Ray Allen said following practice on Sunday. “It’s only two teams playing. We’re putting them in the situation that they’re in, and we’re adjusting and trying to find the ways that we can confuse them as much as we can, and make it tough defensively on them and offensively. They’re not going out there and doing it to themselves.”

Following their Game 3 loss, the Magic conceded they have been outhustled and outplayed the entire series. Players were baffled by their collapse, saying they have not seen the real Magic team yet. Others said they are beating themselves.

But the Celtics are not paying attention to the downtrodden morale of their opponent.

“None of my concern,” said Kevin Garnett. “That’s them. That’s how they think. Nothing more, nothing less than that. I can’t really be worried with what they’re thinking over there and how they’re playing or what’s going through their head.”

The Celtics have made it this far by staying honed in on each other the entire postseason. Some questioned whether or not they would even survive the first round, let alone make it to the NBA Finals. Now that they are just 48 minutes away from advancing, they are focused on the confidence they have in one another, not the uncertainty felt by the Magic.

“I didn’t have any doubts in this team,” said Paul Pierce. “I never doubted us because I felt once we got to the playoffs, guys would be able to settle in a little more, travel wouldn’t be as much, we could really focus in on the team, and really do our scouting report. And I think just looking at a seven-game series, I always thought it’d be tough to beat us four times.”

The Heat and Cavaliers have already found out just how tough it is. The Celtics hope to teach the Magic the same lesson on Monday night.

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