|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.
|Legler on D&C: Sheed’s ‘D’ key for C’s||at 10:15 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Magic series. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Legler pointed to the much-maligned Rasheed Wallace as the pivotal figure in the C’s Game 1 victory. “You have to have guys that not only physically are capable of playing Dwight Howard in single coverage as much as you can, you have to have guys that are emotionally ready for it and want the challenge. Boston’s got a few guys like that,” Legler said. “I thought Rasheed Wallace was the key to their victory in Game 1. I thought he got in the head of Dwight Howard. I thought his nastiness, his edge was something Dwight Howard wasn’t prepared for, ready for. Rasheed, you think of him as a 7-foot 3-point shooter and a finesse player, but that’s not the case on the defensive end of the floor. He has been, in the 15 years he’s been in the league, he’s been one of the pre-eminent post defenders we’ve had. He loves the challenge.
“His versatility defensively I thought was the key to the first game, and it will be the key to the series moving forward. If [Kendrick] Perkins and Rasheed can play [Howard] that successfully one-on-one and you stay out on the 3-point shooters, Orlando’s in big trouble.”
Legler said the pressure is on Orlando’s big man to come up big. “Dwight Howard has to do more,” Legler said. “He has to be a guy who can knock down a face-up jump shot once in a while. I’ve never seen him even take one, much less make one. He doesn’t have enough ability to go to a sky hook or go to a turnaround jump shot in the post. He’s a guy that simply has to overpower you and he has to catch the ball in great position to be able to do that, and the Boston Celtics are determined not to let that happen. … What is his efficiency going to be when he catches the ball? It wasn’t there in Game 1. It’s going to have to get a lot better.”
Legler said the Celtics’ balance makes them difficult to defend, but he points to Ray Allen as the player the Magic should focus on stopping. Said Legler: “Ray Allen, to me, is the barometer for the Celtics. He always has been. He’s a guy, his activity offensively, when he’s running off those screens and he’s getting clean looks, or he’s getting looks in transition, that loosens up everything. … Ray Allen, to me, is a guy that you’ve got to get under control and make sure he’s not getting up in the mid-20s. Because when he’s there, the Celtics rarely lose.”
Asked for his prediction about where LeBron James will sign as a free agent, Legler said he would rank the favorites as Chicago, New York and Cleveland.
|Magic know formula to beat Celtics||11.21.09 at 12:05 am ET|
BOSTON ‘ It has been nearly a year since the Magic faced a healthy Celtics squad. On Friday they proved they can beat the Celtics with or without Kevin Garnett.
‘It’s very important especially when they are full strength to show you that we’re still a good team,’ Rashard Lewis told WEEI.com after the Magic’s 83-78 victory (Recap). ‘You know they’re a great team. This is only one game, it’s early in the season and I definitely would not count them out at all. Every time we play the Boston Celtics it’s going to be a tough, tough game.’
The Celtics were 0-2 last regular season against the Magic without Garnett and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Magic without him. But the truth is, the Magic have held their own against the Celtics in recent years. They improved to 5-3 against the Cs since the 2007-08 regular season.
‘I think the biggest thing playing their team is not allowing them to get a lot of second chance points, hold them to one shot, and then run,’ said Dwight Howard.
The Celtics actually outshot the Magic 87-to-70 from the floor, but the Magic shot 10-for-22 from three-point range while Celtics were a mere 2-for-19. Vince Carter attempted 29 field goals — ‘All of them weren’t open, I’ll be the first to tell you that,’ he said with a laugh — the same number as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined. Stifling the Celtics offense was a must-do for the Magic.
‘You’ve got to play defense,’ said Lewis. ‘I think every time we play this team we really buckle down on the defensive end and we try to take their main guys out ‘ Ray Allen at the three-point line, and we try to crowd Paul Pierce and make other guys beat us. Tonight I think we did a good job of that.’
The Celtics lost their lead just three minutes into the first quarter, and the Magic held off a 17-12 fourth quarter run after Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece. Lewis said his team regained their composure after coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and buckled down, realizing how easily the Celtics can fight back from a double-digit deficit. The Magic diminished the Celtics homecourt advantage and held on in the TD Garden’s playoff atmosphere.
‘We’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,’ said Jason Williams. ‘I mean, we feel that we’re just as good as anybody else. So if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win more times than not.’
On Friday night, like they have so many times in recent games against the Celtics, the Magic came out on top. Neither team can read too much into this victory, though. While the Magic know how to beat the Celtics, but they also know either team is capable of winning at any time.
‘I don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,’ said Lewis. ‘Tonight the ball kind of bounced our way and towards the end of the game we were able to get away. It’s not like we blew them out. We won by like four points so it could have easily gone the other way.’
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