Game Notes: Magic at Celtics
Van Gundy: ‘We didn’t give up, we just got our @$& kicked.’
by Jonathan Evans
Once Eastern Conference standard bearers, a Boston-Orlando matchup now features two teams fighting to not be among the also-rans of the East. If this game was any indication, the Magic might not be shoo-ins for that top tier just yet.
Paul Pierce led a depleted Celtics roster to an 87-56 annihilation of Orlando. The Magic shot just 24.6 percent from the field and tallied 16 field goals for the whole game and just five in the second half. As horrible as those numbers sound, I think it’s best to leave it to the always earnest and entertaining Stan Van Gundy to help break it down further.
“That’s the most dominating defensive performance that I’ve ever been a part of. That was an absolute beatdown…. Avery Bradley set the tone for the whole thing.”
Indeed, Boston’s had their most dominating defensive game in ages, and as Stan said, there was no bigger factor in that effort than Avery Bradley. Filling in for the ailing Rondo, Bradley earned his Celtic stripes in this one. He hounded Jameer from the opening tip and didn’t allow him to comfortably set up the offense for Orlando. Forcing the action, his ball pressure helped get some easy buckets for Boston in transition. Bradley finished with 3 steals and a block to go along with his 6 points and 3 dimes. It’s looking more and more like the Cs have another set of reliable young legs to throw out there and push the tempo. No doubt a refreshing development for Boston team looking for bodies to keep up with Rondo.
“Their defensive intensity was absolutely phenomenal. They took everyone out.”
After jumping out of the gate with a 12-point first, Dwight Howard was held in check the rest of the night finishing with just 18 points on 4-15 shooting. O’Neal, Garnett and even Bass and Stiemsma took turns single covering Dwight and forced him into settling for running hooks that never seemed to find the bottom of the net.
Jermaine was probably the most amped to take on Howard. At one point in the third, the physical back and forth led to a minor dust up and techs for each of them. With a frustrated Howard not forcing a double team, and Bradley’s pressure taking crucial time off the shot clock, the Cs were able to stay at home on Orlando’s shooters who couldn’t score if their lives depended on it. Anderson, Orlando’s second leading scorer was held scoreless and Howard aside, no other Magic player had more than two field goals.
“We didn’t give up, we just got our ass kicked.”
Frankly, if you’re an Orlando fan, you wish they did give up but it looks like Stan’s mostly right here. After the Cs ended the first half on a 12-3 run to go up 10, Orlando tried to claw their way back into it but had too many missed shots and turnovers. The sight of human white flag Larry Hughes probably couldn’t come soon enough for some.
A telling lens at the difference between the two teams in this one was the play of their recently swapped back up big men. Brandon Bass anchored the offense for the second unit, notching 19 points and 8 boards. Meanwhile Big Baby, who received a nice video tribute from Boston, took and missed the most shots on Orlando of anyone not named Dwight Howard. And while he did pull down 11 boards, he turned the ball over four times and was on the receiving end of a two-handed flush by Bass.
“Tonight they were dominant and we didn’t belong on the same floor as them.”
Bradley aside, Pierce and KG were big in this win. Pierce, the calming force on a Cs roster in flux, looks to have his legs under him after a slow start to the season. Of course there were the trademark stop and pops but, with Rondo out, The Truth also took on the role of facilitator. Pierce did so admirably finishing with 19 points, five boards, and a game high seven assists. KG finished with 14 points, 10 boards, 5 steals and two blocks. Garnett also had stretches of one-on-one coverage on Howard where he rendered the beefy malcontent irrelevant.
For a Boston team looking for anything to build on, this performance certainly fits the bill. Undoubtedly their best performance of the season, the vintage defensive performance the Cs surely revives hopes of their relevance in the eastern conference power structure.