This sad bench photo gets bonus points for the inclusion of Patrick Chewing.
The Orlando Magic: This video -- which you've probably already seen at least a half dozen times -- pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Game 3 of the Celtics-Magic series:
Kevin Garnett called that a "pure, I-want-it-more-than-you type of play." Rondo said: "I wanted to make a play on the ball. He had the angle on me so I decide to dive for it." Doc Rivers added: "I didn't think he could get to it. I don't think Jason Williams thought he could get to it, honestly. I don't know how he got it."
Was that play, technically speaking, a travel? Maybe. But the call (or non-call) went the way of the player who just flat out wanted it more...just like the game went to the team that wanted it more. Here's another video that kind of proves that out:
The way the Celtics sleep-walked through the regular season was so convincing that even after they won Games 1 and 2 in Orlando, there were people who pointed to the C's so-so play in Boston as a possible glimmer of hope for Orlando. Conventional thinking was that if the Magic showed up with a sense of urgency, if they outhustled and outworked the Celtics, they could win Game 3 and make this a series.
Instead, the Magic recreated this immortal scene from the first Austin Powers movie:
Orlando was outrebounded 43-36, outscored in the paint 43-22, and they gave up 19 points on 17 turnovers. They shot only 36 percent from the field and scored only 71 points. They lost by 23 after trailing by as many as 32.
Mind you, coming into this series, the Magic were 8-0 in the playoffs and averaging 101 PPG while shooting almost 50 percent from the field and nearly 40 from downtown. Against the Boston Stranglers, they're scoring 83.7 PPG and shooting 39 and 28 percent, respectively. As Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom pointed out: "Their offensive rating is down to 95 points per 100 possessions. For reference, the 12-70 Nets were last in the NBA with 100.6 points per 100 possessions." And the Celts did pretty much whatever they wanted on the other end of the court. It's a complete offensive/defensive apocalypse for Orlando. Reminder: During the regular season, the Magic were ranked 4th in Offensive Rating and 3rd in Defensive rating.
But forget the numbers for a second. Despite what the critics are saying, the Magic wanted it. There was effort being exerted. The Celtics just wanted it more...which is why you saw Rajon Rondo challenging Orlando's big men for rebounds and Big Baby diving out of bounds for loose balls. And their defense has been like a vise clamped on the Magic's proverbial balls. The C's challenge everything...every shot, every pass, every rebound. They pound on people. What we interpreted as a choke by LeBron and a failure by his teammates was really just a case of their will being broken by a superior defensive force. And we're seeing that happen again.
Who knows. Maybe the Magic have one more big effort left in them. But man...
Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy: "I just didn't think we stayed with the fight very well. I thought there were several hustle plays like [Rondo's] in the first half that all went their way. I thought they worked harder than we did. I thought they outcompeted us."
But...but...the Magic were the second-best regular season team in the league. How could they have been handled so easily? Humiliated so completely?
Said Van Gundy: "What's most disappointing to me was that I didn't have them ready to compete. It starts with me, it's my job, I'm the coach, and I'm not happy about what I did tonight -- my plan, my adjustments, my everything."
Wait...it's your fault your team kind of gave up?
More SVG: "I don't think we stayed with the fight very well, and we went sideways mentally. And there were a lot of guys in that room that have built this team to where it is, a contender that has gained respect, and that game tonight -- not just the score , but the way it went -- it's disappointing because that's not who we are and what we've worked to become. And between now and Monday, there needs to be a lot of soul searching and pulling together, because the normal reaction is to try to escape, and to try to escape blame, and it takes mentally mature people to bounce back and show who we are. But if we don't have that kind of toughness, we shouldn't be here anyway."
Dwight Howard: His final line: 39 minutes, 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3-for-10 shooting, 1-for-4 from the line, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 blocked shots, 1 turnover. Glen "Big Baby" Davis' final line: 27 minutes, 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5-for-9 shooting, 7-for-9 from the line, 1 blocked shot, zero turnovers. 'Nuff said?
No, not quite. All those decisive moves and that successful hook shot Dwight unveiled in Game 2 went the way of Jimmy Hoffa. The Celtics were once again able to get away with single coverage on Howard...even when Big Baby was guarding him. Of course, Boston's cause has been helped by the fact that the refs are letting all sorts of physical play go in this series, which is the only conceivable reason Baby could have roughed up Howard for most of his 27 minutes of PT without registering a single personal foul...
Rashard Lewis: The 118 Million Dollar Man has been so bawful in this series that his contract just climbed to the number two spot in Stan Van Gundy's list of things he'll go back and change when he finishes his time machine, right after "tell Matt Barnes not to push opposing players into me." In Game 3, he finished with 4 points (2-for-8, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc), 4 boards, 4 turnovers and 5 fouls in 28 minutes. That pushes his series totals to 15 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 turnovers and 10 fouls in about 111 minutes of lacktion. As far as shooting goes, Lewis is 6-for-24 from the field and 1-for-13 from three-point range.
All I know is that people in the greater Orlando area are scrambling around in a mad search for the shallow grave of Rashard Lewis. Oh, and I loved what Sir Charles had to say: "Hey, Rashard, learn how to dribble over the summer."
Vince Carter: 15 points, 5-for-12, 1-for-5 on threes. You're telling me this guy was an upgrade from Hedo Turkoglu? Oh, and remember Game 1, when Vince was all about attacking the rim? Yeah, the Celtics have done a pretty good job of intimidating him out of that mindset. Even when he makes a strong move to the hoop, as soon as a Boston defender rotates to challenge him, Vag just chucks the ball at the rim and ducks his head.
Jameer Nelson: Remember how on-fire this guy was in Rounds 1 and 2? In Game 3, he went 5-for-14 from the field and a dismal 3-for-9 from downtown. Forget about why on earth Nelson would ever attempt that many threes and focus on the fact that he finished with 1 assist in 32 minutes. That's right...1...versus 4 turnovers. Not exactly the floor game you want from your starting point guard. Not surprisingly, the Magic finished with only 10 assists.
Matt Barnes: Mr. Barnes took out his own coach, using KG as the weapon:
Kevin Garnett: As bad as Howard played, this was still pretty impressive:
Unfortunately for Phil, Jedi mind tricks don't work on Amar'e.
The Los Angeles Lakers: With every mismatch seemingly in their favor, with last year's Finals MVP having himself a game (36 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists) and Pau Gasol having another near perfect game (23 points, 11-for-14, 9 rebounds), you'd think the Lakers would be getting their brooms out of the closet. And they probably would be, too, if they could play some defense.
The Suns scored 118 points. They were aggressive enough to earn 42 free throw attempts. And Amar''''''e Stoudemre -- who was crucified here and pretty much everywhere else after Game 2 -- had a "lucky" game, tying his career playoff high with 42 points on 14-for-22 from the field and 14-for-18 from the line. (Btw, one of STATUE's FT misses came after a stat-cursing graphic alerted viewers to the fact that the Suns had hit 21 straight freebies). Heck, Stoudemire even had 11 boards...8 defensive!
After all the grinning and smirking Gasol did in Game 2, it was really sweet to watch Amar''''''e so relentlessly abuse him last night. It'll be a wonder of human psychology if Pau doesn't try to enroll in witness protection this morning.
I could go on about L.A.'s defensive ineptitude, or how they got rattled by the Suns' zone and were seduced into chucking up all sorts of crappy treys, but how about I just cut-and-past what Basketbawful reader Karc had to say about this game:
Yeah, about that "4th" ranked defense for the Lakers, gave up another 118 points tonight to the Suns and lost. 24th ranked three-point shooting, so why not take 32 threes and only hit 9. There was a sequence late in the game where they shot four bricked threes in a row, I think they were only down by 4 at that point. Sure enough, Suns go up 10, ball game over.
Of course, there was the obligatory "stat curse" when it was mentioned that the Lakers are unbeaten in the playoffs when Gasol and Byrant score 20 each. Not any more.
One of the interesting arguments I hear from people who defend the Lakers is that they play smart basketball. Watched that fourth quarter. Five turnovers, Odom fouling out, Lakers getting sucked into bad jumpers from a zone defense of guys six inches shorter than them. Not proclaiming to be an expert at basketball, but going into the paint seemed to be working.
Can we just hand the title to Boston at this point? Seriously, who's going to beat them? Orlando's deadly (more like suicidal) three-point shooting? The Lakers' stupidity to rely on their 24th-ranked three-point shooting when they've got a guy in there who's virtually unstoppable in the post (Gasol went 11-14, could have been 19-23 and a win if they take out the gun-slinging). Suns don't have a chance against a team that actually plays some defense.
And, LA fans (including the ones in Phoenix), quit this whole "We want Boston" chant. First, you haven't beaten the Suns yet. BTW, WOTN goes to Andrew Bynum for this nugget, then stinking out the joint with a field goal, two rebounds, and four fouls in under eight minutes.
This goes back to my whole "Lakers are not that smart" position. Paul Pierce did a similar thing the other day after the road win in Orlando (basically tweeting that the series was over, and it is), and Doc Rivers immediately got on his case for it, saying "I wish he hadn't said that." Ray Allen chipped in something about humility. Pierce redeems himself the next game in a team effort to crush the Magic. Where was Fisher to take the "humble" stance? Or Phil Jackson with something about staying in the zone? Though he gets a slight pass because of the AWESOME shot at Craig Sager's suit, calling him the Good Humor Ice Cream Man. Lakers may win the series, but you'll probably be chanting "No more Boston" after they bitchslap the Lakers in 5.
Said Phil: "I'll talk to him to see what his suggestion is about it and how he feels about it. I think he was ineffective. There were some things that got by him. He had one nice move in the post. Defensively I thought he was a little bit late."
Added Bynum: "I was ineffective, that's obvious."
The benches: Lamar Odom might have been the biggest victim of the Phoenix zone, and he finished with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting and only 6 rebounds before fouling out. The rest of the Lakers reserves managed only 8 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
As for the Suns' bench, those dudes went 3-for-21 from the field, with Channing Frye (0-for-7, 0-for-5 on threes) and Leandro Barbosa (0-for-4, 0-for-3 from distance) leading the Brick Parade. Man, if Frye could just hit a freakin' shot...speaking of which...
Channing Frye: For the series, Frye is shooting 1-for-20 from the field, 1-for-14 on threes, and has missed 17 straight shots. His hero? Rashard Lewis, apparently.
Robin Lopez: Lopez actually had a really strong game, hitting some hook shots and providing actual, honest-to-goodness interior toughness for the "spongy on the outside, cream filling on the inside" Suns. But please don't try to tell me thsi happened on accident:
Steve Nash's face: Holy Christ, is Steve's face going to survive the playoffs? The man wasn't exactly handsome when the postseason started. Now he looks like someone who's spent the last five years living on a strict diet of Steven Segal face punches. President Obama is this close to declaring Nash's mug a national disaster site...and he probably would have done it already if Nash wasn't Canadian.
After Nash bent his busted nose back into place on live TV during the game, Basketbawful reader zyth said: "So, um, when do we fawn over Bron's or Kobe's toughness next? It's just ridiculous how little love Nash gets around the world."
This is a fact: Nash does not get nearly enough credit for his toughness. Here's a dude who plays through a chronic back ailment that affects him every day and has for his entire career. But all we ever hear about is Kobe's finger or LeBron's elbow. I actually read an article in the Chicago Tribune this weekend that said (with complete seriousness) that the Crabs would have swept the Celtics if LeBron's elbow would have been 100 percent. And if the Lakers end up losing, I have a funny feeling we'll suddenly find out something was "wrong" with Mamba. Meanwhile, as awesome as he is, nobody ever says, "Man, imagine how good Nash would be if he didn't suffer from spondylolisthesis.
As always, I'm just sayin'.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: "You can never question my determination, my focus, my dedication. That's one of the reasons I've persevered through injuries and continue to try to improve every summer. My dedication to the game is at an all-time high."
Lamar Odom, unintentionally dirty quote machine: "He got to the hole and was forceful."
Mike Brown:Fired. We all saw that one coming, right? Another Coach of the Year casualty. Did you know, four of the past five CotYs (Brown, Byron Scott, Sam Mitchell and Avery Johnson) have been fired, and the oen before Johnson (Mike D'Antoni) was, shall we say, encouraged to explore other options. If I was Scott Brooks, I would be getting a little twitchy.
Weekend lacktion report: I don't like to criticize, but I think Chris should have included Rashard Lewis in his lacktion report...
Magic-Celtics: Michael Finley found a piece of masonry at the Gaaahden and paired it with a foul in 8:23 for a celebratory +2 suck differential!
Meanwhile, Shelden Williams parked in the lacktion ledger tonight by countering a board in 4:45 with a foul and giveaway for a 2:1 Voskuhl.
Lakers-Suns: Josh Powell powered up via portobello in just 55 seconds for a Mario.