|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|
‘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.
|C’s anticipate changes, don’t care||05.21.10 at 2:50 pm ET|
The Celtics heard all that and frankly don’t really care how the Magic decide to match up with Pierce.
“Obviously they want to play better defensively, probably on me,” Pierce said Friday. “Who knows what they’re going to do as far as trapping and different matchups. We’re going to make some adjustments ourselves. We still feel like we haven’t played our perfect game yet. We’re still in search of that. It doesn’t affect anything that I’m trying to do offensively when we play the Magic.”
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy changed things up before Game 1 by having Barnes guard Ray Allen and Vince Carter on Pierce, who has turned Carter inside out by scoring 50 points on just 24 shots in the first two games.
“It doesn’t affect us,” Doc Rivers said. “When you’re down 2-0 you do make some changes. We have to anticipate that. But they’re not going to make many changes. We are who we are, they are who they are, they’re just going to try to do it better. Barnes or [Mikael] Pietrus will probably guard Paul. Vince will go to Ray. That’s how a lot of us thought it would start in the series and now they’re just going to back that.”
Rivers expects Orlando will try to go big with Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat playing a Twin Towers look and possibly Rashard Lewis sliding over to the 3-spot. But the Celtics won’t vary their personnel much, mainly because they can’t.
“Some teams have the ability to go big, small or change,” Rivers said. “We unfortunately, or fortunately, do not. We’re just going to be who we are and just be the best at that.”
|Pierce: Stop comparing us to 08||at 2:29 pm ET|
“You guys [are] asking me all these questions about the ’08 team,” Pierce said Friday after the team conducted practice. “There’s no comparison in the teams. You guys want to make them similar, make them different, make them better. It’s a completely different year. New players that are trying to develop its own identity. Whatever happened then, happened. It’s not the same thing. We’re trying to develop our own identity with this team by winning a championship.”
That came after the third straight question about 2008, but on the first Pierce gave an interesting response.
“It’s a little more challenging, going on the road so much,” he said. “We played probably the three hottest teams in basketball coming into the playoffs. It’s tougher mentally and physically, just the road that we took to get here.”
And if this team wins a title?
“If that happens,” Pierce said. “I’ll be able to answer that.”
|Barnes wants to guard Pierce, calls him a flopper||05.20.10 at 9:56 pm ET|
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.
|Happily humble Celtics reminded of task||at 4:39 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Everyone wanted to know the answer to one question on Thursday in Waltham. No, it wasn’t whether Paul Pierce’s tweet was real or not as everyone suspected it wasn’t his doing in the wake of Game 2.
The question everyone wanted the answer to was: Are the Celtics overconfident? After all, the Celtics are coming into Game 3 against Orlando at home after winning the first two games of the series on the road, something they have never accomplished in their glorious history.
As always, the introspective Ray Allen provided some interesting insight to the team’s psyche.
“Always, that’s human nature,” Allen said when asked if he understood the concern of overconfidence. “You think you have everything in the bag. You think you don’t have to put as much effort out there to do your job or get the same result that you got before. The same overpreparation, the same focus, the same mental approach we’ve taken to the whole playoffs has to continue.
“The only ‘over’ I want to be is prepared. It’s important that everybody does their job and knows we’ve done our job to get into this situation.”
Kevin Garnett said all the matters is what happens on the court – not when the microphones are on off of it.
“In my estimation, confidence is about what you go out and do versus talking about it,” Garnett said. “We haven’t really done anything but won two games. Now, it’s up to us to defend our home court. It’s important that we stay humble and understand that this is a long process and this is seven games.”
And the reason for the question was Paul Pierce proclaiming to a national TV audience following Boston’s Game 2 win in Orlando that the Celtics were coming home to “close it out.”
“I didn’t like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t mind the confidence part, that’s good, but we want to be humble and we haven’t achieved anything. I think that’s what he was trying to say but it just came out at the end. I wish they’d have taken the mic away the last couple of words but up until then, he was pretty good. We do have to go home and our fans will help us but we have to do it on the floor.
Rivers did not speak to Pierce individually since then but rather the entire team about the appropriate attitude going into Game 3 Saturday night in Boston.
“I talked to the team about it,” Rivers added. “He was part of the team. Unfortunately, I talked to the team, in the locker room, right after the game.”
‘We’ve done nothing’ is clearly the mantra these Celtics have adopted for the 2010 run to a title.
“We’ve done nothing,” Rivers repeated from his comments earlier Thursday to Dennis and Callahan. “We really haven’t. We’ve won two games. We’re up, 2-0. Again, we just have to keep playing. Orlando is the favorite for a reason. They were playing better than everybody in the playoffs for a reason and we can’t take our eye off of that.”
Rivers said it’s hard to keep the players from feeling good about themselves. And actually, he said, they have earned that right.
“You don’t guard against it,” Rivers said. “You just keep focusing on execution and improving and getting ready. And each game is a single game. That’s been our speech through this playoff series, all of the series. Each game is a single game. Game 1 was an individual game. Game 2 was and Game 3 will be as well.”
Rivers is a big fan of the NFL. And Bill Belichick would be happy with the nugget he threw at his team on Thursday.
“As I told our guys, we have yet to beat Orlando on our home court this year and that’s something we have to have a focus on,” Rivers said of Orlando’s two wins in Boston this regular season.
“It won’t be easy but we earned this position and we should be happy with that. We earned getting up, 2-0 but we haven’t had the opportunity to defend our home court. We did our job there but we haven’t done our job at home. And as far as we’re concerned, until we do that, nothing has happened in this series.”