• As you’ve probably seen already, Stan Van Gundy took the blame for Game 3 (via NBA.com’s John Schuhmann):
“It starts with me. It’s my job. I’m the coach of this team,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not happy with where I had our team tonight, anything about what I did, my plan, any adjustments, anything.”
Parsing blame is always a dicey thing. It’s indisputable that the Celtics played harder—with a fury, really—than the Magic last night. Is that SVG’s fault? Or did the players just get nervous when they saw the Celtics, already up 2-0, were coming at them with a heightened aggression beyond even what we saw in the first two games?
Watch and re-watch the tape: The Celtics took away options #1-3 on the Magic’s pet screen/roll plays. But there was room for counters; there always is. But to execute such counters, you have to make confident, aggressive decisions—hard dribbles forward, extra passes—and you have to make them quickly. The Magic didn’t do that. Does that speak to a lack of confidence among the players? A lack of preparation?
Here’s Dwight Howard (via Schuhmann, again):
“All season long I don’t think there’s been a game where the other team outplayed us, outhustled us, and just worked harder than us,” Howard said. “They did that for the last three games. And that’s why they’re ahead.”
• Before we get back to the Magic, if you haven’t seen this quote yet from Andrew Bynum (via ESPNLosAngeles.com), well, here you go:
“Man, it’s going to be amazing to play against those guys again, especially having lost [in 2008],”
I hope the Suns saw this one.
• Big Baby’s hard work was the most obvious to the casual fan last night. Here’s Baby discussing the team’s focus (via Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com):
“We remind ourselves we want it. Every day we have banners [in the Celtics practice facility], we see banners and we want another banner. That’s what it’s all about.”
And here’s Doc on Baby’s versatility:
“We’re asking him to guard all kinds of positions. Guarding Dwight Howard and then going out and guarding Rashard Lewis in the same game is very difficult, and he’s doing both. He’s been great for us.”
• Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel says Game 3 takes its place among the lowest moments in Magic franchise history, and his recap reveals the Magic are a frustrated bunch:
“I haven’t seen the Magic yet in any of these games against Boston,” Barnes said. “Probably the most embarrassing situation in my basketball career. You come and they kick your ass. You can’t make no excuses?Second-best record in the East and you just get destroyed. . . . They’re diving on the floor for balls and diving in the stands for balls. You do that stuff, you win.”
For the record, Matt Barnes, who yaps more than any player on the Magic, asked to guard Paul Pierce and blatantly shoulder-checked KG out of bounds last night, has scored 10 points in this series on 4-of-15 shooting.
Thanks for showing up, Matt!
There’s also this tidbit from Schmitz’s story
The frustration boiled over in the Magic lockeroom when point guard Jason Williams screamed at least one reporter, upset he didn’t have room to undress.
• Tim Povtak at FanHouse says the series is over:
They beat the Magic so thoroughly, they screamed “uncle,” as in waving the white flag in surrender. They made them quit.
There is no need for Game 4 Monday night.
• The Globe points out that at least until football season starts or the Sox get hot, Boston is a Celtics town.
• John Hollinger leads ESPN.com’s Daily Dime with a piece on Game 3, and he focuses on the improved play of Rajon Rondo, who struggled badly against the Magic (37.5 percent from the floor) in last year’s playoffs. Things are better this time around (Rajon’s shooting 45 percent after three games), and Hollinger focuses on Rajon’s defense on Jameer Nelson:
Nelson is 17-of-44 from the floor and has 10 turnovers against just seven assists. A typical play — and one that furthered Orlando’s frustration — came in the first quarter when Howard established deep post position with Nelson dribbling upcourt. Rondo’s length and pressure made it impossible for the smaller Nelson to get Howard the ball in time, so Howard was whistled for a three-second violation and one of Orlando’s 17 turnovers.
Nelson shot 56-of-108 (52 percent) in Orlando’s two prior series.
• In the Globe, Rajon Rondo talks about the team’s defense, which hasn’t looked better all season than it did in the first three quarters of Game 3:
“Guys were rotating well, especially on Dwight,’’ Rondo said. Ray[Allen] and Paul, it wasn’t any of “my faults’’ tonight. Everybody was there helping each other off the floor, helping each other in rotations. It was one of our best defensive performances of the year, probably.’’
• Chris Sheridan’s piece on the game has this little nugget from the Orlando locker room:
Though he flogged himself afterward, Van Gundy addressed the team privately in the locker room after the final horn with team president Bob VanderWeide and general manager Otis Smith present, and didn’t just speak about this particular debacle, but what it represented in the bigger picture.
Was this, he asked, the legacy these players wanted to leave for this organization after so many of them had worked so hard for so many years to build a team that was the favorite to win the championship just a little more than a week ago?
• Dan Shaughnessy wrote about the Celtics. I like this sentence:
What we are seeing on the parquet floorboards is awe-inspiring, almost frightening.
I like the word “frightening.” In talking my Dad last night after the game, I used the word “hellish” to describe Boston’s defense. As in, it just looks “hellish” to try and score on them. All the options you like are closed, the shot clock is running down, Boston is willing to knock you over if you have a lane to the hoop—it just looks mentally and physically exhausting.
I remember feeling that way about Boston’s defense in 2008. I feel that way again.
One other note about Mr. Curse’s piece: He says Vince Carter “blew a chance at winning Game 2 by missing a couple of free throws in the final minute.” That’s not entirely accurate. The Magic trailed by three points with 31 seconds to go when Carter missed those FTs. They were costly, sure, but to say Vince blew a chance at winning the game if misleading. It’s not totally inaccurate, since the misses did hurt Orlando’s chances of winning the game, but the wording Shaughnessy uses suggests the Magic were down one or tied when Carter bricked the shots.
Wow. Vince has been so unable to rise to the occasion in this series that even I’m apparently starting to feel bad for him.
• Steve Bulpett is all kinds of giddy and may have been drinking (kidding!) when he wrote this sentence:
Call me crazy, but I’ve always wondered what a manatee would look like on a fast break. After watching Glen Davis barrel down the floor, take a pass from Rondo and twist in a shot early in the second quarter, I think I have my answer.
Or this one:
At 8:30 last night, this was The Colosseum. The Celtics and the crowd were the lions. The Magic – led by Dwight Howard, who came to the NBA directly from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy – were the main course.
• The Bulls have contacted the C’s about interviewing Tom Thibodeau for their head-coaching job, the Herald reports, confirming an earlier report in the Chicago Tribune. And like the Hornets, the Bulls appear willing to wait for the post-season to finish before filling their vacancy, something that bodes well for Thibodeau’s chances of landing one of those two gigs.
Thibodeau has reached his ceiling in Boston, barring a scenario in which Doc steps down and the team promotes Thibodeau.
One thing about the Bulls: They have to evaluate coaching candidates in part based on how they might help lure big free agents. Thibodeau doesn’t have the cache or connections of someone like John Calipari, but if big-name free agents are interested in things like “winning” and “playing great team defense,” they should be excited to play for Thibodeau.
The Herald also says Avery Johnson is out of the search in New Orleans, since he appears to be leaning toward taking the Atlanta job. The Hornets gig is now wide open.
• We mentioned Ray Allen’s eating habits on Saturday. Today, the Herald reports that Ray’s healthy diet has its origins at UConn:
“I went to McDonalds one day and had a double quarter-pounder or something, and then I went to practice,” he said. “I was 19 years old. But I’m looking around at practice, and I felt like I was running in tar.
“From that point on I started thinking about not being tired, and what I could do to make that happen.”
That’s it for me. My girlfriend’s away, so I’ve got some tidying up to do around the apartment today.
I wonder where she keeps that broom?