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Season Over: Orlando 101, Boston 82

 

There will be time in the next 48 hours to analyze this game completely and review what was a fun season for the Celtics, but for now, let’s keep it simple: The Magic made 13 three-pointers and shot 51 percent from the floor. The Celtics could not consistently defend this team without Kevin Garnett. Orlando just had too many shooters, and those shooters had too much length and quickness for the Celtics to able to hold them down four times in seven games. 

The Celtics allowed teams to shoot 50 percent or better from the floor 10 times in 96 games this season; two of those games came in this series, including in Game 3, when Orlando lit up the Celtics like no team has in a game since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came to Boston. 

Those 13 three-pointers Boston yielded tonight? That tied the highest number they’ve allowed in a game this season (it happened just three times this season and only once in ’07-08). 

This Celtics team could not play championship-caliber defense consistently. Their defensive numbers slipped a bit against Chicago, a mediocre offensive team, and it was likely, if not inevitable, that Orlando was going to score on Boston at least once or twice in this series. And the Celtics could not rely on their offense and their three-point shooting to carry them, as they did against the Bulls. Orlando’s defense was the best in the NBA this season by some metrics. 

The tendency will be to look for what the Celtics did wrong–to ask why Doc Rivers waited so long to try a small line-up, to wonder why Ray Allen shot so poorly until Game 7, to ask why the Celtics defenders had so much trouble guarding Mickael Pietrus tonight, why Eddie House couldn’t get free, and on and on and on. The reality is that Orlando is a very good basketball team that presents major match-up problems for Boston sans Garnett. 

And so the Celtics are going home earlier than we would have ever expected back in December, when the team was 27-2 and looked like it would surely be the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the favorite to repeat as champions. 

Some quick bullets to sum up Game 7 and the series:

• I wondered which role player would put his stamp on this game. It was Mickeal Pietrus, with 17 points in 24 minutes and a tidy 3-of-3 from deep. He’s a 35 percent career three-point shooter, but 35 percent three-point shooters will have the occasional hot-shooting game when defenders are scrambling to rotate around the perimeter.

• Speaking of which: According to ESPN, Dwight Howard got just 18 touches in the paint tonight, tied for his lowest number of paint touches in this series. But he was obviously a huge factor on offense. This series proved that we have a narrow conception of how a post player can create opportunities for three-point shooters. Howard is not Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon, at least not against Boston. The Celtics do not need to double him in the post when he has his back to the basket. But they do need to help when Howard is the roll man on screen/rolls because of his quickness and athleticism moving without the ball. And that help comes from defenders guarding three-point shooters on the wings. And smart ball-handlers (I’m thinking here of Turkoglu more than anyone) are going to find those shooters. 

Howard was +26 tonight; Marcin Gortat was -7. Not a coincidence. 

• It was nice that Stephon Marbury had one moment in the sun as a Celtic (Game 5), but it was still one moment. The Marbury and Moore signings were failures. Could the Celtics have signed Joe Smith? Or Drew Gooden? We don’t know the answers to those questions. But as I argued at the time, signing Moore and expecting him to contribute was unrealistic. The Celtics bench had 12 points in Game 7, and just eight before garbage time.

• Give credit to J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. They were fantastic on defense for the bulk of this series. On a plane earlier today, I was finishing up the book John Feinstein co-wrote with Red Auerbach in 2004 (“Let Me Tell You a Story”). In it, Auerbach discusses Redick’s prospects after attending a Duke game. Red told Feinstein that Redick was a better athlete–and a better defender–than people thought at the time, and that he’d be a better NBA player than people expected. Red Auerbach–right again. 

• Paul Pierce was scoreless for 30 minutes of this game, and his critics will use this as ammunition to knock his career resume. They shouldn’t. Pierce played 95 games this season after playing 106 last season, and he was visibly exhausted–or at least a step slow–for entire games in the post-season. For many of those games, he was expected to defend the other team’s best scorer. He was gassed. Rest up, Paul. We’re getting the gang back together next season to make another run at this thing.

• Speaking of next season, I posed this question to some NBA bloggers/writers last week: Has Glen Davis done enough to draw something like a three-year, $18 million offer from someone? Keep in mind, the league average salary is about $5 million, though all of those deals were obviously signed pre-economic collapse. The consensus was: “No.” But he’s earned some money, and it will be interesting to see how much–and whether the Celtics are willing to pay it. 

• Finally, let’s take a moment to appreciate this team and this playoff run. We got to see a thin, wounded team that had no real chance to win a title play with immense pride and determination. There is a moral victory in that. They won the greatest first-round series ever. There is historical significance, however small, in that. We saw the emergence of Rajon Rondo as a national star, Glen Davis as a shot-maker and Kendrick Perkins as a nationally-recognized elite defender. Applaud the 2009 Celtics. They are not the NBA champions, but they are a team we can be proud of.

  • bostongardenJoe

    From champs . . . . to chumps. Just like that. Being a Laker fan, I was actually hoping you guys would make it to the Finals so that we could spank you ourselves. I guess having that sh%t talking Garnett get injured killed those hopes. Personally I think your bad luck this season was because of Karma, your team is composed of extremely conceited personalities, all the way down to your sh#t bench warmers. I’ll attach a link at the end of this post for you. Finally, don’t try and fool yourselves when we win the championship this year with your bullsh#t “if we had Garnett”, cause we busted you up this season both times we played you. Have a nice off season chumps.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5tk8e_brian-sca

  • Yo

    Yawn, lakers fans are tools.

    Too bad the season had to end, the worst part being morons who all of a sudden think theyre bad ass because the celtics lost. dude. youre not cool.

    dissapointing, but hey, what could you expect with this abysmal bench, ray allen and pierce not playing a single good game together in the entire run, and our other 3 starters are under 24 and asked to do to much and play too many minutes

    tony allen, mikki moore, pruitt, walker, and giddens gave us NOTHING. (heck look what orlandos rookie gave them) Marbury, house and scal are inconsistent, and well what can you expect with a guy coming off 3 concussions being your 3rd big behind glen davis and perkins?

    pfttt. alot needs to happen in the offseason, and we could have a better run at it

  • bostongardenJoe

    Oh by the way, you lost today cause garnett wore a purple tie. LAKER VOODOO BABY!

  • chris sofio

    thanks again zach…definitely agree this group overachieved given injury situation – i am somewhat compulsive about looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong and might have been done differently – drew gooden instead of m. moore? posey? darius miles? mario chalmers (wasn't he available when celts took giddens?) – it's a different kind of challenge for danny boy, not as simple as stockpiling low-cost assetts with a handful of mid-first round picks – i'll be checking back for your analysis on potential moves, oh and go nuggets!

  • jyrecelts

    Great work this year, by all at Celtics HUB – thanks for all the fine writing Zach. We'll see what next year brings… and to all you fans that disrespect the Celtic's run this year… just be yourselves. Makes it that much sweeter knowing we made you all so crazy…

  • Yo

    this team DID NOT UNDERACHIEVE

    thats a big time myth at this point

    they went 7 against the bulls…shouldnt have had one, shouldve at worst won that series in 6, period.

    clearly shouldve won game 6 in orlando, and ended up losing by 19 on there homecourt in a game 7 and looked complelty nonchalat, unwilling to earn the win and just expecting to win it.

    Orlando: Without there starting PG, without courney lee for 2-3 games, alston suspended a game, etc

    this celtics team didnt even look like they wanted to win last night people…

  • Yo

    I mean this team did not overachieve, oops

  • kevin

    to yo and the lakers terd…

    i can only IMAGINE the excuses coming out of you if kobe went down. And speaking of a team of conceited personalities…In 2006 LeBron and the Cavs "swept" the season series against the Spurs and got murdered. We crushed you in six last year. You almost lost to the Rockets, without their two best players and without any center to speak of. Your team carries 3 7-footers. Your statements have no value.

    Yo…you make points that the other teams were lacking. Do you really think that a fully healthy Celtics team would have gotten pushed to 7? Really? The Magic saw their share of injuries too, but seriously…

    Look at this on paper, no teams, no coaches, no reputation, and tell me where the superior talent lies.

    Perkins, Davis, House, Scalabrine, Marbury, Moore,

    Alston, Reddick, Lee, Gortat, Johnson, Peitrus

    Scal and Moore are fringe NBAers. Marbury was about as useful as a rookie 2nd round pick. House can only do one thing, and Glen Davis' go to move is a decent jumpshot. The only guy on that list that has an advantage is Perk, who played like a champion all playoffs. The C's were always a top-heavy team. The top came off. The fact that the bench provided as much quality as it did was surprising. Lee, Peitrus and Gortat are all starter-quality. Alston will be an expensive backup. Reddick is still a mystery, but certainly proved he has a place in the league. Combine all this with the fact that Orlando's Big 3 present series matchup problems for the Celtics and I don't think you argue that the C's pushed as far as they did on willpower.

    Offseason needs: Legit backup center, a real deal 6-10 power guy who be physical when Perk is out. Quality backup ballhandler. I'd actually like to see Marbury around for a full year but it won't happen. No more Eddie "PG" House or TA trying to do this. Gabe Pruitt? Athletic swingman. Bill Walker may be this guy, but we need a 6-7 6-8 guy who's athletic and likes to defend. No one could match up with Rashard Lewis, and it's not fair to expect PP to run the O and play the opposing team's best guy. Add in a healthy KG, Powe at the All-Star break, hopefully a re-upped big baby, and another year of improvement from Rondo and Perk and next years Celtics team should once again challenge for a ring. They are the only team in the East that currently has any chance of beating the Cavs.

  • Jeff

    Bostongarden Joe – See you next year my man…Oh and good luck against Denver – your heartless wussy lakers will need it…

  • MagicFanatic

    I just wanted to give props to the Celtics team for being a very worthy opponent and ultimately for teaching the Magic something about themselves that will ultimately help them as they take Lebron and the Cavs on in the next round. Alot of people..including some Celtics fans… are discounting the fact the Celtics team we beat was under-manned injured and tired and that it was only the EC semi-finals and not something greater. But the bottom line is that the Boston Celtics were the defending NBA champs and in my opinion you can never BE THE CHAMPS until you BEAT THE CHAMPS and for us to overcome Boston and its still great talent and vaunted history…even in a sometimes ugly 7 game series…was a tremendous mental victory for us more than anything else. And we thank you for not making it easy, as it will aptly prepare us for anything the Cavs can they at us. Make no mistake, Orlando does not fear the Cavs as much as we feared playing you guys without home court advantage. Even Lebron tipped his hand saying that he wanted to play the Celtics…knowing that they match up much worse against us as they did in the regular season. Cleveland may have their rest (or rust), but we are much more grateful to have our "swag" no small thanks to this very tough series and to you Celtics…a most formidable opponent!!

    We will look forward to your Celtics being at full strength next year and testing ourselves again to see if we are worthy of whatever playoff success we have from here on in. I promise we will do whatever we can to derail the Lebron World Takeover Train for at least another year. And don't worry about Kobe…if we get that far…he already knows we have his number. The only fear the this team has let is Magic killer Chauncy Billups, and hopefully the Lakers will take care of that for us.

    On comment on the game and the future of the Celtics from an opposing viewpoint. If Garnett had been healthy and played..i doubt we would have would they way we played…terrible at times…but i think as the have done all year the Magic only play great when the challenge is great…and i think not facing KG was a letdown for them as well…and it showed at times. Boston clearly played harder in the series with the exception of the last 2 games i think. But i also what would the impact of KG play have been on Rondo who clearly gave everyone fits in the playoffs this year…when he felt like it that is. I think the future of the Celtics largely depends more on Rondo's development more than anything. He's almost like Dwight in that is so obviously physically gifted…that he seems to coast sometimes we he could be dominating the game at both ends. All along Magics fans were hoping that Boston would settle for jumps shot instead of continuing to drive the lane and get calls against us…but the never did. I also felt that Rondo and Pierce took Allen out of his game as much as Reddick or Lee did…more interested in getting their shot off one-on-one than waiting for Allen to get open. I think honestly….outside of Dwight…Perkins may be the best defensive center in the league and Dwight could learn a thing or 2 from Perk on the offensive side as well…great find for Boston there!! I will be interested to see if KG is the same talent after his surgery as before..and if Big Baby's break run in the playoffs will do more to hurt Boston next year than to help them if it causes him to be too pricey for Boston to keep both him and Powe since they play the same position behind KG. Without Garnett, Pierce was truly the only one on the Celtics who could consistently create his own shot and felt like some Celtics fans than he should have just tried to take over as he has in the past. I suppose the determined Magic double teams had something to do with it…but he's been double teams his whole career…he just seemed tired…worn out…possible hurt. Anyways…great series…tremendous stepping stone for our side mentally…hope to see you guy back at full strength next year to reclaim what possible may be ours same time next year. Till then….

  • chernevik

    I credit Marbury for trying to go from me-first gunner to facilitating teammate, even if it didn't happen quite fast enough. It seemed to me that he moving the ball around well, but just couldn't/wouldn't hit his shot when called on. If he comes back I think he'll make even more progress, though I can imagine him getting dangerously restless. I don't know if he wants to come back — it certainly doesn't seem he accomplished what he came here to do.

    I really enjoyed watching these guys, and I think they could really be something next year.

  • Yo

    Kevin – I dont see how you could put out of the realm of possiblility, when last year they got taken to 7 in the first 2 rounds when completly healthy against teams with 10+ less wins then the magic had this year. do I think we would have won? yes, but it couldve taken 7

    I dont know, they controlled their own destiny last night as to whether or not they could get to the ecf and lose to the cavs, I just dont think they played with alot of urgency last night, they didnt show that will that they were willing to do whatever it took. they could have easily won that game with a better mentality…the magic simply wanted it more, but all in all the magic were very beatable in this series…at a point late in the 3rd quarter it was a 4 pt game we had possesion, paul pierce then misses a 3, we are only down by5 going into the 4th, and lost by 19….everything went wrong in the 4th, bad play, obviously bad coaching and player rotations…because it just didnt work

  • Jimbo

    The ATL series last year was one of those refereeing anaomolies; they were shooting something like 30 fts a game at home, with at least one 45 ft game, while averaging 12 or so in Boston. The 7 games with the Cav's was really with the Best Team in the League of the next year, so can't fault them for that.

    Just like Joe Johnson became a "how the fu<k are all those contested shots falling" player last year, Salmons (especially) and Gordon were this year, along with Rose who was obviously good if you took the chance to watch any Bulls games this year (although KG would have swatted his sh1t out of the paint if he had been healthy.

    Despite last year people stilllll don't know how good Leon is, and how underrated his absence was.

    Good year C's. Fun to watch, even if it didn't feel like the C's for most of it with injuries and band-aid free agents.

    Now I can just back to being an NBA fan, excited for the Cav's to destroy first the Magic, then the Lakers.

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