Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 7:15 am  |  43 responses

Magic Stay Alive

The Celtics come out flat, still hold 3-1 series lead.

John J. Karalis /www.redsarmy.com /@redsarmy

I asked one question in all the pregame media availability.

Hey Doc, why haven’t the Celtics had the letdowns we’ve seen during the regular season?

The Celtics then promptly opened the game flat.

Even with almost 18,624 itching to blow the roof off the joint.  Even when the chants started during warmups, moving the noise meter without any guidance from the jumbotron.

Didn’t matter.

Suddenly, an offense the Orlando magic hadn’t been able run all series long sprang back to life.

Drive… dish… swish.

The Celtics stifling defense, which had frustrated Orlando’s snipers, no longer had  hands covering their scopes.

Drive… dish… swish.

The dribble penetration, which had been cut off time and time again was tearing into the heart of the Celtics defense, causing bad switches, poor rotations, and clean looks.

Drive… dish… swish.

This game had a different feel from the beginning.  Orlando clearly wasn’t ready to quit, and the Celtics clearly weren’t ready to finish the Magic off.

“I thought everybody wanted to win the game,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.  “I thought everyone showed up to win the game.  But I think at times when you have a chance to do something, close a series out or win a big game, each guy tries to do it themselves.”

After the Celtics offense sputtered, the Magic pushed the ball up the floor quickly and created enough mismatches to shoot 63% in the first quarter.  They drained 4 of 9 from deep.  They  had 6 assists.  Role players like Matt Barnes (8 1st quarter points) woke up.  The Celtics defense looked a step slow and a bit confused as they let the Magic become themselves again.  And a big part of that was because of Jameer Nelson.

“The first three games [Nelson] wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be,” said Magic center Dwight Howard. “Tonight he was aggressive. He was attacking the basket. That’s what he did in the first two series. We need him to just continue to do that.  He was effective tonight attacking and making good passes to whoever was open.”

Nelson spent a good portion of the game forcing the Celtics to make decisions that they haven’t had to make in a while. Nelson finished with 9 assists, but he was responsible for a lot more than that simply because he pulled guys out of position. A lot of Dwight Howard’s 32  points came simply because his man had to help and Dwight was getting the ball in spots where he could finish rather than worry about making a move or having to contend with Kendrick Perkins.

But as poorly as the Celtics played, they wouldn’t go quietly into the night.

Paul Pierce (32 points, 11 rebounds) carried the Celtics on a night where Rajon Rondo (9 points, 8 assists, 3 turnovers) didn’t have it. The Celtics never fell behind more than 8 points, but they never quite seemed to be able to make the run you might have expected from a team playing still managing to hang around in an ugly, tight game.

That is, until Dwight Howard smacked Kevin Garnett.

It happened in the 3rd quarter with the Celtics down 55-49. It wasn’t intentional, but KG didn’t like it, and he let Dwight know about it. The play resulted in a technical foul on Garnett, but it also woke up the Celtics, and the restless crowd.

Suddenly, the building was rocking.

Pierce banged a J.

Ray finished a break with a dunk.

KG hit a jumper.

One-point game.

Still, the Celtics couldn’t quite get over the hump.  Orlando went into the 4th down 1, but they pushed it to a 7 point lead with 2 and a half minutes to go.  And if the Magic had a go-to guy, they would have put this thing to bed right there.

They traded for Vince Carter to be the guy in that situation. He was supposed to be Mr. “I’ll take over when we need a bucket.” But he couldn’t do it.

All he could manage was a 1-9, 3 point night. He was pulled at the 3:57 mark for Matt Barnes, and he sat without even batting an eye.

The C’s went on a run and tied the game. They had the ball at home, with the clock winding down, and the ball in Paul Pierce’s hands. And they never got a shot off.

“It was supposed to be Paul at the top with a  pick-and-roll with Ray,” explained Rivers. “The floor was supposed to be flat and spaced. When you look at it, half our team was standing next to Paul. The execution was so bad—I thought we executed poorly throughout the whole game.”

“Just pretty much screwed it up, pretty much turned the ball over and that’s all it is,” said Pierce. “Couldn’t get the final shot. Sometimes it happens that way but that’s no excuse. We still had opportunities in overtime and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

They missed more than opportunities in overtime. They missed almost every shot they took. Both teams did, until Nelson banked in a three. He followed that one up with a much prettier shot from downtown. When the C’s got close with one last run, Howard closed them out with a couple of layups.

This one won’t end up on a loop in the Hall of Fame, but Orlando didn’t need it to be pretty. They just needed to look up and see a bigger number on their side of the scoreboard for once.

“At some point,” Stan Van Gundy said, “somebody is going to come from down 3-0 and win a series. The only thing I knew for sure was it would start by winning Game 4.”

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  • http://www.celticstown.com Jay King

    This is some great, great stuff my man.

  • BostonBaller

    KG was right when he said we would not collapse but we did have too many lapses, especially in OT. (not to mention that brain fart of a last chance in regulation.) Congrats to The Magic in not laying down and dying, they won this game more than we blew it. Drive… dish… swish is right. lol. We abandoned our defensive game plan. We will adjust accordingly. I think Howard has been exposed for sneaky shots on people. His nice guy persona allows him to get away with looking innocent when getting in the extra shot on an opponent. About time he got physical but it’s the way he does it. I know, I know, stop complaining…I’m not complaining about the hardness of his shots just that he rarely gets called out on them by the media. Again, Congrats on not choking last night and growing a pair in this series. Dang P Double, you’ve gone all playoffs without one of those whacky dribble turnovers until last night. lol. Good game to watch. PS. With 4 fouls you have to drive it hard at Howard, not flip shots.

  • BostonBaller

    KG was winded at the end. lol. We went away from what got us here during large stretches of the game. We didn’t play smart last night and RR wasn’t aggressive going to the hole and I don’t think it had anything to do with the cramps or whatever right before half time. I hope the refs haven’t taken Roscoe out of the series. The media will try to push the panic button….but we’ve gorilla glued those buttons so don’t push us we’re not close to the edge, we will not start to lose our heads…haha hahaha. It’s a jungle sometimes.

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    i’d say pierce was more winded towards the end than KG. almost every one of pierce’s shots down the stretch was short. not like you can blame him, he played almost 47 minutes. oh well. good game from orlando. all of those big 3′s from ray in vain. the good news is that a lot of things went wrong for the c’s, a lot went right for the magic, and the c’s still almost won. they’ll take game 5.

  • riggs

    im sorry BB, but the celtics did lose this game. They not only came back up to tie they had the winning shot at the end of regulation, which PP managed to mess up by being greedy (should’ve let Ray take the shot since he was coming off the hype from the crowd). He did the same thing in OT when he tried to take another 3 which fell short AGAIN. sometimes he frustrates the hell out of me.

  • vtrobot

    all i know is that ray’s ma is more gangsta than KG. love that lady and her son of god son.

  • vtrobot

    yeah, magic all played better but that was a bad game for the C’s. they were in a fog for a lot of it. PP has been great, but tryin’ to do a little bit too much sometimes. TEAM.

  • BostonBaller

    Last 1 b4 work…How is it that a routine alley oop from Nelson to Howard (#2) ranks higher on ESPN Top 10 over the P Double “grown man” dunk (#5)??? At least Avery Johnson comes close to calling out Howard by saying he has Mutombo like arms and elbows…they always seem to find someones face. lol. as bad as our execution & spacing was we were still in position to get the W. Oh well….Bring on Game 5!!!

  • BostonBaller

    @riggs Yes, the C’s lost the game, i think I congratulated the Magic on the win.. “Congrats to The Magic in not laying down and dying, they won this game more than we blew it.” As far as PP being greedy, that was the play that was called and if you listened to Doc afterwards he said that and that the problem was that the guys had bad spacing. Rondo was up top instead of down low ready for a pass. It was to be a pick and roll w/ Ray but there were too many guys in the wrong spot which allowed Nelson to sit at the top of the key to disrupt the play. The play called for everyone but Ray & Paul to play flat (low I believe) so that those two could determine which had the better shot or pass to the moving flat line. I may be wrong…

  • T-Money

    Howard is figuring out things. He’ll never be a young Shaq where you dump it down and tell him to go to work 1vs1 BUT if he catches it on the move and go up quick with strength. UNSTOPPABLE.

  • LA Huey

    I like SVG but it took way too long for him to figure out how to make his team competitive. And sorry, Cs fans, the Magic stole this one. For the first time all series, they matched Boston’s intensity and challenged everything. Last possession in regulation was a prime example. They refused to let Pierce walk it to the spot he wanted and forced a mishandle.

  • LA Huey

    Also, props to Dwight for not only refusing to let Boston antagonize him but also pulling some Jedi mind tricks of his own. And JJ Redick’s earned my respect this series. He’s been more effective than Vince this series.

  • skkh

    What do you mean Barnes woke up? He and Reddick have been the only ones awake for the entire series. Save Vince in Game 1

  • BostonBaller

    Magic indeed matched intensity but the jedi thing isn’t working. KG & Perk are already pissed so when they react it’s not always about the opponent getting to them. their inner voices already have that on lockdown…the voices in their heads piss them off. lol. The last possession was good D but you have to admit that the C’s had very poor execution on that play with spacing. Nelson was playing free safety at the top of the key and Rondo was past the 3 point line way over on the side. Good no call on Nelson on 2 accounts. #! no foul & more importantly # 2 no defensive 3 seconds since he wasn’t covering his man. (You can double). Howards “intensity” is much different than most players…did you see him at the end of the game during a crucial time out shaking hands with a young Celtics fan? hahahaha gotta love it.

  • LA Huey

    @BostonBaller, good point about KG and Perk (and even Sheed) being bound to get a T anyways. I’ll concede the Jedi tricks. The Cs did have poor spacing but Reddick (I think it was him) just did a damn good job of denying Pierce. Even with spacing, all it appeared Pierce could get is an awkward, contested, pull-up J. Pierce should have gave it up to Ray or called a timeout (did they not have one?). Shout out to the refs for the no calls on that possession.

  • BostonBaller

    I think they had a .20 TO left since they didn’t call one after the rebound. I was hoping that they called a TO when PDouble went into his rope a dope dribble. He goofs like that every so often and this time it killed us. I too was waiting for a pass to Ray but they were almost next to each other holding hands. All in all, The Magic didn’t want to get swept and they man’d up (except Vince). He’ll play better next game but so will RR. (Don’t you hate when the CEO of the company is looking over your shoulder and trying to add her two cents? lol. Especially since they could be on here too “in their own office” lol. See ya at the unemployment line SLAM. hahaha

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Brandon Bass to SVG: i can bang bodies with the best of em, i was the Mavs toughest player, i can leap and make jumpers… What took you so long to put me in, Mr. Van Jeremy? You *bleep*!

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    I know this was not a classic but the way the C’s reacted in the 3rd after the Howard/Garnett/Barnes altercation was fan-tastic. One nice stroke to KG’s face (u look like a moron when you do your braying sealion clappity clap AFTER u instigate, Dwight) and the C’s dropped 6 straight points to get back in the game. Ray’s breakaway was nice, as was Garnett’s and1.
    Good old smashmouth, i-can’t-stand-the-sight-of-you playoff b-ball is where it’s at. Hope some of it carries over to the games to come.

  • http://kamndestiny@yahoo.com swisha sweet

    more games more money for eveyone involved from the guys parking cars to the ref officiating the next game to the players owners media television networks.ive seen it to many times a team gets up 3-0 and play down to their opponent.jameer still sucks stans an idiot vince n rashad look confuse i guess ill b downton orlando once again spending my money and 1 of the many bars thats going to profit of me. dont get your hopes up people this next game will not even b close boston by 20

  • tyrone

    Even with the clock stopping with 8.5 seconds to go in the game couldn’t help BOSTON. HAHAHAH cheaters!

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    I think Vince should sit. Pietrus and Barnes bring more defensively, and Redick more offensively. All that talk of Vince finally having a chance to win a title, about how his career would be salvaged if he wins one with the Magic – bah. He didn’t show up for this game, and choked on those free throws earlier in the series.

  • http://www.motherjones.com AndTheJellosJigglin

    Game 5 will be very, very interesting…
    Hey swisha did you lose the period key on your keyboard?

  • http://Twitter.com/pdxgaybball Dma

    My favorite part of that last play is when the clock stopped for a second, giving the celtics extra time. Go home court advantage. And yes Vince played like doo doo with turrible shots and turnovers

  • http://www.kwapt.blogspot.com KobeWearsAPurpleThong

    @SwishaSweet Very good points. I will not take anything away from the Magic-they executed well and the C’s did not. The Magic played hard & (finally) showed some heart. They were spry & spunky and got the win. But I was sitting next to a group of NBA employees and they were tickled pink that this series has been extended. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but another game means alot more $ for the L. Great piece John. For any of you Celtics fans out there, John’s site, RedsArmy.com, is a must visit. C’s will wrap this rascal on Wednesday.

  • Bruno

    why hasnt brandon bass play before in this series?? only van gundy knows

  • vtrobot

    yeah, dwight is learning. learning how to finish an ally-oop. congratulations, “superman”. i’ll be surprised if it goes past game 5. C’s should be pissed at themselves for playing such a sloppy and lackadaisical game. some bad turnovers (KG’s pass to the 10th row at the end) and just a bunch of out-of-synch play last night. ORL definitely looked a lot better both as a team and also individually, but i think it’s ending soon. ORL, reddick is your player with the most heart.

  • vtrobot

    @ Conspiracy Theorists: But would the league really want to lengthen this series and even let there be a chance (GASP!) of ORL in the Finals again? The world wants them some Matt Barnes.

  • the_baller20

    Okay i admit the magic played well and it’s about time they did but on Wednesday it’ll be farewell magic, hello lakers.

  • thisgirlsballin

    Dwight’s the man. He’s still a young player. kind of a goof / tool …

  • the_bantam

    Good wrap. C’s just kept knocking on the door but the Magic kept closing it.

    C’s execution on the last play was damned embarrassing, credit the Magic D but that one goes as an error on the C’s from not taking a time out to PP dribbling way too long.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    Magic in 7 (years)

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton
  • DtownBiz

    Paul is such a BALL HOG!!! he tries to be the hero every time and FAILS.. RAY’s Jumper >>> Paul

  • LA Huey

    @DtownBiz, might want to check the Game 3 tape of the Miami series.

  • http://www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com Tarzan Cooper

    Yea I noticed the friendly clock take a two second pause. How convienent for boston, so glad that didnt decide the game. Jameer was as aggressive as he needed to be, esp on those pick n rolls, gotta keep the dribble, drive and put the pressure on the defense. And can rashard get some props, not a great offensive game, but better and awesome defense, esp on kg. Few steals. Very interesting if magic win game 5, how cs react in game 6

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Anton always coming correct with the .gifs.

  • BostonBaller

    @Dtown & any others who think P double was greedy on that play, it’s obvious you are not a PDouble fan but that shouldn’t cloud your comments. That was the play they called in the huddle in advance etc etc etc. refer to BostonBaller at 9:18 am and others who actually get it. Big ups to Anton on the gif. Davis is a nutty fruitcake but we love him here. lol

  • R2J

    Maybe the best game of the 2010 playoffs. Howard and Nelson rung the bell and the Magic countered everything that Boston threw at them, despite Pierce and Allen making big shots. Kudos to the Magic for fighting in a hostile place like Boston
    cause most teams in this scenerio would quit and go home watching the finals.

  • Logues

    i love doc rivers, but i think his subbing was not smart throughout the game. why put in nate rob when he has barely played at all and mike finley in the first half? and some of his other rotations i didnt like. its like he was taking this game too nonchalantly(spellcheck plz).

  • penny

    on a side note, is it just me or is jameer nelson playing more and more like a young mighty mouse aka damon stoudamire?

  • http://www.slamonline melvin ely

    @penny: Not until he improves his passing and playmaking skills, which damon had in abundance. I think a lot of his passing defficiencies come from Nelson’s height, but a lot more comes from just plain play awareness or lack thereof. And being matched up against Rondo, who is an amazing playmaker, sure exposed Jameer bad. Best playmaker the Magic ever had remains to be Hedo Turkoglu. There I said it.

  • Wil Monestime

    Awesome article John!! Great read!