Is Rajon trying to look shorter than Jameer Nelson? He sure played like it...
The Boston Celtics: I guess the Lakers weren't the only team to get caught looking ahead to the NBA Finals. The Magic played like their playoff lives were on the line -- which was actually the case -- while the Celtics played like they were waiting for Orlando to crumple into a gasping, shuddering, dying heap.
Didn't happen. Beware the team that starts reading its own press clippings.
Boston coach Doc Rivers preaches "no hero ball." And yet that's what his team got caught playing: Too much dribbling, too many one-on-one plays, too many careless passes...16 of which ended up in the wrong hands. (From my standpoint, one of the worst TOs of the game happened with 42 seconds left in OT and the C's down 96-92. KG flung an awful pass across the court in the approximate direction of Paul Pierce...only it landed somewhere in the crowd. Fail.) It's no wonder the Celts shot 42 percent from the field and finished with only 92 points despite playing at home and having an extra five-minute period tacked on to the game.
In Game 3, Boston was whipping the ball around on every possession. There was one sequence in which the rock changed hands eight different times before Kevin Garnett sank a jumper. That wasn't happening in Game 4, which, I hate to say, is often the case when Pierce has a big scoring game (32 points, 11-for-25, 10-for-13). Of course, when The Half Truth scores like that, it's usually because the Boston offense is struggling to make anything happen. So I'm not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg.
Then again, maybe it was the Magic defense. Part of what's made Orlando's "collapse" in Games 1 through 3 so stunning is that they're actually a really good team. They finished the regular season with the second-best record in the league, the third-best defensive rating, and the fifth-best offensive rating. During the playoffs, they've been the second-best defensive team (based on D-Rating) next to the Celtics.
So, really, what they did to the C's last night really shouldn't be all that surprising...the surprising part is that it took them this long to put a game like this together.
But like I said, they were aided by a Boston squad that suddenly looked stiff and tentative. I'm not sure what happened to all the bravado, or Big Baby's "happy dance," or, for that matter, Rajon Rondo.
Rajon Rondo: I forget when this happened, but at some point during these playoffs, Magic Johnson said: "Rajon Rondo is by far Boston's best player. It's not even close." Evil Ted, who's becoming a huge Rondo fan, quite gleefully recounted Magic's words to me...although I'd already heard them and cringed.
First off, Magic Johnson is the undisputed King of Hyperbole. He always has been. When he's providing pre-game, in-game or post-game analysis, you really have to take what he says with a grain of salt.
Secondly, Rondo is and has been fantastic. He's controlling games, providing defense and hustle, and doing a pretty decent job in the leadership department. But Rondo's shooting is still suspect. It's improved but doubted, not only by opponents but sometimes also by Rondo himself. You could see it last night, especially during the fourth quarter. The kid finished 3-for-10 and it really looked like he didn't want to shoot the ball late. Maybe that was by design, but I don't think so. At any rate, the Magic sensed this and backed off him just enough to menace the other Boston players on D.
Thirdly, Jameer Nelson might have committed a game-worst 6 turnovers and eventually fouled out, but he took it to Rondo and outplayed him (23 points, 7-for-14, 3-for-6 on threes, game-high 9 assists). It wasn't just by the numbers, either, it was in leadership, inspiration and big shots.
Amazingly, the Boston crowd chanted "M-V-P!" for Rondo during the fourth quarter...when he had eight points and had been repeatedly skewered by Nelson. Oy.
Of course, Rajon went to the locker room near the end of the first half with vaginal cramping something described as "muscle spasms." So, uh, maybe that was the problem.
Kendrick Perkins: Remember when it looked like Perk (27 minutes, 0-for-2, 3 points, 4 rebounds) had solved the Dwight Howard puzzle? Yeah.
One other move the Celtics may lament is starting Kendrick Perkins at the beginning of overtime. Perkins didn't make a field goal in 27 minutes despite being completely unmolested on the perimeter, leaving Boston's other players to go 4-on-5 offensively. The Celtics didn't score in overtime until Perkins came out with 1:59 left.
The truth is a little ouchie.
Rasheed Wallace: Playoff 'Sheed apparently got kidnapped and locked up in a basement somewhere by Regular Season 'Sheed: 13 minutes, 4 points, 4 fouls, 3 rebounds, a turnover, 2-for-7 shooting, 0-for-4 from downtown. And, frankly, not a lot of what you'd call "hustle," or "effort," for even "breathing" as far as I could tell.
Rasheed Wallace played his worst game of the post-season so far, especially considering the circumstances (a berth in the Finals on the line). The Celtics opened the 4th quarter by knocking the ball away from Howard and getting out in semi-transition. As the Magic rushed back on defense, Rondo pulled the ball up, waiting for a trailer. And he waited. And he waited some more. At this point, I thought maybe Wallace had been injured on the other end of the court.
Nope. He was just being lazy. By the time he appeared at the top of the arc and received the pass from Rajon, the Magic was set to at least contest the shot a bit, whereas if Sheed had been hustling, he would have time to set his feet and take a wide open three.
Awful. Then Sheed committed a dumb technical (the Magic made the free throw, and the game went to overtime—Thanks Sheed!), got whistled for an illegal screen and bricked another rushed three-pointer.
Doc pulled him, and Sheed never saw the floor again. Deservedly so.
Sheed: I thought you were here for the post-season? If you openly declare the regular season meaningless and say you’re here for the post-season only, that means you have to bring the effort in every single post-season game.
Nate Robinson: More from Mr. Lowe:
Nate Robinson, summed up: He makes a wonderful pass to KG to set up a lay-in at the end of the 2nd quarter, then needlessly fouls Jameer Nelson with 38 seconds left and the Celtics in the penalty. Nate Robinson still does not understand how to play NBA defense. Honestly, I have no clue what is going to happen with Nate next season. Some team could blow $4 million per season on him, or he could be playing in Europe. I have no idea. He has no idea.
Think Celtics fans -- not to mention the Celtics themselves -- miss Eddie House? You bet your ass, they do.
Tony Allen: Don't even get me started.
Boston's bench: Oh, what the hell. They sucked. I have a feeling that, before everything's said and done, Doc might end up regretting not developing his bench a little more.
Pictured: Why Boston's starters have to log such
heavy minutes. Oh, and Kendrick Perkins, too.
Boston's pick-and-roll defense: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Magic were scoring 28 PPG on 35 percent shooting when using the P&R during Games 1-3. In Game 4, Orlando finished with 47 points on 51 percent shooting with the P&R. The Celtics might need to make an adjustment on that.
Boston's last possession in regulation / timekeeping: At TrueHoop, Kevin Anovits breaks down the Celtics' last possession:
Now, Arnovitz said it was refreshing to see the Celtics push the ball instead of calling time. And yet...that possession was a mess from the get-go. There was never any continuity or flow in it, and I happen to think the C's would have benefitted from a timeout and set play. I also think that Nelson fouled Pierce by body-blocking him to the floor, but that was probably a karmic no-call after time stood still for half a second.
Anyway, to me, that possession was a microcosm of what Boston was doing wrong all game long. And based on these somewhat passive aggressive comments, I think Ray Allen agrees with me: "Each guy feels like they can make the shot to win the game for us. Sometimes that's been at our team's detriment. So sometimes pulling back for all of us, like you come off, you have the ball, just swing it. Sometimes I might have a shot, but Kevin might have an easier one. Just plays like that. The unselfishness out there on the floor. When we're great, that's what we do.
Vince Carter: Even as Nelson and Pumaman (32 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) were rising to the occasion, Vag was looking for a place to hide. Only it's hard for somebody Carter's size to hide in plain sight during a live basketball game. Half Man, Half-Assed Effort finished with the following line in what was the biggest game of his life to date: 31 minutes, 1-for-9, 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls. Can I get a "He is who we thought he was"?
Speaking of Vince, an anonymous Orlando Magic fan sent in this link to the Not Vince Cater Twitter page. Basketbawful recommends you go there now.
Dwight Howard's elbow: I've played enough basketball to know this was intentional...and we all know about Dwight's history of elbows.
Big Baby, quote machine: "They don't want to leave. We're going to have to throw them out. It's just like somebody renting a house."
Speaking of Davis, Basketbawful readers Ely and Flunze want you to see a little of Baby's tongue action...which seems to say, "Dwight Howard! GET! IN! MY! BELLY!"
Stat curse: According to the AP game notes: "Sporting goods chain Modell's sent out an e-mail a few hours before the game advertising Eastern Conference championship gear -- if the Celtics won."
The "age" thing: After the game, some ESPN peeps -- Michael Wilbon chief among them -- who tried to pin this loss on the collective age of the Celtics. Really? Because this team didn't look all that old when they were beating the Magic in Games 1 and 2 with limited rest. Can't we all just agree that Boston lost because they played badly? Does the age thing have to come up every time they lose? I mean, prior to Game 4, the Celts had a six-game playoff winning streak going against the two best teams in the league (based on regular season record). Age wasn't the problem. Sloppy, half-hearted play was the problem.
The Indiana Pacers say guard A.J. Price will need 4-6 months to heal from a knee injury he suffered while playing in a charity basketball game.
Price was injured in New York on Saturday night. He was examined by team doctors Monday and will undergo surgery Tuesday in Indianapolis to repair a fractured left patella.
Price, heading into his second year out of Connecticut, averaged 7.3 points, 1.9 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 56 games as a rookie. He started two games, and was a regular part of the rotation the second half of the season.
Monday's sleight of hand lacktion report: From Chris: "In 19 seconds, Marquis Daniels attempted to rescue Zelda, resulting in a Mario."