|1st half summary: Celtics vs. Magic Game 4||05.24.10 at 9:53 pm ET|
The Orlando Magic came to play Monday night in Game 4 after being embarrassed in Game 3 and made a point of showing it early on.
They took a 51-47 lead at halftime over the Celtics, amazingly their first such lead after 24 minutes in the series so far.
Orlando, which shot 61.5 percent in the first quarter, built their largest lead of the game at 10 points, 42-32, with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
The Magic were led by Dwight Howard, with 17 points and six rebounds.
The other thing to keep a close eye on in the second half is the condition of Rajon Rondo, who left with a minute to go with trainer Bryan Doo to treat muscle spasms in his right leg.
|Baby dances all over Magic||05.23.10 at 1:08 am ET|
Even the most optimistic Celtics fan that thought the Green could take Game 3 and go up, 3-0, didn’t expect what happened Saturday night.
The Celtics blew out the Magic, 94-71, in a game not that close to come within one win of a return trip to the NBA Finals.
But dance Big Baby did when he connected on a lay-up with eight minutes to go in the second quarter and stomped around the baseline as he was also fouled in the process. He might as well have been stomping on the heart and soul of the listless Magic.
“It’s not surprising as far as how well we are playing because we know we are capable of doing that,” Davis said. “We are capable of putting together some good games, its just our turn, I think this year we have had some ups and downs, didn’t close out games like we were supposed to, didn’t finish games like we were supposed to. Now it’s just turning around for us, we are staying focused and we are making sure we are doing our job, everybody has a job and everyone is doing their job, we are just making sure that we do our job.’
For the record, Davis drilled the free throw as well, giving Boston its first 20-point lead of the game at 39-19.
Davis not only finished with 17 points but six rebounds in 27 minutes off the Celtics bench.
‘I think the thing that I figured out being a young player, being on a team that is so loaded, you have to find your role and play your role to the max,” Davis said. “I just bought into what Doc was saying, bought into what the team was saying, and just making sure that I am there for my teammates. That’s all that is.
‘My role is just being an energy guy, making sure that I play defense, get rebounds, Doc lets me offensively do what I want to do, hit the open jump shot, play in the post, he lets me do that. But at the same time he makes me still remember my role and what I am capable of doing. I am capable of setting a great pick, you realize if you set a great pick, you are going to be open because your man is going to guard the man that you are guarding and that’s your shot. So just playing to my role, doing what I need to do and realizing what I am capable of doing.’
Davis, sounding confident if not cocky, also said he’s been able to find his rhythm the last three years in the playoffs.
‘It’s just the rising of the occasion, that’s all it is,” he added. “I just love to play, you realize when I get my opportunity to play, I play. That’s all I do, is just play the games, and big games are my specialty for some reason.’
Davis said the Celtics will not let the Game 3 blowout affect their approach in Game 4, with fans already chanting ‘Beat LA, Beat LA.’ But as Bruins fans will tell you, it takes four wins to close out a series. And Davis is more than aware of this.
“I understand the fans with the ‘Beat LA,'” said Davis. “We have one more game to win and this team is highly capable of winning three in a row, we have been playing great but at the same time we need to realize it is not finished until we win the next game.
“Just staying focused in our game plan, making sure we do what we have to do to win the ballgame. We know what it takes to win, we’ve seen it, and we’ve done it. Now we just have to keep on doing it, consistency, and that’s what we are doing, just trying to play at a high level of consistency throughout the whole year. It wasn’t working like that at first, we have ups and downs, come out third quarter not playing well, but we are putting it together at the right time at the right moment and that’s what its all about.’
And winning four games to win a series is all the Celtics care about on Monday night.
|Celtics need to walk a fine line||05.21.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has told his team time and time again about ‘Old School’ NBA, especially as it relates to the playoffs.
But Saturday night, when his team takes to the floor against the desperate Orlando Magic, he doesn’t want his team to get caught up in what is likely to be a physical game with Dwight Howard and the Magic. He also doesn’t want his team to get pushed around either as the Magic try to come in and physically prove to the Celtics they haven’t checked out of the Eastern Conference finals, despite losing the first two games on home court.
“They should be feisty and we should be, too,” Rivers said following a high-spirited Friday practice, their final before Game 3. ” It’s the playoffs. It’s Game 3 and we’re trying to defend our home turf, now and they’re trying to take it away. There’s every reason it should be feisty and it will be and we should be feisty, too.
“Obviously, you want to always keep your head but that doesn’t mean to back down. That means you want to play with composure, play with intensity and you’ve got to play hard.”
Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins agreed with Rivers, saying they are expecting a ‘feisty’ Orlando Magic team for Game 3 Saturday night at TD Garden. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference finals 2-0 and can take an overwhelming 3-0 lead with a win, a deficit no team has ever overcome in NBA playoff history.
“It could get feisty in there. You have to expect it,” said Pierce, who was still bearing a pair of scratch marks on his forehead above his left eye after being decked by Dwight Howard in the second quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“Doc always say the bigger man walks away,” added big man Kendrick Perkins, who will once again be assigned to Howard. “You just have to go out there and play, play Celtics basketball.”
|Pierce happy Superman not grounded||05.20.10 at 2:56 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce said he was happy to hear that Dwight Howard was not getting suspended for Game 3 after his flagrant 1 foul in the second quarter of Game 2 that resulted in a pair of scratch marks on Pierce’s forehead above his left eye.
“My reaction to him not getting suspended is a good reaction because we want the team’s best,” Pierce said. “In order to be the best, you want to get their best. If they lose Dwight Howard, obviously they’re still a good team but that’s not the best team they put on the floor. We just want their best.”
The NBA announced Wednesday that Howard would not be disciplined for the hard foul that resulted in Pierce hitting the deck hard just before halftime on Tuesday night.
|The Magic were the team to beat all along||05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET|
But deep down, the Celtics head coach meant what he said and he wanted to make sure his players understood it before they boarded their plane Saturday afternoon for Orlando and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
‘Like we told our guys, Cleveland wasn’t our goal and neither is Orlando,” Rivers began. “Having said that, Orlando is the team, coming into the season, that you felt if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando. They’re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland. I wanted our guys to have focus on that.’
Captain Paul Pierce remembers the feeling of walking off the court on that Sunday night in early May last year when the Magic stunned the defending champion Celtics in Game 7 at the Garden in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
‘You’re talking about pretty much two different teams,” Pierce said Saturday. “Obviously, what Jameer [Nelson] means to that team from not having him a year ago and Vince Carter and us adding KG to the starting lineup in this series and bringing in Rasheed [Wallace]. Definitely, two different teams for the most part. A lot of core guys are still there. It should be an interesting matchup.’
Pierce said this a great chance for the men in green.
‘It feels good,” Pierce said. “You get an opportunity to play against the Orlando Magic at their full strength and us at our full strength, so you have the two best teams in the Eastern Conference at full strength going at it to see who’s going to the championship. They’ve been playing very well, if not the best of everybody in basketball the last month. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
‘When you got into the off-season and don’t win the championship, you use things like that for motivation. That was one of my motivations, just the way we went out, especially on our home court really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, if we can get this series win, it can erase some of that.’
Ray Allen was another veteran stung by last year’s exit in Boston.
‘This is a great opportunity, coming back and knowing they put us out last year,” Allen said. “I think there are two different scenarios now. It’s two different teams but we know where our history lies and where we want to go and they’re a team in our way.’
Allen will be one of those with the responsibility of trying to match up with Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus and helping to take away weapons from point guard Jameer Nelson.
‘They’ve built their team around having strong point guard play, somebody who can penetrate the ball and Dwight being so powerful inside,” Allen said. “So, we have to each guard a man-and-a-half. We have to guard our man and then help when they do pass because they try to build us out against our defense.
‘Obviously, we take player tendencies into account but I think the first game is going to dictate how the second game is going to go and each game is going to be different from the previous one and so forth.’
Whatever the match-ups, Rivers has prepared his team to be ready for a Magic team that is as versatile as they come in the NBA. If they’re not ready, they have no one to blame but themselves.
‘Hopefully, our antennas are up, if they’re no we’re going to struggle,” Rivers said. “It’s no secret what they do, they use Howard as a great post guy and try to suck in everybody. Jameer Nelson tries to crack you off the dribble and then go draw and kick and look for threes. That’s what they do.’
‘We have a go-to guy in Kevin [Garnett] that we’re going to go to. And they have their team leader back. He’s their team leader in a lot of ways. I think they get a lot of their toughness from him. He makes big shots for them. I think it’s two different teams anyway, especially them. They’ve changed their personnel completely.’
|No Magic lessons in last year||05.13.10 at 8:43 pm ET|
Last year, the Celtics were in the same round with the same advantage.
They were up, 3-2, having two chances to get one win and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics blew a double-digit lead in Game 6 before getting blown out in the second half of Game 7 at home against Orlando.
Fast forward 12 months, and these Celtics entered Game 6 Thursday with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win over LeBron and the Cavaliers. Any lesson to be learned?
“No, different team,” Rivers answered before Thursday’s contest. “We’re playing a different team. Orlando outplayed us so all we learned there is you have to play better. You have to try to seize the moment when you have the home court but at the end of the day, you have to perform.
“If Cleveland comes out and makes more shots and does their game plan better than ours, we won’t win. If we do ours, we’ll win. Last year won’t help you.”
And Rivers was totally in agreement with Kevin Garnett’s sentiments following the Game 5 blowout win in Cleveland. The Celtics want no part of Game 7 in Cleveland and look at Game 6 as a must win.
“We are, we are,” Rivers said. “We’ve won in Cleveland twice. We don’t want to press our luck. We have to view it the same way they are. It’s a big game for both teams.”
Rivers – an Orlando resident – knows the Magic await the winner and responded with humor when asked what he thought Orlando was thinking watching this series.
“Orlando is a terrific city and so, yes, it’s warm, it’s 80 degrees most likely,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “They’re having a ball. They love it.”
Then he took a more serious approach, pointing out the Magic have earned their rest this round after sweeping through eight playoff games so far.
“They want it to go eight, if it can,” Rivers said of Orlando’s preference in watching the Celtics and Cavs. “There’s no doubt about it. If we were in the position they are in, they would want the same thing. They’ve earned it. They did it quick. They’ve only played eight games when you think about it. That’s pretty remarkable.”
|Rondo has seen it all before||05.10.10 at 9:17 pm ET|
Even more, Rondo took the chance to show he can play history teacher, too.
‘It’s happened before,” Rondo said in recalling the 2008 NBA Finals. “LeBron is going to be LeBron. He’s a great help-defender so he’s definitely going to be helping. He’s a good defender. They did that a couple of years ago when Kobe was checking me in the Finals. So, I’m used to bigger guys giving me the shot and challenging me late because of their wingspan. But [Anthony] Parker, is 6-7, 6-6, he’s not LeBron but he’s similar. He’s not a first-team All Defense but he’s a good defender.
‘It really doesn’t matter about the matchups. Obviously, a big thing in the playoffs is the matchups, but for me, I don’t really care who’s guarding me. I’m still going to run our offense and our system. We run our sets on offense through Paul, Ray and Kevin.’
But Rondo isn’t as worried about who guards him Tuesday as he is the final result. A win and Rondo and the Celtics could clinch on home court Thursday night.
‘Each game you say is the most important game of the series, which is true,” he said. “Game 5 is the biggest game for us right now. There can be a momentum swing. The series has been up and down. I think each game is won, loss, won, loss so hopefully we can change it up and get two wins in a row.
‘The pressure is on them now and also on us. So there’s no one-way street now as far as to where the pressure is. I’m fairly confident we can go into Cleveland and get a win. We definitely have to be focused.’
As for getting Paul Pierce started, Rondo said he’ll do what he can but he knows his captain won’t force things.
‘We don’t want to sacrifice the entire offense or the team just to get Paul involved,” he said. “Paul is just an unselfish player so he’s not complaining about shots or that he’s only scoring 11 or 12 points. As long as we’re winning, he knows it’s a team sport. He’s very unselfish. It’s about sacrifices. Yesterday, I think Ray [Allen] got 21 shots up and myself. Maybe Paul gets 22 shots and maybe Ray and I only shoots four. It varies each game. If a guy has it going, you keep going to him.’
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