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Finding a Way: Celtics 92, Magic 88

 

The Celtics had to essentially play perfect basketball for nearly six minutes to avoid going on the road down 3-2, and they did it. Hedo Turkoglu made a one-handed runner with 5:39 left to put the Magic up 85-75. From that moment until Ray Allen’s go-ahead three-pointer went through the net with 1:20 to go, each team had the ball seven times. Orlando missed six shots and turned the ball over once. Boston made field goals on five of seven possessions and did not turn the ball over. 

Seven empty trips for one team. Scores on five of seven trips for the other. That is damn near perfect basketball, and the Celtics needed every one of those individual events to go their way in order to win this game. They also needed to make all 21 of their free throws, for the refs to award Ray Allen a three-pointer in the first half when it appeared as if his left foot was on the line, and for two terrible offensive possessions in the last minute (and the C’s up 86-85) to end with shots that barely touched the rim and thus produced rebounds that didn’t fall where they normally would have–where Magic players would have scooped them up. 

They got all of it, and the Celtics are going to Orlando with a chance to be one of the last four NBA teams playing basketball this season.

Going back further in the fourth quarter, from the 8:30 mark (when the C’s trailed 77-63) until the end of the game, Boston scored on 13 of 15 possessions. Stephon Marbury and Glen Davis had 18 of the team’s 29 points in that span. (For more on Steph, see my piece in the Daily Dime Wednesday). Paul Pierce played the role of distributor, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter while dishing out four assists. 

Overall, the Celtics had nine of their 23 assists in the fourth quarter as the interior passing lanes the Magic had closed all game long by collapsing off of Rondo suddenly opened up. Almost all of the C’s baskets in the last 8:30 were the result of ball movement and team play.

You had Pierce draw the defense and find Davis twice near the foul line for open jump shots. You had Rondo and Pierce run a nifty little side screen/roll on the left wing that led to a Pierce lay-in to bring Boston within 85-81. You had Ray Allen turn the corner on a broken play and rise for a jump shot, only to see Dwight Howard cheating a few feet toward the foul line. Already in the air, Allen rifled a two-handed pass to Perkins, who was standing open under the rim, 85-83. 

And then Ray Allen did what we’ve seen him do a million times: run around a baseline screen to get open for a three-pointer. And by screen in this case, I mean that Kendrick Perkins stuck out his butt and connected with J.J. Redick’s hip as he chased Allen under the rim. (Side note: Where in the world was Courtney Lee?). Thank heavens for Perk’s butt, because it got Ray Allen enough time and space to knock down the second-biggest shot of the series. 

As for what happened on the other side of the ball, get ready for the critics to harp on the Magic’s love for the three-point shot. But also credit Boston for luring Orlando into taking those threes by (finally) shutting down the paint.

According to my notes and the play-by-play, five of Orlando’s final eight field goal attempts (in the last 5:05 of the game) were threes. Dwight Howard touched the ball just three times in the entire quarter. Three times. Stephon Marbury shot the ball more times in the fourth quarter than Dwight Howard touched it.

A lot of the credit for that has to go to Perkins, because the Magic, as you’ll see below, attacked the paint well for the first half plus of the 4th quarter. They just didn’t pass the ball to Howard. Dwight Howard just cannot score on Perkins in the post. Every point Dwight scored tonight came on a put-back, screen-roll or a drive-and-dish. 

That doesn’t mean Orlando abandoned the interior game right away in the fourth quarter. In the first seven minutes, they took just one three and generally got easy looks by working the screen/roll using Turkoglu as the ball-handler and Dwight Howard and Tony Battie as the screeners. The Magic scored on eight of ten possessions to start the quarter, and Turkoglu dished four assists in that span. 

Some of this was due to Boston mistakes–mistakes the C’s eliminated in the last six minutes. Tony Battie scored six points early in the quarter, including two easy jumpers that resulted from sloppy C’s defense on Turkoglu-Battie screen/rolls. On the first, with 10:52 to go, Pierce (Hedo’s man) and Scalabrine (guarding Battie) both chased Hedo as he dribbled around the screen, leaving Battie open on the baseline. On the second, with 6:07 to go, the C’s switched, leaving Allen to guard Battie in the post. Tony sank an easy 10-footer over Ray.

After that, Boston yielded nothing more in the paint. When Magic players drove, the Celtics collapsed on the driver without leaving other interior players open. This forced the drivers to either take contested shots (such as Turkoglu’s missed lay-in over Perkins with 2:09 to go and Alston’s air ball runner with 1:39 left) or kick the ball to three-point shooters. Those shooters missed, and the Celtics won. 

One other 4th quarter defense note: Rashard Lewis was 0-3 in the quarter with two points–both on foul shots after the C’s intentionally hacked him with less than seven seconds left. (Finally! Finally a team/coach does this properly!). Lewis killed the C’s in the first three quarters and disappeared late. 

After the jump, thoughts on Marbury, the Rondo Defense, Game 6 and the (ugh) officiating. And as always, see Third Quarter Collapse, Orlando Magic Daily, Puns, CB and Red’s for all the bloggy analysis.• For the record, here are my thoughts on the two major officiating issues of the night: 1) Ray Allen’s foot appeared, to me, to be on the line on the three-pointer that cut the Magic lead to 39-33 in the 2nd quarter. 2) Gun to my head, I say Rondo’s shot grazed the front of the rim with 36 seconds left. The trajectory of the ball appeared to change in a way it would not have had the ball simply scraped the net. This one I’m far less sure about, though. 

• The Rondo Defense appeared again, and it worked. It spoke volumes that Doc Rivers sat Rondo from the 6:31 mark of the 3rd quarter through the 4:54 mark of the 4th quarter. Doc felt no urgency to get him back in the game. The Magic basically did not guard Rajon Rondo. They instead head their point guards either trap Paul Pierce or serve as extra interior defenders, giving the Magic bigs more freedom to jump out on dribble penetration and discourage mid-range jump shots. They used the same strategy on Marbury until he made them pay for it. 

For a great example, check the 9:04 mark of the 4th quarter. Anthony Johnson completely ignores Marbury as Steph stands in the left corner. Instead, he leans on Big Baby’s back as Baby sets up shop in the left side of the paint. Meanwhile, Pierce uses a screen to get into his money range on the right side of the court. Howard comes out for a strong contest, knowing he’s got help behind him. Pierce misses a tough shot. 

Another example: With 4:33 to go in the first quarter, Pierce drove and pulled up from the right wing. Rafer Alston sprinted all the way over from the left (opposite) corner to provide help in case Pierce took the ball to the foul line area. 

We are going to see this defense again in Game 6, at least when Rondo is in the game. Rajon was 3-of-12 tonight and once again did not hit a jumper. We know he has this in him. Let’s hope we see a few smooth J’s Thursday night.

• As I said, see my Daily Dime piece for more on Marbury. He kept the Celtics afloat when the Magic looked ready to wrap the game up. 

• Glen Davis. Again. Ten points in the fourth quarter, including four straight made field goals. He and Marbury gave Boston the chance to win this game. You can see Baby’s confidence growing. Two of those field goals were standard Baby jumpers, but two others were post moves on Howard–one righty hook from the deep post, and one turnaround from just inside the foul line. Very impressive stuff. 

• Give it up for Scal for playing 18 minutes despite his illness earlier in the day. Gutsy. Not really effective, but gutsy. 

Onto Orlando for Game 6.

  • http://viscowitzslaboratory.com Jeff

    I agree with you on both officiating calls. Ray's toe looked to be on the line. And the trajectory on Rondo's shot appeared to be affected by the rim when I watched the play live. But neither of TNT's replays really showed us anything convincing either way. Of course the angles in both replays were quite possibly the two worst angles for deciding such a thing.

    This is the 3rd (or is it 4th?) win for the Celtics coming back from a double digit deficit this post-season.

    Even though Ray had been struggling all game, I was glad to see him get an open look & knock down that 3. Ray is always one shot away from having a hot hand.

  • Jeff C.

    Great point. Perkins has been able to force Dwight Howard into bad shots away from the rim. Dwight can ask for the ball all game long, but it isn't gonna matter if Perkins is in the paint. kudos to Big Perk. A job well done.

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