|Three things that went wrong and right in Game 5||05.26.10 at 11:34 pm ET|
The Celtics knew they had to overcome the Magic’s pick-and-roll in order to win the series. But after a disastrous Game 5 loss, they have added a possible suspension, two concussions, and failed perimeter defense to the list.
In a snapshot: Kendrick Perkins was ejected after being whistled for a pair of technical fouls and could be suspended, Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels suffered concussions, and the Magic drained nearly 15 3-pointers.
The Celtics, who were on the verge of sweeping just days ago, are headed back to Boston after dropping two straight to the Magic.
Three things what went wrong (and they went so, so wrong)
Possible suspension for Perk: Kendrick Perkins was whistled for two technical fouls in the first half, resulting in an automatic ejection. The bigger problem is he was called for his seventh T of the postseason, an automatic one-game suspension. However, since the league does review technical fouls, one or both could be rescinded and Perkins could play on Friday night in Game 6.
Magic struck first: The Celtics have maintained the entire postseason that the key to winning on the road is striking first. But by the end of the first quarter, their initial 5-0 lead was a distant memory. The Celtics were outscored 31-22 from that point on, giving up 15 points from behind the arc. All of the Magic starters scored at least three points, while Kevin Garnett did not attempt a single field goal. The Magic fought for their shots, outrebounding the Celtics 12-7, and was more efficient at finding the open man (7-4 assists). The C’s allowed the Magic — and their home crowd — into the game early and were never able to kick them out.
Perimeter D disappears: The C’s knew what they were up against at the start of the series. “Their shooting is what has always given us problems,” said Ray Allen. “Their 3-pointer, we’ve got to take that away from them.” Tony Allen echoed, “Considering they’re a team that shoots a gang of 3′s feeding off of Dwight Howard who’s very dominant in the post, we’re going to have to be ready. No if, ands and no buts.” The Celtics were ready in the first four games, holding the Magic to just 31 percent from 3-point range. But their perimeter defense imploded in Game 5. The Magic scored 39 points from long-range off of 52 percent shooting.
Three things that went right (well, not so bad)
Rondo bounced back: Questions of injuries buzzed around Rajon Rondo following a poor performance in Game 4. But whether it was muscle spasms or just an off night, Rondo was more effective offensively in Game 5. He scored 19 points, 10 more than in the previous game in six less minutes. It wasn’t his finest showing of the playoffs, but it showed he is back on the right track.
Robinson was reliable: Doc Rivers has said Nate Robinson will win the Celtics a playoff game. Robinson didn’t pull off the feat, but he was effective. With Rondo in foul trouble and Tony Allen benched for most of the game with a twisted ankle, Rivers turned to Robinson in the second half. He defended the point well, scored five points in six minutes, and even blocked Dwight Howard’s shot.
Celtics are going home: The Celtics didn’t want to have to play a Game 6 in Boston (they didn’t want to play a Game 5 in Orlando in the first place), but they are returning to their homecourt as they look to finish things up. The C’s are 6-2 at TD Garden during the postseason. Records aside, they have to take advantage of the energy the Celtics home crowd is sure to provide on Friday night.
|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.
|For Celtics, there was much ado about Hedo||05.24.10 at 12:27 am ET|
WALTHAM — The sudden disappearance of Rashard Lewis is not the only thing missing from the Magic team that defeated the Celtics in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
This time around they are playing without Hedo Turkoglu, who left Orlando last summer and signed a multi-year deal with the Raptors. Even though the Magic acquired Vince Carter in his place — a role Carter’s teammates say he has filled well — the Celtics have noticed a difference in matchups without Turkoglu on the court.
It is one they have benefited from in the conference finals.
“Definitely with Turkoglu, he adds a size matchup being at 6-10 he can play the 2, the 3, the 1. Obviously, a walking matchup problem,” Paul Pierce said following practice on Sunday. “I just think the things that he does playing with the ball and off the ball in the post, he’s one of the more versatile small forwards in the NBA and one of the toughest that I’ve seen to guard. Them not having him, I think it really works in our favor.”
Last season Turkoglu averaged over 16 points in the seven-game semifinals series. Not only did he score, he made it easier for his teammates to do so by spreading the floor. (In the deciding Game 7, Turkoglu scored 25 points while dishing 12 assists.)
Take Lewis as an example. This postseason series he is averaging just five points while shooting 25 percent from the field and going 1-for-13 from 3-point range. Even though he got more open looks last season because of Kevin Garnett’s absence, the Celtics guarded him differently when Turkoglu was on the floor.
“Turkoglu, one of the things I think he does so well is he’s a facilitator,” said Doc Rivers. “He’s a big shot maker, but he is such a great passer with length. It’s tough to get deflections off Turkoglu, where all their other guys, you can get your hands up and you can get deflections. Turkoglu and LeBron [James] probably make the best cross-court passes in the league. So that’s been a little bit different for us. And Rashard is now at the 4, where really we played Turkoglu more at that position even though he was at the 3.”
|Celtics take credit where credit is due||05.23.10 at 3:41 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics are one game away from eliminating the Magic and advancing to the NBA Finals, and they believe credit should be given where credit is due.
“I believe we deserve all the credit,” Ray Allen said following practice on Sunday. “It’s only two teams playing. We’re putting them in the situation that they’re in, and we’re adjusting and trying to find the ways that we can confuse them as much as we can, and make it tough defensively on them and offensively. They’re not going out there and doing it to themselves.”
Following their Game 3 loss, the Magic conceded they have been outhustled and outplayed the entire series. Players were baffled by their collapse, saying they have not seen the real Magic team yet. Others said they are beating themselves.
But the Celtics are not paying attention to the downtrodden morale of their opponent.
“None of my concern,” said Kevin Garnett. “That’s them. That’s how they think. Nothing more, nothing less than that. I can’t really be worried with what they’re thinking over there and how they’re playing or what’s going through their head.”
The Celtics have made it this far by staying honed in on each other the entire postseason. Some questioned whether or not they would even survive the first round, let alone make it to the NBA Finals. Now that they are just 48 minutes away from advancing, they are focused on the confidence they have in one another, not the uncertainty felt by the Magic.
“I didn’t have any doubts in this team,” said Paul Pierce. “I never doubted us because I felt once we got to the playoffs, guys would be able to settle in a little more, travel wouldn’t be as much, we could really focus in on the team, and really do our scouting report. And I think just looking at a seven-game series, I always thought it’d be tough to beat us four times.”
The Heat and Cavaliers have already found out just how tough it is. The Celtics hope to teach the Magic the same lesson on Monday night.
|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|
In spite of being down 2-0 to the Celtics, Dwight Howard is optimistic about the Magic’s future in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“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.”
|Barnes wants to guard Pierce, calls him a flopper||05.20.10 at 9:56 pm ET|
In the previous round, LeBron James said he would defend the streaking Rajon Rondo. Now, Matt Barnes wants the task of defending the Celtics’ hottest scorer.
On Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Barnes would like an opportunity to stop Pierce, who is averaging 25 points per game, the most among all players in the series.
“I’d love to guard Pierce,” Barnes told the Sentinel. “I got the chance to guard him a little bit the last game and felt that I did a pretty good job. But he’s really rolling right now, so we need to slow him down somehow.”
Pierce is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in over 41 minutes per game, while averaging seven rebounds and five assists in the Eastern Conference finals.
It is a bounce-back from the Eastern Conference semifinals, in which he averaged 13.5 points off of 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range. His defensive numbers had also dropped to less than five boards and four assists against the Cavaliers.
But there is more to it than just trying to slow Pierce’s offensive attack. Barnes told the Sentinel Pierce has another skill besides scoring. He believes Pierce knows how to sell calls, too.
“My third foul in the third quarter, when I tried to beat him over the screen, he fell down like I threw him,” he said. “It was ridiculous. But the refs called it, so it was a good play. It was a flop, 100 percent, and that’s how some guys like to play. But if the refs call it, it’s effective.”
Pierce has shot 17-for-21 at the line in the first two games. He drew nine fouls in Game 2.