|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.
|Game 4: What to watch for||at 3:21 pm ET|
Is it too much to suggest that the Celtics are playing for their season tonight in Orlando? Probably, if only because two of the next three games would be back at the Garden, but NBA history is not kind on teams who find themselves down three games to one. Only eight teams have been able to pull off the trick and the Celtics would do well to avoid trying to be the ninth.
After finding so much success with a smaller, quicker lineup back in Boston, the Magic adjusted in Game 3 using rookie Courtney Lee as a counter and moving Rashard Lewis to the post where he took advantage of his size and scoring touch. Not even Dwight Howard’s foul trouble slowed down the Magic onslaught.
The Celtics caught a huge break when the NBA decided not to upgrade Kendrick Perkins‘ Flagrant 1 foul, but that was about the only thing that has gone right for them in Florida.
“It’s so easy for us to fall back on being tired, injured, all the that stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “But nobody cares about that. You’re on the floor and guys have to play. We have a chance to do some great things if we set our minds to it.”
How can the Celtics regroup? Here are three things to watch for tonight. Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc: ‘They played great. We played awful’||05.09.09 at 2:34 pm ET|
Doc Rivers didn’t mince words Saturday afternoon when asked to dissect his team’s performance in Game 3:
“I was in a awful mood when I turned (on the film), and whatever is past awful, I was in that (mood) afterward,” Rivers said. “They played great. We played awful. Our defense was awful. I thought we were soft. They were the aggressors, we were the retaliators. They picked us all game. Other than that, it was a wonderful night.”
Rivers showed the tape to his coaches and then decided that he would let Armond Hill and Tom Thibodeau edit the bad stuff down to a more manageable size to show the players. “Probably the best move we made all night,” Rivers joked.
Of primary concern is getting Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Eddie House better spacing and looks. “I introduced our bigs to Ray and Eddie and Paul,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to get those guys open. That’s their job.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Game 3: Third quarter update||05.08.09 at 9:10 pm ET|
After 33 minutes, the Celtics were down by 18 points. Three minutes later, the Magic lead is down to nine and suddenly we have a very interesting fourth quarter ahead of us. Orland’s penchant for blowing leads late in games is becoming legendary and they have set themselves up for another test.
The change came when Doc Rivers inserted Stephon Marbury into the lineup and he began to pressure Anthony Johnson fullcourt. The shots that were coming so easy previously, were suddenly nowhere to be found and when Rajon Rondo picked Johnson’s pocket and race down the floor for a dunk the Celtics had cut a humongous lead down to a manageable size.
All of this came without Dwight Howard on the floor, who has been a force at both ends of the floor tonight.
|Game 3: First quarter update||at 7:41 pm ET|
All things considered, the Celtics ought to be reasonably happy to be down just 22-18 after one quarter. Orlando came out with a lot of energy and scored 14 points on layups and dunks, while the Celtics missed eight of their first 10 shots.
Ray Allen is the high scorer with six points, but nothing has really come easy for the Celtics. Two positive stats to note: Boston has three offensive rebounds and has kept the Magic off the offensive glass, and the Celtics had only two turnovers. Also, none of the Celtics has more than one foul, while Anthony Johnson and J.J. Redick both have two.
|Game 3: Early update||at 7:26 pm ET|
At the first media timeout, the Magic are running the Celtics off the court and have an early 14-6 lead. Orlando has clearly been the aggressor, making seven of their first 10 shots, while the C’s are shooting just 2-for-10 and settling for jump shots. J.J. Redick picked up two quick fouls, which brought in rookie Courtney Lee who missed the first two games of the series.
There’s been a lot of contact early, but few calls and this crowd is energized. As my can driver so presciently pointed out there is a feeling that the Magic aren’t getting the proper respect, and the fans around us have been helpfully pointing out how much the Celtics are getting away with off the ball.
|Game 3: Setting the scene||at 7:10 pm ET|
The Magic gave out a bunch of those clapper things to fans and they are up and ready. One of them even took the time to tell Rajon Rondo how little he thinks of him during the national anthem. The Magic mascot, who appears to be a mammal of indiscriminate genus and species, descended from the rafters and there were some fireworks to cap it all off, which have left a haze over the court. The fireworks were much like the ones the Celtics used to use until the commissioner urged them not to.
So, we’re ready to go.
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