• After a game in which Matt Barnes clearly struggled and played just about a dozen minutes, readers of Orlando Pinstriped Post are voting overwhelmingly in support of a plan to replace Barnes in the starting line-up with J.J. Redick.
The Magic used the trio of Jameer Nelson-Redick-Vince Carter for the last few minutes of Sunday’s game, and the Celtics failed to hit a field-goal in that span. It’s a slightly smaller and less physical line-up than one that includes Barnes or Mickael Pietrus at the small forward, but we saw last season that Redick is a very, very capable defender against Ray Allen.
• Dwight Howard took the blame at Orlando’s practice today for getting a bit carried away in trying to prove he can score against Perk, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Tania Ganguli (via OPP). He apparently told the media that they (the media) “always talk about good Perkins is” against Howard, according to Ganguli’s tweet linked above.
Meanwhile, Barnes admitted Orlando “may have been feeling ourselves too much.”
Come on, guys.
It’s the Eastern Conference Finals. If you’re “feeling yourselves too much” and stubbornly attacking a one-on-one match-up to feed your ego, you really need to remind yourselves that it’s mid-May and not January.
• Over at The Wages of Wins, a new author shows the Cavs and the Celtics had very even statistical profiles using a version of the site’s Wins Produced stat—provided you used only numbers from the first half the season and extrapolated from there.
The conclusion: If you had assumed the second half of the C’s season was an inaccurate representation of the team’s ability, you would not have been surprised by the outcome of the series. Another conclusion: Mike Brown did a horrible job dividing up the minutes for Cleveland.
• Over at NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti argues that the Magic’s nine threes in the first half were “all pretty good looks that you can expect the Magic to make.” Go check out the video and judge for yourselves.
I will say this, though: It’s so easy to forget how slim the margin of victory is in a Game like Sunday’s. Remember Rasheed Wallace’s corner three—the one he made with the shot clock expiring and his momentum leaning out of bounds? How many times is Sheed going to make that shot out of 100 tries? Five? Two?
He made 10 corner threes in 38 attempts all season, according to NBA.com’s hot spots data.
Another sequence that stuck out to me as a pivotal moment: With the C’s up 52-44, Dwight Howard missed two straight free throws. You’d figure that with Orlando’s best rebounder shooting the foul shots, Boston would be a cinch to secure the rebound. But no. Matt Barnes darted around Perk and got a piece of the ball, which eventually went out of bounds off the Celtics.
On the extra possession, Jameer Nelson missed a three-pointer. The rebound came out to the foul line, and Barnes sprinted across the court to grab it in mid-air. Another extra possession for Orlando, and you could feel a big three coming. Nope. Rashard Lewis threw the ball away, and Paul Pierce picked it up in transition. He felt Jameer Nelson make contact with him from behind and launched the ball in the direction of the basket.
And guess what? The refs gave Pierce the charity shooting foul call, a call Rajon Rondo can’t get no matter how hard he tries (or how well he acts) in the same situation. And Pierce knocked down all three foul shots.
What a huge swing, right? And the sort of swing you forget about when all sorts of crazy stuff happens at the end of a game.
The lesson: The margin between these two teams is so, so slim. And also: The referees have no clue what to do when players chuck the ball toward the rim after feeling contact. To me, Pierce doesn’t deserve the shooting foul call there. He was not planning on shooting the ball, and he didn’t start his shooting motion until after Nelson made contact with him.
But I’ll take it. You better believe I’ll take it.
• Paul Flannery’s off-day report on WEEI’s Green Street blog contains several goodies about what to look for in Game 2.
Here’s Doc on double-teaming Howard:
By Rivers count the Celtics double-teamed on three occasions, and they got burned each time.
“It’s instinct,” Rivers said. “We had a horrible one, where we doubled Dwight [Howard]. Dwight was five feet off the block and we went and doubled him and Jason Williams was standing by himself behind the 3. That’s just an instinct and we do allow that, but we have to be smarter against this team. They kill you when you double them. If you double team this team they’ll hurt you.”
That was Rondo’s mistake, and it was a glaring one even as it happened in real time. Rajon had a lot of ground to cover, his momentum wasn’t going the right way when he started his cut, and Howard was on the right edge of the paint (the side he least prefers).
• The C’s are also concerned about Jameer Nelson’s effectiveness on the screen/roll, and Flannery wonders whether Boston should stop going under screens for Nelson:
The Celtics also want to figure out their pick and roll coverage. Jameer Nelson burned them in the second half when they went under the screen. He’s too good a shooter to allow him open looks.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to stop Jameer Nelson in the pick and roll,” Pierce said. “He really got hot in the second half. We’re far from being where we want to be.”
But you are up 1-0, Paul. You know what would be something? Going up 2-0.
Game 2 begins in about 24 hours.