The Orlando Magic: The Magic swept their way through the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA playoffs. This included a four-game drubbing of the Charlotte Bobcats -- which they essentially did without Dwight Howard, who was plagued by foul trouble throughout the series -- and the laying of some historic smack down on the Atlanta "They Are Who We Thought They Were" Hawks.
This, of course, led to some drastic "mis-overestimation" of the Magic, who were boldly (and foolishly) proclaimed by many experts to be the best team in the playoffs. And yeah, I get that Orlando had won 14 straight games dating back to the regular season. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wanted his team to be hot heading into the postseason, and he got his wish.
But...shouldn't people have realized that Orlando had two rounds of extremely good fortune? The kind of luck Ben Affleck had when he met Matt Damon and managed to jumpstart a long and crappy career -- have you seen Daredevil?! -- based on the success of Good Will Hunting. The Magic first faced an offense-free team that relied heavily on the shot jackery of Stephen Jackson. Re-read that sentence out loud. Then they drew a squad that had barely beaten the Andrew Bogut-less Milwaukee Bucks and featured an offense built around isolating an All-Star who's masquerading as a superstar.
I'm not saying the Magic weren't playing well -- they were -- but they hadn't faced a complete team yet, either. That should have been obvious, right? It was obvious to me. (In fact, I even said they were going to get a wakeup call in the ECFs.) And it was apparently obvious to the Celtics too...because they welcomed Orlando to the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals with a face punch.
The Celts had a game plan and they carried it out: Use single coverage on Dwight Howard, fouling him whenever necessary (and sometimes even when it was not)), and staying at home on his teammates. In essence, Boston's coaching staff said: "Dwight will have to beat us with his post moves. We can live with that."
Turns out it was a good plan.
The Magic set new 2010 postseason lows for points (88), field goal percentage (41.6), three-point field goal percentage (22.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (18 TOs to only 10 assists on 32 field goals). Orlando was stuck on 14 points almost 17 minutes into the game. Their last field goal of the first quarter (a Vag Carter dunk) came at the 5:33 mark. Orlando didn't hit another shot (a Carter layup) until 7:35 was left in the second quarter.
During the regular season, the Magic set a new NBA record for three-pointers made. The Celtics were ready to make sure they didn't set any long-distance shooting marks in Game 1. Orlando went 0-for-9 in the first half and 5-for-22 for the game. Boston controlled the tempo and the score for most of the game, eventually going up by as many as 20 points. The Magic did make a strong fourth quarter run to make the final few minutes exciting...but other than that, the Celtics did pretty much whatever they wanted, stealing the game and home court advantage away from the supposedly unstoppable Magic.
Last but certainly not least, some careless ball handling by Orlando and some very active mitts (and no-calls from the officials) by the Celtics led to 18 Magic turnovers which turned into 21 bonus points for the Celtics. Oh, and the "old" Celtics outscored the well-rested Magic 20-6 in fastbreak points. Have you ever seen a healthy teenager get outrun by an 80-year-old man with a walker? Well, you saw the NBA equivalent of that yesterday.
Here's some more fun with numbers, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The Magic hadn't lost since April 2, hadn't been held below 90 points since March 24, hadn't lost had home since March 14, hadn't had 18 turnovers since March 11, hadn't made 4 or fewer three-pointers since March 3, and hadn't had 10 or fewer assists since January 28.
Dwight Howard: You want to know the exact moment when I knew Howard was going to have a bad game? During the pregame show when they showed a clip of Howard's halftime interview with himself. That's right: Dwight, dressed as Clark Kent, actually interviewed himself as "Superman." I understand he's a fun dude and all that, but does that seem like something somebody who's totally focused on an upcoming playoff battle would do?
To quote myself from a few paragraphs ago, Boston's coaching staff went into Game 1 with the following philosophy: "Dwight will have to beat us with his post moves. We can live with that."
Kendrick Perkins, Big Baby and Rasheed Wallace took turns roughing up Howard -- they fouled him a total of nine times -- and harassed him into the following stat line: 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting to go along with 4 fouls, a game-high 7 turnovers and a game-low plus-minus score of -10. Only Matt Barnes (-14) had a worse plus-minus score.
Mind you, Howard had game-highs in rebounds (12) and blocks (5), but the Celtics contained his offense with surprising ease -- even when Baby was guarding him -- which caused Orlando's offense to break down until their fourth quarter run.
Said 'Sheed: "You've got to be physical. He plays physical. That's the one thing we looked at and seen over the last few series. Guys just let him do whatever he wanted to do. We're definitely going to fight him, we have a lot of fouls. I have my six, so do Baby [Glen Davis], Perk [Kendrick Perkins], Shelden [Williams], Kevin [Garnett]."
Pretty much, yeah. And that physical play started getting to Howard, who started trying to elbow and shove away his Celtic defenders. Only the shoving became the focus instead of a means to get open.
Said Dwight: "They're going to try to frustrate me and get into my head and play head games, and I have to do my best to maintain my focus. I got into a little wresting match with all their guys, and that's to their advantage. That takes me off my game."
Update! From TrueHoop, here's a video breakdown of Pumaman's rough night:
Rashard Lewis: Vince Carter's strong game -- a team-high 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting and some aggressive moves to the basket -- was offset by Rashard's Fiesta of the Bricks. Lewis went 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-6 from downtown, finishing with only 6 points in 43 minutes. Mind you, scoring his is primary function. And it's not like the Celtics had any special "Rashard Rules" or anything. They just refused to leave him open and kept a hand in his face. That's it. That's all it took to shut Lewis down.
And this is where I remind everybody that Lewis was the 9th highest paid player in the league this season. Other notables in the top 10: Knee-Mac (1st), Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal (3rd), Shaq (5th) and Michael Redd (10th). Also, Larry Hughes is 29th...just ahead of Chris Paul. As always, I'm just sayin'.
Update! Rasheed Wallace, quote machine: Thanks to Heretic for sending this one in: "A lot of them jump shots, the buttholes get tight."
Update! Almost forgot...Ray-Ray failed to block out tiny Jameer Nelson when Vince Carter intentionally missed a free throw with eight seconds left. Nelson strolled in for the putback, which cut Boston's lead to 90-88. Allen knocked in a couple freebies with six seconds left to widen the gap, but that play really could have cost the Celts the game.
Officiating: During the first quarter, Rajon Rondo drove to the basket and was very clearly whacked across the arm right in front of Dan Crawford. No call. Shortly thereafter, Jameer Nelson got semi-wrestled into a turnover that turned into two points going the other way. I understand "letting them play," but at times this game was chaos.
As Basketbawful reader Heretic said: "Loved the officiating. Just horrible calls all around. Fouls, illegal inbound passes, moving screens...the refs said 'Fuck it, its Thunderdome rules baby!'"
Phil Jackson: I know, I know. I titled this post "Worst of Game 1 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals," but I had to include some Worst of the Weekend-type stuff. Such as more of Phil Jackson's stupid mind games. His latest victim: Steve Nash.
Jackson had grinned when asked on Friday if it's tough for the Lakers to prepare to face Nash, the reigning NBA skills champion, because of the Suns guard's frenetic style.
"Yeah, because you can't carry the ball like he does in practice," Jackson said, making a gesture of palming the basketball. "You can't pick that ball up and run with it."
Asked Saturday in El Segundo at Lakers practice about Nash's comments, Jackson smiled and feigned innocence. "I didn't complain about it. Did you hear me complain about it?"
Steve Nash and the Suns, quote machine: Steve's response to Phil's latest anti-him volley:
"It's news to me. I'm fortunate. I don't know if I've been called for a carry yet," he said after the Suns practiced Saturday, then he added straight-faced: "I've never heard anyone accuse me of carrying it. I mean, the best coach in the league Gregg Popovich [of San Antonio] didn't have a problem with it last week."
Get it? Popovich the best coach in the league?
"We have the best officials in the world," Nash continued. "I'll just leave it up to them."
Here's Alvin Gentry's response:
"You guys got to admire Phil," Gentry said. "C'mon, the stuff that he throws out there, I mean I think it's great. He's very creative. There's a reason. But I think you've got to understand that there's kind of a method to his madness. If you let it affect you, then it will."
Gentry went on to praise Jackson for his ability to create championship chemistry on teams with great players, calling it "probably the toughest thing in the NBA to do."
He said the Suns weren't going to get drawn into what they consider Jackson's psychological ploy.
"How can we win that?" Gentry said. "We're not going to win that battle anyway."
But the Phoenix coach added a jab at the Lakers when he was asked jokingly if the team worked on ball handling skills.
"We spent the day ducking elbows on post-ups, to see if we could duck elbows on post-ups, " Gentry said, a not-to-thinly veiled nod to the Lakers' style. "So it all works out, it all works out."
Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal is a free agent and wants to keep playing, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Friday.
The Cavaliers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics, 94-85, on Thursday night in Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I missed 360 games because of injury in my career, so by my calculations I still have 3.7 years left," O'Neal told the Plain Dealer. "That means I'm going to play until I'm 41. I've been here 17 years but I've missed a lot of games, so I still feel I can play this game."
O'Neal said he'd return to the Cavaliers but many things are up in the air, including the status of LeBron James and coach Mike Brown.
"There are a lot of free agents on the team," he told the newspaper. "We just have to sit back and I'm sure everybody's going to do what's best for them."
O'Neal missed the final six weeks of the regular season after tearing a ligament in his right thumb.
"I got injured, came back in better shape," O'Neal told the Plain Dealer. "I did everything they asked me to do."
You know, Shaq promised us he'd retire when he was "only as good as David Robinson." I'm still waiting for him to make good on that promise. Unfortunately, he's going to need a time machine to go back a few years when he was still as good as The Admiral.
By the way, I saw this SI cover at a grocery store near my house yesterday. It cracked my shit up to the point the old lady at the register didn't want to ring up my order.
Fresh on the newsstands! Next week: The Beatles...can they make it as a band? This is why the print media is dying a slow, shuddering death.
Lacktion report: And on the seventy day, chris reported lacktion:
Celtics-Magic: Kendrick Perkins trucked on with five fouls AND giveaways countering two field goals and boards each for a 10:6 Voskuhl in 26:02! Michael Finley found a way to finagle a portobello or two in 7 seconds for a SUPER MARIO!
In non-lacktive news, Pumaman scored a Dantley -- amazing enough considering he missed 5 of 12 attempts at the charity stripe...which is kinda bad when you lose by 4 after a furious fourth-quarter rally. Woops!