Some quick bullet points on a nail-biter before Brian Robb’s complete analysis…and make sure to check out the great Orlando Magic blog Third Quarter Collapse for thorough analysis from the other side.
• A tough, tough loss any way you spin it, and one that puts the second seed in serious doubt. Yet I’m hesitant to read much into it. Between KG’s limited minutes, the sloppy play of both teams and the strange officiating, I don’t really see this game as having any sort of implications.
• I don’t know whether or not that was a foul on Dwight Howard on Pierce’s drive with about five seconds to go, but in the context of this game, it probably wasn’t. There was definite contact between Pierce’s left shoulder and Dwight Howard’s right side/upper arm, and I disagree with Jeff Van Gundy’s (or was it Mark Jackson’s?) view that Pierce jumped into Howard. But the referees let a lot of contact go in this game. There is such a thing as “letting them play” too much, and this game might have crossed over that line. The game was very, very physical,in a grabby, pushy-shovy way that made it seem like there were twelve players clogging up the court at times.
• Paul Pierce was magnificent down the stretch in the fourth quarter, but you can only milk the top of the key off-the-dribble jumper so many times before it rattles out. That’s just how math works. Pierce made two of those shots in the last six minutes (Yes, only two. I know, it seemed like more), and I’d have liked to have seen something more creative when the C’s had the ball down by one with less than a minute to go. At least try something where Pierce catches the ball on the move or off a curl/screen. His ability to draw fouls off the dribble or on pump fakes becomes even more deadly when he can play off the momentum of his defender. The late-game plays were just uncreative.
• The game shows you the importance of the three-point shot, and the Celtics didn’t guard it tonight as well as they usually do. The Magic shot 37 percent overall, compared to 43 percent for Boston, but they made 10 of 25 three-point attempts (40 percent) while the C’s made just four of 16. That, more than anything, was the difference in the game. And, honestly, it could have been worse. Orlando missed some open looks, and one or two Turkoglu shots went in and out.
• And still, the Celtics could have won this gave had their offense not suffered through a few of those mini-droughts that keep me up at night. Consider this stretch of possessions after the C’s pulled to within 70-65:
-Baby misses a 22-footer with a hand in his face.
-Paul Pierce loses the ball on a drive and complains to the officials as Michael Pietrus sprints back and hits a transition three.
-Pierce turns it over on a tough pass to Perkins
-Rondo turnover/Anthony Johnson steal
All the while, Orlando remained stuck at 73, meaning the C’s missed a key chance to close the margin.
• Credit Orlando for one of the best uses of a foul to give you’ll see in the NBA this season with 1.6 seconds to go.
• Mikki Moore has got to stop committing dumb fouls. Since joining the C’s, he’s committed 57 fouls in 258 minutes—one ever 4.5 minutes. His foul on a Rashard Lewis three-point attempt with 5:39 left and the C’s down 79-73 was just inexcusable.
• Stephon Marbury played zero minutes in the second half. This comes a day after Doc said Marbury is going to win the Celtics a playoff game. I’ll pay attention to the substitution patterns, not the quotes for the press.
• This was one of the rare games this season when I’ve really missed James Posey’s combination of size and quickness. It sounds funny when you first say it, but Orlando is a big team in a lot of ways. Rashard Lewis is 6’9”. Turkoglu is 6’10” and Pietrus is 6’6”. The first two are too quick for Baby/Moore and too big for Pierce, and Pietrus is too big for any of the C’s guards.