|1st Half Summary: Celtics vs. Magic Game 5||05.26.10 at 9:53 pm ET|
The first half was what the Celtics feared all along coming into this Eastern Conference final series.
Down 3-0, the Magic looked ice cold from long range, couldn’t get Dwight Howard going and couldn’t start their patented fast break start with Howard blocking shots.
All three came to life in scary fashion in the first half as the Magic drilled 9-of-15 from 3-point range while Dwight Howard had five blocks and 10 points. J.J. Redick was huge again off the bench with a team-high 11.
All of it added up to a 57-49 Orlando lead at the break.
That’s exactly what happened in the first half, as the Magic raced out to a 14-point lead thanks to early foul trouble by the Celtics.
And worst of all, Kendrick Perkins was ejected by official Eddie F. Rush on a questionable call. It’s also his 7th of playoffs, which will disqualify him for a Game 6. Perkins picked up a foul on Dwight Howard with 36.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter. He was flabbergasted and ran away from Rush toward mid-court and Rush decided that it was behavior that deemed a second technical of the game, an automatic ejection.
Meanwhile Paul Pierce, with a game-high 16 in the first half, passed the 2,000-mark in career postseason points. The Celtics captain became the 9th player in franchise history to do it.
|Howard foul upgraded to Flagrant||at 7:03 pm ET|
ORLANDO — The NBA announced that they have upgraded a personal foul called on Dwight Howard from Game 4 to a Flagrant 1. The play occurred when Howard hit Kevin Garnett in the face. Garnett became angry and was hit with a technical foul.
“That’s their decision,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said prior to Game 5. “[Howard] got a rebound and pivoted.” Howard now has two points in the so-called Flagrant Foul bank. A third would lead to an automatic one-game suspension.
Not surprisingly, Doc Rivers had a different reaction. “I thought it was a flagrant,” he said. “The bottom line whenever you throw elbows above the head, it’s going to be called a flagrant. I didn’t think that surprising. I actually don’t like the suspension rule. The longer you’re in the playoffs the more likely it’s going to affect your team.”
|Rondo front and center on Sports Illustrated||05.25.10 at 10:06 pm ET|
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.
|Five Reasons Why The Celtics Won Game 3||05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.
Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.
The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.
RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:
THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).
Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.
DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR
Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:
This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.
|Howard: ‘We’re not done’||at 8:16 pm ET|
‘We’re not done,’ he told WEEI.com prior to Game 3.
Howard was loose and said the team is not getting down about their deficit, noting, ‘We feel like a million bucks. It’s a new day.’
The Magic have used the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 to mentally refocus. They have watched game tape and honed in on getting back to the fundamentals of Magic basketball.
Rashard Lewis noted they are zoned in on improving their ball movement and getting into an offensive rhythm early, something he said they have not done yet in this series.
“Boston was in a better rhythm than us playing, and hopefully they won’t be tonight,” Lewis told WEEI.com, adding, “We’ve got to come in with a lot of energy and a lot of effort in order to beat this team.”
|Against Howard, Perk stays grounded||05.20.10 at 2:59 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Kendrick Perkins was apprised that several media outlets were getting on Dwight Howard after he scored just 13 points in the series opener. Perkins’ eyes grew wide and then he sighed.
“What happens is, y’all gas the man up and get him mad,” Perkins said to WEEI.com. “Then I come out and I got my hands full.’
Perkins did have his hands full with Howard in Game 2 as the big man scored 30 points. Not that Perkins was around for most of it since he fouled out in just 15 minutes of action.
“Do I take it personally? Yep, I do,” Perkins said Thursday before the team’s practice session. “I’m a defender so I do take it personally. Guy got 30 on me, but it happens to the best of us. We ended up getting a win, so that’s really all that matters.”
Still Perkins knows that he has to do better in Game 3 and that starts even before the ball gets to Howard.
“You’ve got to keep a body on him,” he said. “It’s going to be physical all series. That’s the key. You can’t let him set up shop where he wants to set up shop. You’ve got to kind of force him outside his comfort zone just a little bit.”
In theory, the Celtics are OK if Howard goes off. It’s when Howard goes off and everyone else for Orlando gets in on the act that’s a problem.
“We don’t want him to go for 30, but when he goes for 30 he goes for 30, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Rivers said. “As long as he didn’t go for 30 and get everyone else involved, we can live with it. We were not happy with the way we defended him. We did not have a great night defending Dwight. We have to do better. We have to expect somebody on their team to start making shots. If we give him 30+ and they start making shots then you can’t beat them.”
Again that starts with not letting Howard get deep post position because once he does, it’s game over.
“He caught it too deep throughout the game,” Rivers said. “Some of the shots he made, we’ll live with. We don’t mind any made shot if it’s defended. Jumpers, layups, we don’t care.”
Perkins, of course, does care a great deal about his defense on Howard. It’s the thing that has helped make his reputation over the years. But he also recognizes that a key element of the Celtics defensive strategy is that he will be afforded no help in his task.
It’s his role in this series and he’s determined to do a better job in Game 3.
“We’re just trying to make it tough on him,” Perkins said. “We’re not trying to overreact to him scoring.”
|All eyes on Howard||05.18.10 at 7:37 pm ET|
ORLANDO —Dwight Howard finished second in the MVP voting and was voted to the NBA’s First Team. He is a monster defender, as evidenced by his Defensive Player of the Year award.
But sometimes Howard can’t win, because too often in this game players get judged by their offensive numbers, and by any measure his were sub-par in Game 1. He scored 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting and turned it over seven times, which is a direct reflection on the Celtics defense.
Howard’s been getting some heat for his play, with some suggesting that he needs to score 30 points in Game 2 to justify his standing among the league’s elite. Stan Van Gundy, for one, disagrees.
“No, and here’s one of the problems,” Van Gundy said. “I think that it is a tough thing and you have to be a very strong person today if you are one of the best players. Whether it’s Dwight Howard or LeBron James because they will tear you apart in the media and say, ‘You need to do this, this and this to prove to us,’ and that may not be what your team needs you to do to win the game. Are you about your reputation at siliencing your critics, or are you about doing what you need to do to help your team win?”
Still, Kendrick Perkins is aware of the scrutiny, and what it might mean for him.
“It’s scary in a way,” Perkins said. “If he comes out and tries to do too much and is on point, it’s scary. Everybody goes through this at one point. I don’t think he played a bad game in my opinion. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do defensively. What happens is, y’all gas the man up and get him mad. Then I come out and I got my hands full.”
Van Gundy noted that part of the burden lies with him and the rest of the Magic. While he didn’t say it, look for Orlando to try and get Howard moving toward the basket on the pick and roll to make Perkins try and keep up with him. But if Howard has another game like he did in the opener, the criticism will surely follow.
“He’s going to be have to just be able to deal with the criticism, as unfair as it is right now,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a great player. We wouldn’t be anywhere near the level that we have been without him. For whatever reason, no matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t matter that the Boston Celtics turned things around with their defense in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how many times people say that defense wins. The bottom line is the media won’t stop judging guys on their offense.”
If nothing else, Perkins can empathize with Howard.
“Dwight’s a good dude,” he said. “He’s got to focus on what he’s supposed to be doing. He can’t worry about what other people say.”
He’s got enough to worry about with Perkins, and maybe vice-versa tonight.
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