Celtics-Lakers 2

This is Part 2 of our The Worst of Celtics-Lakers series. It's a decent sequel, I think. Not quite Ghostbusters II, but close. Wait...I should probably rethink that comparison...

1963 NBA Finals

Getting it wrong, Part I: In march of 1963, some big, throbbing brain at Sports Illustrated ensured himself a place in the Stupid Quotes Hall of Fame when he wrote that: "The Boston Celtics are an old team. Tired blood courses through their varicose veins." Which was a pretty off-the-wall viewpoint considering the five-time champions finished the season with the best record in the league (58-22) -- five games better than the second-place Lakers.

Oh, and those old, tired legs ran up 118.8 PPG (third in the league) while allowing only 111.6 PPG (second in the league). And their point differential (7.2) was easily tops in the NBA. What's more, seven players averaged in double-figures and Bill Russell was the league MVP for the third straight season. So I think the real issue was simply that SI -- and probably a lot of other people -- were tired of watching the Celtics win year after year after year.

Fun fact: It wasn't just the sports writers and their opponents who were getting tired of Boston's wining ways; their fans were too! Regular-season attendance dropped to 6,800 per game, which means there were about 8,000 empty seats in the Boston Garden every night. Wow. I guess back in the 60s, winning just wasn't enough. Ah, if only Bill Russell had been white.

Bob Cousy, quote machine. The Cooz appeared on The Mike Wallace Show and Wallace asked him how he dealt with playoff pressure. Cousy said, completely seriously, "Well, I go to the toilet much more often." Well, at least he was properly hydrated.

Bold predictions, Part I: Red Auerbach and his victory cigar made a lot of enemies back in the day. Oh, and the fact that he and his team spent the better part of a decade and a half kicking everybody's ass didn't win him many friends, either. A rival coach once had this to say about the cigar-smoking curmudgeon: "At first I didn't like Red Auerbach. But in time I grew to hate him."

Hate never daunted Red, though. He fed off of it. Well, that and the blood of his enemies. And the man had no fear -- except for grizzly bears, and who can blame him? -- which is probably why he gave the Lakers some bulletin board material after the Celtics won Game 4 in L.A. to take a 3-1 series lead. Said Auerbach: "We've never lost three games in a row."

That's the kind of statement that would get you in trouble if you were, say, Tracy McGrady. Of course, this was Red Auerbach, so it turned out to be true. Eventually.

The Celtics in Game 5: Red's plus-sized mouth got muzzled in Game 5, which his team lost at home due to a series of unfortunate events. Tommy Heinsohn got himself ejected. Bob Cousy fouled out after scoring only 12 points. And the Celtics had no defensive answers for Elgin Baylor (43 points) and Jerry West (32 points) as Los Angeles kept their playoff hearts beating with a 126-119 victory.

Getting it wrong, Part II: The media was as obsessed with Boston's composite age as Marilyn Monroe's suicide and the Cuban Missle Crisis. (Yes, those events happened during the 1962-63 season. Wild, huh?) After the rotten egg the Celtics had laid in Game 5, everybody was predicting the crusty leprechauns would disintegrate into dust under the Lakers' youthful feet. Good call, collective media!

Fun fact: I guess "old age" meant something completely different in the 60s. Sure, The Cooz was 34, but Sam Jones (29), Heinsohn (28) and Bill Russell (28) were all in their primes, and the Celtics even had a young crackerjack rookie named John Havlicek (22) on the team. As Cousy put it: "We are not the oldest men alive."

Bold predictions, Part II: With the media carving the letters on his team's tombstone, Bill Russell openly scoffed at the notion that the Lakers had taken control of the series and were going to overtake his Celtics. Said Russell: "No. Los Angeles is not going to do any such thing." That's a pretty ballsy thing to say, and he backed it up. But still.

Lakers fans: Man, those dudes were a combustible bunch even in the 1960s. Prior to Game 6, a 5,000-person horde descended on the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena to buy playoff tickets. When they found there weren't any available, the "fans" transformed into an angry, yelling mob. The situation fell just short of the pitchfork-and-torches treatment only after the Lakers offered to show the game on closed-circuit TV for $2.50 per person. So much for The Age of Aquarius, huh?

Jerry West: The Logo missed the final seven weeks of the regular season due to a hamstring injury, and it certainly limited his effectiveness in the playoffs. But his hammy wasn't to blame for his biggest boner of the of Game 7: With 2:48 remaining and the Lakers down only two points, West tried to force a pass to Rudy LaRusso. The pass was stolen by Tommy Heinsohn, who took it the other way for an easy bucket. That play killed the Lakers momentum and all but broke their will. A couple minutes later, Cousy dribbled out the clock on a 112-109 win and another Celtics championship. I'm guessing that's one pass Mr. Clutch would like to have back.

Red Auerbach, quote machine: In honor of Lakers owner Bob Short and the team's successful move to The City of Angels, the NBA staged the 1963 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The day of the game, Short held a luncheon that featured plenty of back-patting and glad-handing, as well as a program that proclaimed L.A. to be the "Basketball Capital of the World." Too bad for Short that he had invited Red to speak at the event, right after Lakers coach Fred Shaus. And this is what Red had to say: "I suppose you people expect me to make some more nice chitchat like Shaus. You're a bunch of bushers. That goes for the club, the fans, and all the writers." Red held up the program and continued: "I come here today, and I see this -- it's ridiculous! What do you people think this is? Win a couple championships first, then talk about being the basketball capital of the world. Right now, the basketball capital is Boston. And it's gonna stay in Boston for a long time!"

It was against that backdrop that, after the Celtics finished off the Lakers in Game 6, Red said to the press: "Please tell me some of these stories about Los Angeles being the basketball capital of the world." Ah, Red...always the gracious winner.

Bill Russell, quote machine: While not quite as acerbic as his feisty coach, Russ made his own subtle dig to the assembled media: "It's nice to be playing with the old pros. The old, old pros."

Party pooping: After winning their fifth straight title -- and sixth in seven years -- the Celtics didn't break out beer or champagne. In fact, it would have taken an electron microscope to even find a trace of emotion in the Boston locker room, despite the fact that Cooz had played his final game. Said Heinsohn: "Why celebrate? We've won five in a row." Added Havlicek (years later): "We won, and I think people expected us to win. We had a breakup dinner, and we were gone within a day or two."

Wordiosity: While the Celtics were pretty ho-hum about their latest title, the Boston media wasn't. Grantland Rice, the great sports writer/poet, wrote the following: "With a farewell performance of supreme virtuosity, Cooz, the Magnificent, had led his Boston Celtics to a fifth straight championship. Thus did the Celtic captain complete his playing days on the triumphant note he deserved, still a champion among champions." Jeez, Grantland. If you wanted to sleep with The Cooz so badly, you could have just tried asking him.

Sources: NBA.com, Wikipedia, Basketball-reference.com, Ever Green by Dan Shaughnessy, and The Rivalry by John Taylor.

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Celtics-Lakers 1

Editor's note: I don't mean to cop out of a Worst of the Weekend post, but I took a rare but much-needed weekend off from basketblogging. What can I say that wasn't in this weekend's BAD comments? The Magic were worse than the Celtics and the Suns were worse than the Lakers. Orlando paid the price for letting their championship hopes rest on Dwight Howard's post move and Vince Carter's clutch abilities, and Phoenix simply wasn't as talented as L.A.

Anyway, leading up to the big Celtics-Lakers Finals, I'm going to repost all my old Worst of Celtics-Lakers entries. I will update this series with a final entry for the 2008 Finals. Hope this can tide you over until the Finals start.

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers faced off in the NBA Finals in 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1984, 1985, 1987 and 2008. That's 10 times, which is the same number of the Friday the 13th movie where Jason Voorhees was frozen, launched into outer space, and transformed from a zombie serial killer into a zombie-android serial killer. Coincidence? I think not.

The Celtics were 8-2 in those championship series. Those showdowns were filled with many classic moments, as well as some not-so-classic moments. I think you know which ones I'm going to talk about.

The 1962 NBA Finals

Wishful thinking: Even though they were four-time champions, Fred Shaus -- whose Lakers had already qualified for the final round -- had been rooting for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Why? Said Shaus: "In all honesty, we had no post game." In other words, Shaus and the Lakers felt more confident in facing Bill Russell in the pivot than Wilt Chamberlain...even though The Stilt had never, you know, won a championship. Guess that goes to show, once again, that you should be very, very careful what you wish for.

The Boston fans: By the time they made it to the 1962 Finals, the Celtics had already won three straight titles and four out of five. Not too shabby, eh? That '62 team averaged 121.1 PPG, compiled the best record in the league (60-20), and had just finished an exciting seven-game series against the monstrous Wilt Chamberlain and his Philadelphia Warriors in the Eastern Conference Finals. But not even all that couldn't draw the Beantowners to the Boston Garden for the championship round. Only 7,617 fans showed up for Game 1. For a little perspective, that was barely more than half of the Garden's 14,890 capacity. And there were plenty of empty seats available throughout the series.

Homecourt disadvantage: In retrospect, maybe the Boston fans knew what they were doing. Boston lost Games 2 and 5 at home, and the Lakers lost Games 4 and 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. BASIC MATH ALERT!! That means the home teams were 3-4 in this series.

Fun fact: Game 6 of the '62 Finals was one of the Lakers most heartbreaking playoff losses ever. With a chance to win it all at home, the Lakers built a 10-point halftime lead before getting overwhelmed in the second half and losing 119-105. Game 7 in Boston? Yeah, that didn't go their way either...

Jim Krebs: Krebs was a 6'8" bruiser who was known for, well, bruising people. And then some. In his autobiography Go Up For Glory, Bill Russell said: "Jim Krebs was known in the league as man who was willing to go beyond the rules in getting his man." Krebs lived down to to his reputation in the Finals, breaking K.C. Jones' nose with an "errant" elbow.

Sam Jones: Sam had a Game 3 he'd probably rather forget. (And I'm sure all those championships worked better than a labotomy.) Not only did he get abused by Jerry West, who scored four points in the final minute to tie the game at 115-all, Sam threw a bad pass -- intended for Bob Cousy -- with four seconds left that was stolen by West. Mr. Clutch laid it in at the buzzer, giving the Lakers a 117-115 win and a 2-1 series lead. There was only one problem...

Clock mismanagement, Part I: Red Auerbach freaked out after Game 3 and insisted afterward that it was impossible for West to dribble 30 feet and score with only three seconds left. The Lakers' bench had thought it was impossible too; L.A.'s reserves were screaming their heads off for West to pull up and shoot. But West knew what he was doing. Just ask him. "I had deflected the ball on the run. I knew I would have enough time, because I knew what the shot clock was. Quite often I'm surprised today that more young players don't pay attention to the shot clock." Uh huh.

Boston's Game 5 defense: In 1962, the Celtics had the best defense in the league (111.9 PPG), but that didn't keep them from getting shelled in Game 5 at home. Not only did the Lakers put up 126 points, Elgin Baylor took a 61-point dump in the Celtics' championship stew. That, by the way, is an NBA Finals record that still stands. Now watch Elg make those leprechauns look silly.

Satch Sanders, quote machine: He was Boston's "defensive specialist," and he had been responsible for guarding Baylor in Game 5 and throughout the series. Word has it, he's never been able to grow any more facial hair after Baylor singed it off on that warm summer night in '62. Said Saunders: "Elgin was just a machine."

Sam Jones: He was The 17-foot Assassin before David West was even a twinkle in his mother's eye. Bill Russell often referred to Jones as "the best shooter in the world." This was not the case in Game 7, when Sam went 1-for-10 from the floor.

Satch Sanders, Tommy Heinsohn, and Jungle Jim Loscutoff: All three of these guys got fouled out by Elgin Baylor in Game 7 (Elg finished with 39 points). That, obviously, left Boston a little short-handed when the game went to overtime. Which, as it ended up, didn't matter. But still.

The "Almost" Shot: The Lakers had possession of the ball with five seconds left in regulation. The game was tied. Fred Shaus designed a play with Baylor as the first option, West as the second option, and "whoever else was open" as the third option. Since Baylor and West were both covered tightly, Rod Hundley passed the ball to Frank Selvy, who was open on the baseline about eight feet from the basket. His defender, Bob Cousy, had gambled for a quick double-team on West. Selvy took a shot that he supposedly hit "eight out of 10 times"...and missed.

Said Selvy: "I had to get it off fast. I sort of hurried it, but I thought it was going in. I get the blame for missing that shot, but I don't think that was the ballgame."

Clock mismanagement, Part II: Years later, Red Auerbach was still righteously pissed off because of what he saw as a clock error that gave the Lakers an unfair chance at winning the game in regulation. "We were cheated. The timer froze. There were three seconds left to go. They took it out at midcourt and threw it to a guy a midcourt. He took a bounce, then he threw it all the way into the corner. Now that goddamn thing is three seconds there. Selvy takes the ball and goes up for as hot and misses it. The rebound goes in the air and the clock still hadn't gone off. Baylor got the rebound and put it up and missed it. It was more than Selvy's shot."

Sour grapes: The Lakers literally missed their chance to dethrone the Celtics and win their first championship since moving to L.A. And afterward, Baylor lamented some Derek Fisher-esque no-calls. "Selvy thought Bob Cousy fouled him. I thought Cousy fouled him. He took the shot from a spot where he was very proficient. Cousy said he never fouled him. I was in a position to get the offensive rebound. But somebody behind me shoved me out of bounds right into the referee. There was no foul call there, either. I looked around and saw Russell and Sam Jones behind me."

Fun fact: Apparently, Baylor eventually obtained a copy of the game's film and confirmed that Jones had indeed shoved him out of bounds, away from the rebound. Jones later admitted pushing him.

Sources: NBA.com, Wikipedia, Basketball-reference.com, Ever Green by Dan Shaughnessy, and The Rivalry by John Taylor.

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RIP, Gary Coleman.
(Though Scottie Pippen may not feel the same way... He might direct you toward this fantastically offensive tweet)

I had a coworker at my Clark Kent job joke that he was leaving early to go to a bar and have a drink in Gary Coleman's memory. I had to remind him that he better just drink a shot since he couldn't drink a tall one in this case.

Also, this comment at Deadspin is mandatory viewing.

Anyway, getting to the actual basketball part of this basketball blog... As passed along by AnacondaHL, Goran Dragic and Sasha Vujacic got into a heated argument and swore at each other in Slovenian during last night's game. Bill Simmons did a great job of breaking down why this happened: "FYI: Vujacic/Dragic is exempt from my "every NBA feud starts over a women or a card game" rule. You don't need a reason to hate Vujacic." Solid point.

Speaking of Simmons, he posted his latest mailbag article today, and this question alone was worth clicking on the link:
Q: Thought you would enjoy this 10-minute stretch on Twitter today:
3:50 p.m.: Hasheem Thabeet says: "Late LUNCH before i go for a NAP!!! Mhmmmm Yummy."
4:00 p.m.: Kevin Durant says: "Good workout..worked on ballhandling, finishing thru contact, pull up jumpers, pick n rolls, and making tough shots with a man on me!!!"
Can you tell which one of those No. 2 overall draft picks just spent time in the D League?
-- Brian Seboly, Memphis, Tenn.
Folks, if you ever question why Basketbawful must exist, you will realize how stupid you are for thinking that, and Hasheem Thabeet just told you so. (Oh snap!)

Also, while we're linking to Twitter posts, Jared Dudley channeled his inner Dennis Green for this tweet: "Man!!!!! We let them off the hook.. It's ok will go back home handle our business in game 6"

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

A combination of Alvin Gentry getting sick and facepalming? You know that's getting posted.

Kobe reacting to Gentry heaving into that garbage can on the sidelines, or to Artest's bawful trey near the end of the game. Not sure which.

Seeing Flea at a game makes me miss the days of MTV Rock n Jock Basketball...

All The Friday Games:
Magic at Celtics - ESPN, 8:30pm
Celtics lead series 3-2

It's a good thing the NBA rescinded one of Kendrick Perkins' technical fouls. A couple more injuries and they'll be flirting with the situation the Warriors found themselves in earlier this year when they ran out of players and people got to stay in the game even with six fouls.

* * *

All The Saturday Games:
Lakers at Suns - TNT, 8:30pm
Lakers lead series 3-2

My hatred for the Lakers burns with the intensity of a thousand suns. (Get it? ...Oh my God, that was an awful joke. This series is melting my brain and driving me gradually insane. I apologize.)

* * *

All The Sunday Games:
Celtics at Magic (if necessary) - ESPN, 8:30pm

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Lakers Suns Basketball
This game in a nutshell. A crazy nutshell.

Originally when I wrote my oft-misinterpreted Shrodinger's Playoff Team word of the day article, I imagined the term being applied early in a series, as hope for a win combined with a Game 1 loss can typically combine to the state of simultaneously dead and alive. By Game 5, I figured anyone could tell if a team still had a chance, or was in a hopeless situation.

I guess I didn't expect this case.

Officiating: So bad. So very bad. Tried to take the Lakers out of it early (similar to the Suns in Game 2), missed and inconsistent calls against both teams throughout, and of course missed Kobe out of bounds on that final play. What more is there to say? If your NBA team can't fight the opponent while keeping composure in the face of shitty refs, (or getting away with shit the refs can't see), you're not winning a championship.

The Los Angeles Lakers: Good work jumping to that correlation-with-success good 1st quarter, falling behind 17-11 with 3 minutes to go. Now of course the refs were not on your side for this stretch, so props for keeping it close to allow...

The Phoenix Suns: ...to blow it, ending the 1st quarter at 21-24. The slaughter continued through the second, as the Suns found themselves down by 17. Shout out to Dragic for doing a pretty good job defending Kobe, only Kobe was hitting his stupidly stupid shots. (Also, loved the feisty Slovenian altercation). But hey, it only took until now to give that zone thingy another shot, leading...

The Los Angeles Lakers: ...to close the half surrendering a 17-8 run. For the remainder, the Lakers kept letting the Suns hang around, making a 7 point lead feel like 20. Oh, and way to finally figure out the Vujachick and Farmar combo to disrupt Barbosa and Dragic. Of course running this combo more would require less of Kobe's head up his ass. *gets called for a technical by Bennett Salvatore*. Side note: that was a hilarious technical on Kobe. I wish more over-the-course-of-the-game-whiny superstars would get techs like that. Anyways, they were able to bring it back to an 18 point lead over...

The Phoenix Suns: ...with about 4 minutes to go in the 3rd. Seems about like the time for the Suns to quit, the way Suns guards not named Dragic quit attacking Gasol on pick-and-roll switches. In addition, Barbosa please stop dribbling the ball. Every time you hold the ball for more than 3 seconds, I die a little on the inside. Give the goddamn rock back to Dragic. Anyways, a special mention to ...

nash pass

Steve Nash: ...for continuing his stupid bullshit on these switches. Yes, I will continue to mention this every single damn game, because it's painfully obvious that Phil Jackson knows this, and is perfectly happy baiting Nash into stupid jumpers over Gasol. Sure, tonight he sank a good amount of the shots, but it's really aggravating to see the same thing we want done to Kobe being done to Nash. Well at least this time it sorta worked out, as the zone came back and a couple of crazy assists and shots later...

The Los Angeles Lakers: ...found the lead cut to 1, then to 3 with 1:21 to go in the game. And thus began the night that...

Defensive Rebounding: ...died. I'm sure everyone and their mother's statistical consultant will have looked at and memorized the end of game sequence, so since I'm still oscillating from the emotional roller coaster, I'll skip the recap. I don't think this sequence will top the Duncan 3 in terms of heartbreaking moments, but it sure was something.

I guess this is a reason why this wasn't as bad as the Duncan 3.
Oh and also that this win came off one of the purest Kobe Bryant Assists I've ever seen.

(Aside: Did everyone catch Artest walking back to the tunnel, and getting slapped in the butt by some guy and Artest snapping around with "that crazy look" in his eyes, before getting pushed forward by security? I wish I knew if this helped or hurt the Suns, but it's something.)

This was one of those games where it felt like both teams were doing their worst not to lose. And honestly, I would have thought Suns teams in the past would never overcome the mental break of this kind of game. This year's team? A slim, very slim chance. Which brings me back to the beginning: the birth of a Game 5 Shrodinger's Playoff Team. The Suns have looked good enough to win, and bad enough to be swept. They have a history of mental weakness, yet have shown exceeds-expectations chemistry this year. Smart enough to do the right thing, yet stupid enough to surrender bad turnovers, avoidable points, and winnable games.

And IMHO, what's the one key that can show these Suns are ready to fight for a championship?

Pride: Just suck up your pride for 2 games, Suns. The 2-3 zone works. Don't overthink this. However, do overthink eating...

Fried Artichokes: ...at your next pregame meal. I have zero basis or evidence to support a "classy move, Lakers fans", but I want to say it anyways. Perhaps if we had some BasketBawful readers with experience in the food service industry, y'all could enlighten us with anecdotes and stories of how easy it is to mess with people and their fried food.

I mean this was Gentry's fault too. How could you not be following the Nash Diet on an away game in the playoffs? Also, I know that it was reported during the game that it was Deep Fried Avocados, but for what I hope is the last time in my life, I will trust Twitter for journalistic integrity, courtesy of Alexis Gentry.

Derek Fisher: Get your hand the hell out of Nash's face. *word that KG says loudly into sideline microphones* you, you're almost a more hateable Lakers player than Kobe right now.

Lacktion Report: Does chris offer his sympathies and advice for enduring the Lakersmug?

Suns-Lakers: Robin Lopez laid a little bit of an egg tonight as Phoenix's starting big man, countering two boards in 11:24 with a trio of bricks, a trio of rejections, two fouls, and one giveaway for a 3:2 Voskuhl. Jarron Collins joined the fray by earning himself a 1.3 trillion (1:17).

Despite being inserted in the first quarter as a momentum-shifter, Bill Walton's son Luke baked three bricks in 3:43 for a +3 suck differential.


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Could be worse. It could be The Magic Hour.

My fellow gamers should be happy to hear this new rumor: Michael Jordan might be on the cover of NBA 2K11, and possibly even may be featured as a playable character. Or maybe this just means new features in a team ownership mode where you can draft scrubs like Kwame Brown and sign Larry Hughes while gambling and smoking cigars on a golf course.

Speaking of Jordan, Rajon Rondo hasn't really ever seen him play. According to this superb interview (h/t Jonah Keri for the link), he never was a fan of the NBA when he was younger. In fact, he grew up in Louisville only an hour and a half from Indianapolis (like me) and never once went to see them play a single game in person (also like me) However, he found he enjoyed basketball more than other sports and was really good at it (unlike me), so he made the NBA his goal because he knew that was the highest level of basketball. Wouldn't you rather be in the NBA rather than playing in the D-League or overseas, even if it means being Adam Morrison? (Okay, bad example, not even Adam Morrison wants to be Adam Morrison.)

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

I'm surprised they didn't slap Glen Davis with the first-ever quadruple technical foul or something for this

Hey refs, can you go ahead and "T" up Vag Carter next game just because? Thanks in advance!

All The Games:
Suns at Lakers - TNT, 9:00pm
Series tied 2-2

The Lakers have won seven straight Game 5 home games. However, the Suns have Barkley's-colossal-ass-running-downhill momentum, and their zone defense is melting the Spanish Marshmallow Pau Gasol. (Mmm... melted marshmallows...) Lakers home-court means they get some mojo back and a little friendlier refereeing, but this should be a high-intensity game.

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sad celtics 2

The Boston Celtics: Isn't it funny -- and I mean "an elderly couple trapped under their own hoarded trash for three weeks" funny -- that the Celtics looked like championship shoe-ins two short games ago? Now they look like a bunch of creaky old guys who could end up being the first NBA team to ever lose a playoff series after going up 3-0.

Call it the Curse of the Bruins.

So what happened? Well, for starters, Boston's offense has started to fall apart, which is due in no small part to Orlando's defense. The Celts shot 43 percent, with Kevin Garnett (5-for-14), Paul Pierce (3-for-8) and Ray Allen (3-for-10) providing lead vocals, bass guitar and drums for this Brick-a-Palooza.

What a way to waste a 21-point night from Rasheed Wallace.

That said, the main problem was that the Magic owned Boston's vaunted defense: Orlando scored 113 points while shooting 52 percent from the field and beyond the arc (13-for-25). They also outrebounded the C's 43-26 (including 10-4 on the offensive glass) and outscored them 40-28 in the paint. To me, those are always the two big "effort" stats. Well, the Magic dominated in those areas...

...and won by 21 points.

The Celtics made lot of mistakes both early and late, like giving up an offensive rebound in the third quarter that eventually found it's way to Matt Barnes for an uncontested three. Before that shot got drilled, Boston had cut the lead to 5 points. But that field goal -- which Doc Rivers called the biggest shot of the game -- swung momentum Orlando's way.

Of course, it might never have gotten to that if the Celtics had been able to contain J.J. Redick in the first half. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. As ESPN's Chris Sheridan pointed out: "It was Redick who keyed the early surge that put Orlando ahead for good, scoring 11 of his 14 points from the moment when he first checked in with the score 16-16 until he was subbed out with the Magic ahead 49-37."

I don't know if the Celtics don't respect Redick or what, but they don't smother him the way they try to smother other Magic players. And they could end up regretting it when they're watching the NBA Finals on their big-screen TVs.

Dwight Howard: Okay, let's see here. I already posted video of how he tagged KG with an elbow to the face in Game 4 (although the refs missed it and there was no call). How did he follow that up? Well, let's see...

During the second quarter, he tagged Big Baby in the face with an "inadvertent" elbow:

Was is funny watching a woozy Davis stagger around the court (at least at first)? Yeah, a little. But Baby had a concussion, which is significantly less funny. As for whether it was intentional...maybe, I guess. Although I've played enough basketball to know that players usually have a pretty good idea of where their various body parts are in relation to the guys they're playing against. With hits like that, it's not necessarily a case of trying to hit somebody...bu they aren't trying to not hit them either. If you get my drift.

But more than that, watch the replay again. You'll notice that after making first contact, instead of yanking the elbow away from Baby's head, Howard's elbow actually pushes toward it. Again, in my personal experience, that's doesn't happen by accident.

Was Dwight trying to concuss Davis? Of course not. But IMHO, that hit wasn't some unintentional, inadvertent oopsie.

In the third quarter, Howard fouled Pierce. Check it out:

Howard's arm comes down on Paulie's face. Again, I don't buy that it was accidental. He knew where his arm was and he knew where Pierce was. Now, he was called for he foul, as he should have been, but if you watched closely enough, you'll notice that there was a wee bit of follow through by Dwight, just a little extra mustard used to send Pierce to the floor.

These aren't accidents. They're trends. Look, I get that Dwight's a nice guy and a good Christian and all that, so people find it hard to believe that he would be doing any of this on purpose. And while I'm not saying he's trying to hurt other players necessarily, the fact is his elbows keep hitting people and people keep getting hurt. This has been going on for years, by the way. Howard has wiped out other players (like Sammy Dalembert) with elbows and he's even concussed his own teammates!

Can we honestly be expected to believe these are accidents when they keep happening over and over and over? Doesn't that strain credulity?

Anyway, all this talk about Pumaman's elbows inspired me to post a video tribute to "Macho Man" Randy Savage. OOOOOOOOOHHHH YEEEEEEEAAAAH!!

Kendrick Perkins' second technical foul: On the other end of the spectrum from Dwight, we have Perkins, who -- considering how physical this series has been not to mention the fact that Howard had thrown another little elbow at Perk while trying to get position -- got called for a true ticky-tac foul. Kendrick reacted, but he did so while walking away from the refs, and it's hardly the worst reaction I've seen this season or even in this series. And yet, his unhappiness earned him his second tech of the game (the first one he deserved for giving Marcin Gortat a little post-foul bump in the chest) and therefore an automatic ejection.

Can you blame Perk for getting testy about being called for a touch foul? As Basketbawful reader DKH said: "I didn't see a whole lot of the game, but Perkins getting ejected for what he did is laughable. I also love the replay they show of Howard's block of a Rondo layup, which he follows up by landing on Rondo and pretty much annihilating him, with no foul called. That is, I saw what Howard got away with (egregiously tackling someone), and then saw what Perkins got away with (he touched Howard). Did I need to see more of the game?"

No, you didn't. That's just the kind of night it was. By the way, here's Howard's play on Rondo, which was named the NBA.com Block of the Night:

Anyway...two bad calls on Perkins...and they could have serious ramifications for Game 6:

But his penalty might have implications beyond Wednesday's game. After entering the game with five postseason technical fouls, Perkins would be at the limit of seven -- provided both technicals stand upon league review -- and will be suspended for Boston's next playoff game.

"I didn't think he deserved either one. But he got them," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

By game's end, all three of Boston's primary centers were gone, a variety of reasons sending them away before the conclusion of Orlando's 113-92 season-saving win.

Question is, when Game 6 rolls around, who will Boston have to match up with Howard?

"Well, it's not a pleasant thought," Rivers said.

Perkins, who didn't earn his first technical until Game 5 of a first-round triumph over the Miami Heat, has now been part of five double technicals, the first three coming in the conference semifinals when he was frequently covering Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal.

"I have talked to him," Rivers said before Wednesday's game. "The double technical is what's getting most guys in trouble. The flagrants, I can understand, if you had a ton of glaring flagrants, at some point, you should get suspended. Or if you have a ton of techs for arguing with the refs, just plain back-and-forth with the refs. But the double-technical thing has to be resolved. That's where two players, getting physical, and officials are just trying to clean the game up. The easier way is the double technical, it calms the game down.

"If you look at Kendrick, four of them are [double-technicals]. Those are the ones we have to figure out a better way. I'm a typical guy -- I don't have a solution, but I can point out the problem."

The NBA said it would have an answer Thursday about Perkins' status for Game 6.
Amazing, isn't it, that Howard gave not one but two players concussions with his atomic elbow but Perkins is the guy who might have to sit out a game. Way to go, NBA.

By the way, Basketbawful reader JR e-mailed me about the officiating -- he called it The Boston "T" Party -- and provided the following video to "honor" last night's officating crew of Joe Crawford, Tom Washington and Eddie F. Rush.

Physical play: I'll leave this one to the readers.

From Heretic:

Holy Shit! Big Baby's gone insane, get the fucking tranq gun and the bear net!


People are getting fucked up in this game. I'm pretty sure someone from boston is going to get decapitated by an atomic elbow.
From Dooj:

Wow... How many concussions? 2?
From Adam:

I'll take a Celtics loss any time and I hate them all minus Doc, but the Magic were getting away with some heavy duty home cookin' roughhousing. Forget elbows. This was karate chopping, full body contact take-down play.
From an anonymous commenter:

That game is why the "Admiral Elbows" nickname for Dwight Howard is so appropriate.

The big question: will friday night's UFC fight or game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals be the more savage beating?
From SirGirthNasty:

Jesus, what happened? I think paid heed to all the press coverage questioning their toughness and decided full-on assault and battery was the only logical response.
From Czernobog:

Holy shit. Every team playing Orlando from now on should come out wearing Rugby helmets.

Seriously, wtf? How many atomic elbows is Dwight going to get away with in his career?
From Barry:

Well, I AM a Celtics fan and I know my team is in for some physical play, but there was some home-cooking going on like there was nobody watching outside of Orlando.
Vince Carter: Again from DKH: "All of Orlando's players shot 50% or better from the field except Carter, who couldn't even manage to reach the one point per shot threshold." Carter went 3-for-10 and finished with 8 points, 3 boards and 4 fouls.

Basketbawful reader and Magic fan Mario -- no, not Mario West -- prepared this awesome pic:


J.J. Redick, quote machine: "We've pretty much figured out what works against them and what doesn't, so that makes a huge difference."

Glen Davis, quote machine: "Point blank, I ain't speaking. I'm all right. I'll be back next game. That's all you need to print."

Doc Rivers, quote machine: "I don't know what kind of test they're going to do with Davis because he's a little delirious half the time anyway, so I don't know how he's going to pass a test. I'm worried about that. But I guess he's going to have to do something for them to clear him."

Jeff Van Gundy, quote machine: Submitted by Heretic: "The NBA...where soft happens".

Zach Randolph: Uh oh...

According to the affidavit, the Cadillac Escalade that Boyd was driving was registered to [the Grizzlies' Zach] Randolph, and police found marijuana and ammunition stowed inside.

"One of his vehicles had what we call hidden compartments that contained suspected narcotics, that being marijuana," said Lt. Jeff Duhamell. Based on information found in the Escalade, police later raided a northeast side storage facility, where they said Randolph rents four lockers.

According to the affidavit, a police K-9 alerted to controlled substances in two of the four units, and police found more cars with secret compartments inside.
Mini Lacktion Report: From Chris: "Michael Finley found enough time in 7:44 to bake two bricks for a +2 suck differential."

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Lamar Odom is not a fan of "funny faces" contests

I'm exhausted after spending yesterday searching for lost golf ball after lost golf ball. So I'm going to let the guys at Walkoff Walk do a little work for me to fill out this post! They discovered this stunning piece of basebawful:

Unreal. So now the question I pose to you: what would be your ideal Basketbawful cruise? Gambling with Antoine Walker? Hitting up the midnight buffet with Oliver Miller? Laughing at Latrell Sprewell because the Bawful Cruise is the first time he's been on water since his yacht got repossessed? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Worst of the Night in Pictures:

An usher quickly came down and warned Jason Richardson that he can't sit in the front row without a ticket

The ear protection shuts out that noise just like a zone defense shuts out Pau Gasol

All The Games:
Celtics at Magic - ESPN, 8:30pm
Celtics lead series 3-1

In Game 4, the Magic played the best they have all series, and the Celtics looked pretty terrible. Police are still searching for Rajon Rondo, and Paul Pierce decided to revert to playing 1-on-1 and relying on horrible isos. Nobody was driving the lane and kicking to Ray Allen when he was hotter than the planet WASP-12b. Instead, they were more like the planet COROT-7b where it rains rocks (or in the Celtics case, bricks).

...And yet the Celtics still gave the Magic a close game and forced overtime.

Yeah. Things do not look good for Orlando.

(Wait, the Boston Bruins lost Game 4 in overtime as well before they historically choked a 3-0 series lead? Uhm... forget I said anything.)

(And random aside, can you think of anything more awesome than a planet where vaporized rock in the atmosphere condenses into pebbles and rains into lakes of molten lava? I can't. Except maybe Lovetron.)

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Dragic love
Strong bench play led to even stronger man love in Phoenix last night.

The Los Angeles Lakers: Last night, I got to watch the game with long-time commenter and site contributor Wild Yams. To my dismay, I found out that he's a pretty cool and intelligent guy despite being a Lakers fan. It was kind of like meeting a serial killer who donates to charity and volunteers at the local homeless shelter. But it was a good time nonetheless...even better because the Suns won the game.

Let me be frank: I expected the Suns to lose this one. I did. I figured that, in Game 3, they made the only adjustment they could make...going to the zone defense. That and Amar''''''e Stoudemire went bonkers. To me, it was a gimmick win, something that couldn't be duplicated.

And it wasn't. Turns out, it didn't have to be.

Going into Game 4, I felt there was no way Phoenix could be the Lakers straight up. The Suns apparently felt otherwise. Mind you -- unlike Boston's stink bomb in Game 4 of their series against the Magic -- the Lakers didn't play poorly. They scored 106 points on 50 percent shooting and committed only 7 turnovers for a mere 4 points going the other way. L.A. outscored the Suns 42-32 in the paint and held the run-and-gunners to only 6 fast break points.

And of course Kobe had one of "those" games: 38 points, 15-for-22, 6-for-9 from downtown, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. That's the kind of stat line you usually associate with LeBron James...the kind of line that LeBron fans use as evidence that James is in fact better than Bryant.

But it wasn't enough.

The Suns -- so much weaker up front than the Lakers -- won the rebounding battle 51-36, including 18-13 on the offensive glass. Think about that. Did you think this Phoenix team could ever grab 18 offensive rebounds against this L.A. team? If you said yes, I'm calling shenanigans. But sometimes rebounding is simply about wanting the ball more than the other guy. And get this: Steve Nash finished with almost as many boards (4) as Pau Gasol (5). What does that tell you?

In addition to their rebounding deficit, the Lakers could not handle the Phoenix bench. That's right: The Suns' much-maligned reserves rose from their mass grave to score 54 points on 20-for-32, including 9-for-20 on threes. And check this. Here are the plus-minus scores of the Phoenix starters: Grant Hill (-3), STATUE (-5), Robin Lopez (-3), Nash (-9) and Jason Richardson (-4). The reserves: Channing Frye (+12), Leandro Barbosa (+13), Louis Amundson (+14), Jared Dudley (+12), Goran Dragic (+18), Jarron Collins (HA!).

TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz breaks down the Suns' bench play:

And because I want to, here's Dragic's sick layup around Fish and the Candyman:

Now, I'm not seriously suggesting that the bench players are better than the starters...even if Dragic was 27 points better than Nash on the night. But their effort and intensity changed the game. Frye -- who entered last night 1-for-20 for the series -- hit four treys, including a "Rally Monkey" shot in the fourth -- he drilled it right before the shot clock buzzer buzzed -- that was followed by threes from Barbosa and Dudley. Boom, boom, boom...and the Lakers never really recovered.

In terms of final tallies and raw numbers, the Suns' bench outscored L.A.'s pine riders 54-20 and outrebounded them 23-11. And as ESPN's J.A. Adande pointed out:

The unit of Frye, Dudley, Barbosa, Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson played the first seven minutes of the second quarter and turned a tie score into a 10-point lead even with Bryant on the floor for the Lakers. It was part of a 41-point second quarter. And after the Lakers won the third quarter it was that same unit for the Suns that played deep into the fourth and won the game on a night Amare Stoudemire scored only half of the 42 points he put up in Game 3 and Nash made only three of 11 shots.
L.A.'s defense: Well, let's see: They've given up 233 points over the last two games. In Game 4, the Suns scored 115 points, hit nearly 50 percent of their shots, and earned 32 free throw attempts.

Yeah, I'd say defense is a problem for the Lakers.

Of course, I've been beasting on the Lakers' D for a couple weeks now. It sure ain't what it was during the regular season, when L.A. ranked 4th in Defensive Rating. Now they rank 10th out of 16 playoff teams...giving up 111.1 points per 100 possessions. My take is that Andrew Bynum's general ineffectiveness is the root cause. With Gasol and Bynum at 100 percent and patrolling the paint, the rest of the Lakers could overcommit on their assignments without fear. After all, their two big men would swallow up anybody who got past them.

Well, Bynum has been hampered by a bum knee, and he isn't the defensive force he was. If L.A.'s perimeter defenders overcommit, opponents are getting to the rim or earning fouls. If they don't overcommit, guys are dumping in threes. And, well, there you have it.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe D isn't the problem. Let's see what Mamba has to say:

"Our defense could have been much better, I think."

"Coming up here, we lost a sense of urgency defensively. I think our concentration was focused on how to attack the zone."

"I think it kind of flipped our attention to detail defensively. Our focus was on the other side of the floor, which doesn't win championships. So we need to get back to ground zero when it comes to that."

"We lost the game because our defense sucked."

"Like I said, we've got to do a much better job defensively. Paying attention to [Phoenix's bench], all of them, and staying in front of your man and things like that."

"Looking forward to the challenge. I know my guys are. [We need] to get back to the basics of playing defense the right way."

"Our attention needs to be on the defensive end, period. That's second-chance opportunities [as well]."

"I was more aggressive in the second quarter. Felt the game slipping away, got going, make some shots [and] kept it going. But that has nothing to do with us getting to the next round. We can't -- offensively, we scored enough points. We've got to do a better job defensively, period."

"That's not what wins championships. Everybody wants to talk about the offensive side of the ball. It has nothing to do with it. Gotta defend."
And, well, there you have it.

L.A.'s offense: The Suns played a mix of man-to-man and zone...and the Lakers offense wasn't bad, per se. Like I said, they finished with 106 points and shot 50 percent. BUT...Phoneix again succeeded in seducing the Lakers into chucking an awful lot of jumpers. The result: L.A. attempted 28 three-pointers and only 13 free throw attempts. And as hot as Kobe was, he did most of his damage on contested jumpers of the "No, no, no...yes!" variety.

Is that a formula for success? I don't think so.

The Zen Master doesn't think there's a problem, nor does he think the Suns' zone is having an affect on his team's offense: "We shot 49 percent, didn't we? That's pretty good. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't say we're struggling against the zone. I think we're struggling at the defensive end. That's where I see it."

Maybe P-Jax watched a different game than I did, because I saw "clutch" three-point attempts by Ron Artest (1-for-5 on treys) and Lamar Odom (1-for-3 from distance) that bricked badly. I also saw Shannon Brown go 0-for-4 from way out there. Derek Fisher was 0-for-2 and also bricked a crunch time three.

For what it's worth, Bynum thinks he knows what the problem is: "It's the zone. We're settling for outside jump shots. They were out there moving that ball, they were confident playing at home and they really just shot the ball well. They had everybody spaced out so everybody's running around."

Hey, remember back in Games 1 and 2, when Phoenix was scoring points and shooting reasonably well but couldn't get it done? Isn't that basically what's happening to the Lakers right now? Sure, defense is L.A.'s biggest foil...but jacking up contested (and even contested) long-range jumpers sure hasn't helped their cause down the stretch in Games 3 and 4.

Reader comments: Here's where Basketbawful readers' voices can be heard, er, read:

From Miles:

As a Suns fan for decades, I can only say "That - was - effing - beautiful."

As a basketball fan for longer than that, I can only lament that the Phoenix Runs shot the ball unusually well when it counted (even for the the Runs), and that the Lakers blew it when it counted, and that I don't expect this trend to continue even for one more game this series. (Don't get me wrong, I'm still crossing my fingers).

Phil is too great a coach to let a defensively weak team like the Suns run all over his Lakers with zone defense for three games in a row, I doubt it will happen again.

Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Fisher are too damn good to not put up a better combined performance for three games in a row, I doubt it will happen again.

The Suns bench, god bless them, are pretty good as far as benches go, but they PROBABLY won't have another 54 point game, and "Stat" PROBABLY won't have another 42 point game in this series.

I will weep like a baby if we can see Nash in the finals for the first time in his career, but I still can't help but think it's going to take a miracle.

Still, tell me you didn't jump out of your seat and spill chips and salsa all over your crotch when Frye hit that first tre.
From Heretic:

And the lakers do it again, pull out a bazooka and blast their own feet. This game is a prime example of why during the playoffs I prefer the aggressive Bryant than the passer. Took very few shots in the first quarter and his team still fucked it up. As talented as Gasol is, he's so soft that I'm surprised he hasn't been named "The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man". Wtf is it about Europe that produces the softest, most pillowy players on earth? I thought all the pussies were in France but apparently once a country joins the EU they're contractually obligated to remove the testicles of their basketball players.

Bryant pretty much bailed them out from a blow out. For god's sake the suns were playing the zone!! how hard is it to destroy zone defense? High school students can do it. Even if the lakers do end up winning this series they really don't deserve to. Schooled by a team that would have been legally labeled as midgets in 28 states. I honestly prefer to watch Bryant fire away from half court than watch Bynum trip over his own feet as he looks confusedly at the orange sphere in his hands.

The bench don't even warrant a discussion, its been long established that Phil Jackson has murdered them and replaced them with cardboard cut outs. Hopefully next season everyone one the bench with the exception of Odom have been traded (yes even Shannon Brown). Another game they could have easily won shot to pieces with the laker tommy gun of ineptitude.
From Karc:

The Lakers were totally owned tonight. That vaunted "length" of the Lakers got crushed on the boards (at least 50, including a gazillion offensive boards), got crushed by the Suns bench (at least 50 points), and were exposed in the second quarter, giving up 41 points to the Suns, despite having the "4th" ranked defense in the NBA. Note to Andrew Bynum, this is exactly why you do not look ahead to the Boston Celtics. You are not winning this series right now.

Hell, look at the trend. The Lakers scoring has been 128, 124, 109, 106. Meanwhile, the Suns score 107, 112, 118, and now 115. Their offense is getting better, and their defense is getting better. The LA media is going to freak. I love it.
Channing Frye, quote machine: How did that 1-for-20 shooting through three games affect him? Apparently, not at all: "I told you guys I'm just going to continue to shoot, and my teammates believed in me and I continued to just believe in myself. Why work so hard and why still be playing when it's almost June if you're not going to go out there and just have fun and let it ride?"

As for whether his confidence was shaken: "Come on, man, you're asking the wrong dude. My confidence is great every day. I'll be honest, last game I was what, 0-for-7? If I shot another seven I thought I was going to go 7-for-14."

Jared Dudley, quote machine: "You could tell right away tonight that they wanted to take away Amare (Stoudemire) early on. Once they did that, we just set up like target practice."

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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.

ESPN's John Hollinger had more damning (and accurate) words to say about Boston's big man:

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.

Here's more from Zach Lowe from Celtics Hub:

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.

sad celtics bench
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.

A.J. Price: This is why I avoid charity events:

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."

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Oddly enough, it took Alvin Gentry 55 years to discover he has fingers

Over the weekend, my buddy Jeff and I took a quick roadtrip up to Toledo, Ohio for a stock car race. After seeing countless righteous vans and rusted trucks with plywood tailgates, we got to our hotel just in time to see Stan Van Gundy get obliterated by Kevin Garnett, complete with that tremendous slow-motion replay from the floor level camera. You have no idea how happy this made me.

Worst of the Weekend in Pictures:

"Oh God! I'm sitting on Ron Jeremy's lap!"


Steve Nash is such a badass that he transmitted the pain from his jacked-up nose to Jason Richardson just so Richardson could appreciate how much of a badass he really is

All The Games:
Magic at Celtics - ESPN, 8:30pm
Celtics lead series 3-0

Boston fans know not to get too comfortable with a 3-0 lead. Just look at the epic collapse by the Bruins in the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals this year. They blew a 3-0 series lead against a Flyers team that practically had to put ads on Craigslist for a starting goalie thanks to the injury bug. However, this Boston basketball team looks a little more motivated, a little more disciplined, and a little less complacent than that Bruins team. The Magic are the ones who look like they don't really want to be there. If you didn't know this article was on a satire-only site, you might actually believe it for a minute.

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Sad magic bench
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:

And another:

And another:

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."

sad van gundy

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."

sad van gundy

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."

sad van gundy

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...

...but still.

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:

Jedi Jackson
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.
Andrew Bynum: Karc gave you his stat line...and it wasn't good. And now Phil Jackson is considering benching the kid.

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.

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