This possession from the 3rd quarter of Game 3 stood out to me for what it said both about Orlando’s mindset and Boston’s defensive strategy. Watching in slow-mo, we see a standard pin-down play for Vince Carter—the same play the Celtics run to spring Ray Allen for a jumper a dozen times (or more) per game:
Look at that! The play works pretty well and yet….the Magic get nothing! Check out this still:
I mean, this is what you hope for when you run this play, right? Rashard Lewis nails Ray Allen with a screen, allowing Vince Carter to come (very) free at the elbow.
And look at KG, guarding Lewis. He moves toward Vince for a split second but quickly shifts back onto Lewis. You can bash Rashard Lewis all you want for his performance in this series, and he deserves a lot of said bashing, but the Celtics have clearly emphasized taking Lewis out of the game, even if it means leaving someone else open.
And Carter is open here. There are so many good things that could happen for Orlando at this moment in this possession. Nelson could toss a quick pass to Carter for an open jumper. Or Carter could realize his good fortune and cut aggressively to the hoop, take a pass from Jameer and go up strong.
Instead, the Magic do….nothing. Nelson holds the ball. Carter doesn’t demand the ball or make any sort of cut; instead, he lurches out to the perimeter to get the ball and set up a screen/roll with Howard.
This is the sort of thing that makes you think the Magic were just mentally defeated in the 2nd half. On the one hand, you could argue this smart defense from Boston, despite the obvious miscommunication between Allen and KG. They’re keeping Lewis bottled up and gambling that Carter, for whatever reason, just won’t hurt them on this play. On the other hand, an aggressive offensive team makes something happen here.
Contrast this with the way Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo ran this set in Game 3. Ray picked up six assists, most of which came on this action. Over and over, Rondo got Ray the ball coming off a screen in perfect time, and Ray made his decision fast and with confidence. He either launched a jumper or flicked a quick bounce pass to the screener, whose guy usually has to jump out on Ray when the C’s run this play.
The contrast between those Boston plays and this Orlando set speaks to the difference between the two teams that took the floor for Game 3. Boston fans can only hope things look the same in Game 4.