Celtics put clamps on Magic
NO DOUBLE TEAM Contrary to how most teams have attacked the Magic this season, the Celtics didn’t regularly send a second defender to help Kendrick Perkins guard Dwight Howard in the post. Instead, the Celtics dared Dwight to beat them one-on-one — and he didn’t (11 points, 4-10 FG, and four turnovers). It’s a strategy that will likely be emulated in the future, especially when the Magic are shooting well and you’ve got a goon like Kendrick Perkins who doesn’t give you much offense. Back to Dwight. For all the strides the big guy has made in the post game over the past five years, he’s still not where he needs to be for the Magic to win a championship. Dwight needs to develop that Tim Duncan jumper — and I know he’s working on it — and if he can, he will be unstoppable. THINNING THE D Why do the Magic always have trouble against the Pistons? A big reason is the shooting ability of Rasheed Wallace. He forces Dwight Howard to leave the paint, and when he misses a jumper that means Dwight isn’t down low to grab the rebound. That leads to plenty of offensive rebounds and more room in the paint. Glen Davis was Rasheed Wallace tonight. He took advantage of Dwight’s willingness to play help defense, scoring 16 points on almost all jumpers. And guess what else — the Celtics snagged up 14 offensive rebounds. Van Gundy urgently tried different lineups to counter-attack. He subbed Tony Battie into power forward, moving Rashard to the 3 and Hedo to 2. Didn’t really work, but the Celtics are, you know, decent. BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE Another thing that shocked me were the missed free throws from Rashard Lewis, who went 3-for-7 from the stripe despite hitting more than 85 percent this season. Hedo Turkoglu also missed a couple of big ones, and even J.J. Redick bricked one. With the brand of defense that was being played throughout the game, especially in the first half, the Magic had their chances on the offensive end but couldn’t capitalize on them. DON’T PANIC The Magic started the season 0-2 with losses to Atlanta and Memphis. Since then, they’re 33-7, with six of their losses coming against top teams (Boston twice, Houston, Portland, Phoenix, and Detroit), along with an off-night in Toronto. Tonight wasn’t as bad of a beat down as the first meeting between the two teams, where Orlando lost in Boston by 19 without Jameer Nelson. The Magic are one of the top teams in the NBA no doubt, and they would be favored to win a seven game series with any team in the East besides Boston. If the shots are falling and Howard can control the post and give his team a rebounding advantage, they could even beat the Celtics in seven. But I’ll believe it when I see it. In an ideal setting, Orlando will secure the one seed and coast to the Eastern Conference Finals, hoping to meet the Cavs. Win that series and you have the Lakers or Spurs most likely, both whom the Magic have swept. A championship is far from out of the question in the O-Town, but it remains to be seen if anyone can best the defending world champions. BOGANS? When Keith Bogans left the game in the second quarter, he put his hand out for a high-five and Stan Van Gundy snubbed him. Bogans didn’t play the rest of the game. It seems that, for some reason, Van Gundy wasn’t happy with Bogans’ 0-for-4 effort.
Whatever excuse you want to use — the five-day rest, injuries, post-inauguration hangover — the Celtics were the better team tonight. The Magic shot poorly, didn’t pass well and Dwight Howard suffered through foul trouble. That’s not gonna cut it against the world champions. Per usual for Magic fans, Paul Pierce used Hedo Turkoglu like a blow-up doll, scoring 27 points and getting to the line 14 times. Big Baby was huge in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 points. The Magic fell behind early, and it seemed like they couldn’t even put a dent in the scoreboard. That’s what good teams like the Celtics do. They don’t let teams go on runs. When Jameer Nelson started taking over, Howard was fouled out and Orlando was putting all of their faith in Marcin Gortat to come up with big rebounds. It just wasn’t meant to be.