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Game 7: First quarter update 05.17.09 at 8:39 pm ET
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With about four and a half minutes to go in the quarter and the magic leading by 13 points, Rafer Alston tried to throw an alley-oop to Dwight Howard. The play had no chance of being successful and Howard wound up coming down out of bounds. It was either an indication that the Magic are playing confident, or that they were about to start getting too fast and loose.

After the botched dunk, the Celtics started making plays and scored eight of the next 10 points to get the lead into single digits. Ray Allen hit a pull-up jumper, Glen Davis drove the lane and banked in a layup and Paul Pierce scored four points. Just as soon as they got back in the game, however, Mickael Pietrus nailed a 3-pointer to make it 27-17 after one quarter.

The Magic are shooting 53 percent and are 5-for-6 from 3-point range, while the Celtics are shooting just 39 percent and have already committed five turnovers.

Doc Rivers also made a subtle adjustment bringing in Eddie House for Rajon Rondo at the three-minute mark. The Magic aren’t even making an attempt to guard Rondo outside and after he bricked a pair of jumpers House came on to try to make the Magic pay for doubling Pierce.

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Perk: We cool at 7:58 pm ET
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Speaking just 90 minutes before tipoff Sunday night at TD Banknorth Garden, Kendrick Perkins wants all who bleed green and white to know this much, the Celtics are not nervous about a fourth Game 7 in the last two years.

He also wants those same people who will be spending the night biting their nails to know they’re not exhausted either.

“Yeah, we cool. I don’t think it’s a problem,” Perkins said of the team’s stamina. “I think guys have a lot of energy. Our bench has been playing well for us of late, Scal has come in and gave us some productive minutes, Steph has come in and played well. I think guys are alright. It’s the playoffs so you’ve got to find some type of energy somewhere.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 7 pregame: The coaches at 7:55 pm ET
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It’s always dangerous to try and gauge the mood of teams and coaches pregame and then try to extrapolate some kind of meaning out of that bit of pop psychology. But with that disclaimer out of the way, if Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy’s address to the media before Sunday night’s Game 7 could be be summed up in a word it would be “edgy” while Celtics coach Doc Rivers was a bit more philosophical.

Van Gundy was asked, again, about starting J.J. Redick ahead of Courtney Lee and Van Gundy indicated, again, that there would be no change. “I’m sort of surprised that this has become an issue,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t really understand why that is. Ray (Allen’s) had a tough series. I don’t think anyone is asking Doc why he’s sticking with him.”

Asked about defending Allen, Van Gundy said, “We’ve done a pretty good job of not giving him a lot of open looks and then he’s missed some shots. When you play the great players–Paul Pierce, Ray Allen–that’s the best you can do.” And that was about it from Van Gundy who didn’t care to entertain a handful of big picture type of questions.

Rivers on the other hand was asked if a win would validate the Celtics title defense. “I think our defense has been noble all season,” Rivers said. “That’s for you guys to decide. That’s always for you guys.”

Rivers seemed almost wistful when asked about the difference between last year’s team and this year’s saying, “This has been different. We know who we would like to be, but it just hasn’t worked out that way all the time. We’re still trying to discover who we are.”

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Game 7: What to watch for at 12:23 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Here are two things that have absolutely no bearing on tonight’s Game 7.

The Celtics’ franchise 17-3 record in home Game 7′s: Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird aren’t walking through that door and if they are they’ll be sitting in the loge seats. Patrick Ewing’s prediction: As other have pointed out, Ewing’s prognosticating skills are about as solid as the guy at Suffolk Downs who plays a can’t miss hunch on the No. 7 horse in the third race.

But there are more than enough subplots to go around for tonight’s penultimate game between the Celtics and Magic. Here are five.

1. UNDER PRESSURE

Normally the home team carries the weight of expectations in a Game 7, but not tonight. The Magic clearly have the heaviest burden because their entire season is based on taking the proverbial next step and if they can’t do it against a beaten up and wounded Celtics team their season will have to be considered a disappointment. ESPN ran an online roundtable discussion and six of the seven writers said the Magic had the most to lose (specifically Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy), and  five of the seven picked the Celtics to win. Until proven otherwise this is the Magic’s lot in life: They need to win, but no one expects them to.

Taking that next step can be the hardest in a team’s evolution. Some 20 years later the old Bad Boy Pistons still talk about getting past the Celtics as the most important step in their quest toward winning an NBA championship. Last year’s Celtics skipped the formalities, but they were a unique exception in that their three most important players entire careers had been about building toward that moment.

“That was one of the things we talked about before (last year),” Doc Rivers said after the team’s hour-long shootaround Sunday morning. “This is not a team that needs a test run to win it the following year. We were going to win it now and that’s what we did.”

Orlando has taken a more traditional approach, advancing to last year’s conference semifinals before getting worn down by the Pistons. This is the Magic’s time to either continue that progression or risk treading water.

Pressure has been a funny thing in this series. Orlando almost blew a huge lead in Game 1 and then it failed to close out a winnable game at home in Game 4. Add in the  Magic’s Game 5 collapse and that seemed to validate every negative perception they carried into this series.

Then in Game 6 the Celtics were unable to close out the series in what was a very winnable game. That was either poor execution or a statement on the Magic’s resiliency. It’s striking that even after that performance, very few people believe they can win tonight. Read the rest of this entry »

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Allen at a loss 05.15.09 at 1:33 am ET
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ORLANDO – The good news for Ray Allen is that, win or lose on Sunday night in Game 7, he has seen the last of Amway Arena until next season.

After his three games there this series, he’s probably hoping he never plays there again.

In the three road games, Allen went 11-for-37 from the field while missing ALL 17 of his three point attempts.

“I try to sit back and let the game develop and let it come to me,” Allen said in the wake of the Game 6 loss at Amway Arena. “And time after time, you just sit back and wait and it never really does. I just try to find a way to have an impact out there. Offensively, you keep fighting it, fighting it and try to get to the free throw line. For the most part, I do things to try and make other guys better like setting screens and occupy my guy.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 7: Third quarter update 05.02.09 at 10:12 pm ET
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After the Celtics rolled at the end of the first half, you knew the Bulls would come out with everything they had in the third. The Celtics were able to absorb the Bulls charge for the most part and take a 78-71 lead into the third quarter.

Things got a little heated as Rajon Rondo was fouled hard twice. First by Joakim Noah and then by Brad Miller who topped it off with a little shove. Neither play was ruled a Flagrant foul. For his part, Rondo picked up a technical foul after a timeout.

The Bulls are shooting just 41 percent but are staying in the game at the free throw line where they made all 10 of their free throws in the quarter and are 23-for-27 for the game.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Kendrick Perkins has four fouls. Rondo, Big Baby Davis and Brian Scalabrine have three fouls. For the Bulls, Miller has four fouls. John Salmons and Derrick Rose each have three.

The question we have before us is simple. Will this be the last 12 minutes of this series or will be go to overtime for the fifth time?

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Game 7: First quarter update at 8:39 pm ET
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As Game 7 began to get under way the crowd was rocking and the Garden was electric. Not that it bothered the Bulls at all. Chicago came out strong building an 11-4 lead and taking a 27-23 lead after one quarter.

Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose combined for 20 points, while Joakim Noah grabbed seven rebounds. The Celtics, meanwhile, struggled at the outset and shot just 35 percent from the floor. Also of concern is the fact that Big Baby Davis and Brian Scalabrine each have two fouls.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the C’s, Paul Pierce got off to a decent start scoring seven points, while Kendrick Perkins continued his strong play inside with four points and five rebounds and did not commit a foul. Scalabrine also gave the Celtics a huge lift with five points. The pace is fast–the Celtics got up 26 shots–but they only had one turnover.

All things considered, the Celtics did well to get the margin down to four points, which is something Ray Allen talked about before the game. “(We need) to get good starts and finishes to each quarter,” he said. “That builds momentum.” Consider that task half completed.

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