Game Notes: Magic at Celtics
Howard comes up big, Big Three come up bigger.
by Jonathan Evans
Not much of an introduction needed when the Celtics and Magic go at it. This round lived up to its billing as they went back and forth in the closing minutes. In the end, big shots by Ray Allen and Paul Pierce helped Boston squeak out the 109-106 win. Here’s how it went down.
The Celtics’ Public Announcer set the lofty goal of asking fans to observe a 60 second moment of silence to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The fans made it about 17 seconds before someone yelled something. Then another moron chimed in and soon there was hooting all around. And with that the minute of silence ended after about 40 seconds. Not surprising but still disappointing and disheartening.
Celtics sharp out the gate. Shaq gets a couple of early lay-ins as the Boston are having their way in the paint.
Rondo calmly and confidently bottoms a step back jumper. If he starts making those consistently he’ll be illegal. Next possession, Rondo bails out Boston with a fadeaway from 20 feet away as the clock goes down. Be warned.
Rondo passes to a driving KG who then drops off a pass to Shaq for the vintage slam. So far the C’s are a step ahead of the Orlando defense. They’re initiating the action, making the extra pass and getting point blank looks at the rim.
No flow for Orlando at all. Offensively they look out of sync and on the defensive end they seem uninterested in the concept of rotations. Stan Van Gundy’s arms couldn’t be crossed any tighter.
Rondo drives and drops off a bounce pass to Pierce who rises for the slam on Hedo. That’s five assists so far for R-Double. He’s had free range getting driving and wrecking havoc.
Gilbert checks in rocking some retro Nike’s. He’s clearly loving his footwear free agency.
Ryan Anderson bottoms back to back threes to open the second quarter. That’s 4-4 from deep for Anderson. Just a hunch, but I don’t think Orlando misses Rashard Lewis all that much.
Orlando’s Superman version 2.0 is taking it to version 1.0 here in the second quarter. Howard’s not just looking for the slam but confidently facing up, driving across the paint or rising up for the jumper. He’s drawn three fouls already on Shaq and is now taking it to Baby. He has a game high 18 points so far.
Orlando and Boston trade buckets early in the third. Celtics still don’t have an answer for Howard who has two slams. For Boston, KG stays hot from the perimeter to keep them close.
Bass flashes to middle to save a broken play. Hedo finds him and he hits foul line jumper. Yeah, they’re cool without Rashard.
Howard gets it in deep, turns on Baby and drops in another bucket. As much as they might not like to, at some point, Boston’s going to have to come with a double team on Howard.
KG from twenty. His 10 points this quarter have carried Boston to a slim lead. On the other end, Howard draws another foul and hits another two from the line. That’s 26 so far for Howard.
A girl on the jumbotron has an “Orlando 1” jersey. Not Penny, or T-Mac or even Gilbert but – wait for it – a customized Van Gundy jersey. Very impressive.
Nate’s looking quite Knick-ish this quarter for Boston. He’s clearly going for his, forcing shots and ruining what is otherwise a near perfect offensive performance by the Celtics so far. Looks like Doc’s finally had enough as a forced baseline jumper by Nate brings Rondo off the bench.
C’s seem content to let Howard do his thing as he spins free of Shaq for a lay-in. Next time down he banks in short jumper. That’s 30 for Superman.
This one is staying close, seemingly anytime one team gets a two possession lead, the other team nails a three. Out of timeout KG screen and frees Ray for 3.Other end JRich answers with a three of his own.
After pretty much playing him straight up all night, Boston finally comes hard with a double on Dwight and it burns them. After drawing in Pierce, Howard passes to Hedo for an open three from the wing. Interestingly, instead of squaring up for the open look, Hedo actually gets in rhythm by falling away as he shoots it. Whatever works. Orlando leads by two with 2:32 left.
Seconds later, Ray gives Boston the lead back with a three of his own from the corner. Ray, who has been running Richardson and Redick in circles all night, gets the perfect feed from Rondo for the shot.
After trading freethrows, Jameer ties the game back up with a pull up jumper with just under a minute left. On the ensuing possession, Pierce sets up on the wing. Behind the back dribble, jab step, step back, foul, buckets. Pierce hits the freethrow to give Boston a three point lead with 38 ticks left.
Jameer, stuck in the corner, tries to drop off a pass to Richardson but KG extends to steal the pass. Garnett’s outlet pass to Ray seals the deal.
For the Magic, Howard’s 33 points avenged his poor performance from their last meeting and their 11 hits from deep kept them in the hunt all night long. But in the end, this one has to be a head scratcher for Orlando. They allowed Boston to shoot an unthinkable 60% from the field but were still a couple of breaks away from stealing the win. Their reconstructed lineup seems to be clicking the offense, but much to Stan Van Gundy’s chagrin, their defense is still a work in progress.
The Celtics have no such problems and with their defensive quarterback back in the lineup and Perkins’ return around the corner, they seem to be all systems go. The last pivotal sequences could pretty much sum up the formula for this Celtics team. Allen hits a big one, then Pierce, and then Garnett seals it with defense. Pretty much the narrative Boston hopes to ride all the way through the spring.