Post-game Reactions

ESPN RecapOrlando Pinstriped PostMagic Basketball

Pace: 92 possessions (slow given the OT)

Offensive Efficiency: 100 points/100 possessions (league-worst)

Defensive Efficiency: 104.3 points allowed/100 possessions (top-10)

Thumbnail: This is the 94th best-of-seven series in NBA history in which one team has gone up 3-0, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Of the prior 93, a huge majority—57—ended in sweeps. So Orlando has already pulled off something unusual, and they did it by making proper offensive adjustments and bringing their usual all-world defense. The Celtics just did not have enough. Boston looked tired and even passive at times (especially Rajon Rondo, who finished with “just” 9 points and 8 assists on 3-of-10 shooting). But playing arguably the best defensive team in the league will do that to you on some nights. 

Recap: It’s late, I’m tired, a ton of crazy crap happened in this game and Brian (who worked this game at the Garden) will chime in with more later, so I’m going with bullets tonight.

I’ll get to some of the nitty-gritty in a second, but let me throw out an underrated stat that tells part of the story of this game: Boston had 19 assists. The Celtics averaged 23.5 assists per game in the regular season, the 2nd-highest-mark in the league, and they needed a full overtime period just to reach 19 tonight. Boston’s offense functions best when the ball is moving, when Rondo can penetrate in the half court, when the team runs, when Ray can curl out to the elbow off of screens and move the ball from there and when KG can find cutters from the post. 

And Orlando allowed almost none of that tonight.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined for 55 of Boston’s 92 points, a preposterous amount for a team that has won with balance so far in the playoffs. And what Pierce got, he got primarily in isolation against Matt Barnes (who had no chance) or Jameer Nelson (who got switched onto Pierce too often on screen/rolls). 

Ray Allen’s points came more in the flow, though the Magic helped him out with at least one glaring error—a miscommunication between Rashard Lewis and Barnes that allowed Ray to spring free for a three that brought the C’s to within 92-89 with 1:46 in overtime. 

• That three came after Jameer Nelson hit two threes that took some major Cassells (and a bit of help from the basketball gods). He banked the first in off a screen/roll and hit the second with a hand (Paul Pierce’s, I think) right in his face.

And that was fitting. Jameer Nelson was the difference in this game. I broke down earlier today (or yesterday now) how the C’s have been able to stop Orlando’s pet Howard/Nelson screen/roll in this series. In that breakdown, I mentioned that there were openings for Nelson to drive to the hoop, but they were there only briefly, and Nelson had to be decisive and aggressive to take advantage of them before they closed. 

He was both tonight. For whatever reason, the C’s big men jumped out at him more aggressively tonight (instead of sagging back as they did in Game 3), and Nelson kept his dribble and turned the corner almost every time. 

• And when the first screen didn’t produce anything, Orlando set a second screen for Nelson in the opposite direction. Watch one sequence at 10:30 of the 2nd: Howard sets a screen to Nelson’s left, but Jameer initially goes away from it, to his right. Then he jukes back to his left, where Howard is still waiting with the pick. But then suddenly Nelson spins back to his right, drives and initiates a sequence that ends with Rashard Lewis hitting a corner three. 

That is both good individual play and good coaching. Nelson realized he needed to be more aggressive tonight, and the Magic put him in position to be more aggressive. 

• A word about the last play of regulation, which will draw jeers from the anti-Pierce isolation crowd—a crowd of which I am a reluctant member (reluctant because of my unabashed Paul Pierce love): The play was not technically an isolation. Watch it carefully, and you’ll see Ray Allen set a quick screen for Pierce and then faded to the left wing as Pierce dribbled right. The play is designed for a big man to set Allen a back screen, and for Pierce to deliver a skip pass to Ray.

That play has produced at least a half-dozen clutch shots over the last two years. The Magic saw it coming, and it produced nothing. You could criticize as it an obvious play call and one that took too long to develop and forced the ball from Rajon’s hands as he appeared ready to call a time out. Just don’t call it an isolation.

• Rasheed Wallace played his worst game of the post-season so far, especially considering the circumstances (a berth in the Finals on the line). The Celtics opened the 4th quarter by knocking the ball away from Howard and getting out in semi-transition. As the Magic rushed back on defense, Rondo pulled the ball up, waiting for a trailer. And he waited. And he waited some more. At this point, I thought maybe Wallace had been injured on the other end of the court. 

Nope. He was just being lazy. By the time he appeared at the top of the arc and received the pass from Rajon, the Magic was set to at least contest the shot a bit, whereas if Sheed had been hustling, he would have time to set his feet and take a wide open three. 

Awful. Then Sheed committed a dumb technical (the Magic made the free throw, and the game went to overtime—Thanks Sheed!), got whistled for an illegal screen and bricked another rushed three-pointer. 

Doc pulled him, and Sheed never saw the floor again. Deservedly so. 

Sheed: I thought you were here for the post-season? If you openly declare the regular season meaningless and say you’re here for the post-season only, that means you have to bring the effort in every single post-season game. 

• Pierce was phenomenal. The Magic’s defense took everything else away, so Pierce took it upon himself to carry the team for long stretches of the game. As I watched him drive and draw fouls and hit tough shots in the lane, I kept thinking of a veteran pitcher getting out of jam after jam as he waits for his team’s offense to finally get going. You knew the team could only get away with it for so long. 

• I’d have to go watch the tape to see if the Magic did anything hugely different on Rondo tonight. If they did, I didn’t notice anything dramatic. Granted, the Magic don’t have to do anything dramatic to hold a star guard to a sub-par game; they have the best defensive player on earth waiting in the lane every time Rondo drives. That takes its toll, and Rondo looked tentative throughout the game. 

Maybe the early foul trouble took him out of rhythm; he picked up his 2nd foul at the 4:35 mark of the 1st quarter and sat until the 8:59 mark of the 2nd quarter.

Or maybe he’s tired. Dude is playing 42 minutes a game and doing the bulk of the ball-handling in every game. 

• Dwight Howard was great. With one or two exceptions, he didn’t force things on offense and let Nelson create for him. He is a great finisher on the move. Also: His free throw shooting toward the end of the game bordered on catastrophic. 

• When you’re playing a great defense like Orlando’s, you can’t afford to compound things by making dumb decisions. Here are some things the Celtics did in the first few minutes of the 4th quarter:

(11:36): Sheed fails to hustle, blows a chance at an easy three and misses a slightly more difficult one. We covered this.

(11:08): Tony Allen holds the ball for several seconds as the shot clock expires. TA was a disaster offensively tonight.

(9:42): Sheed misses a three-pointer when his feet are not properly set. 

(9:15): Glen Davis holds the ball about 22 feet from the hoop, looks up at the shot clock and sees that it is running down, holds the ball some more and then throws a floating lob to Pierce, who is posting up Pietrus at the elbow. It goes out of bounds. Even if Pierce makes the catch, his only option is a wild turnaround as the shot clock expires. 

(8:19): KG misses a fadeaway over Howard. KG should not be isolating in the post against D-12 unless the shot clock is expring. 

(6:28): KG inexplicably tries to face up and take Howard off the dribble on the right block and loses the ball. 

I mean….you can’t do these things against a great team. 

And the Magic are a great team. 

• Vince Carter: 1-of-9, 3 points, 3 turnovers. Yikes.

• Nate Robinson, summed up: He makes a wonderful pass to KG to set up a lay-in at the end of the 2nd quarter, then needlessly fouls Jameer Nelson with 38 seconds left and the Celtics in the penalty. Nate Robinson still does not understand how to play NBA defense. Honestly, I have no clue what is going to happen with Nate next season. Some team could blow $4 million per season on him, or he could be playing in Europe. I have no idea. He has no idea.

• It should not have taken me 1,200 words to get to Big Baby, because he was a huge spark tonight. His line—6 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 2 steals, 1 assists—looks decent, but doesn’t quite do justice to how essential he was at keeping Boston in the game. More than anything, he was smart and patient. Whereas KG rushed things in the post at times, Davis played with a calm. On one possession (1:28, 3rd), he took a pass from Rondo on the right wing, faked a 20-footer, took one dribble and squared his shoulders for a much easier 14-footer. It was a patient, solid play. 

• The C’s continue to win the turnover battle and clean up the defensive glass. These are good things. 

And they are things that should make us hopeful going forward. The Magic did the hard things tonight. They found the right counters, they played with a focus and aggression we haven’t seen yet. They now have to do that three more times, including once more in Boston

But make no mistake: The Magic are good enough to do it three more times, especially if Boston plays another game in which they are listless or careless for a few too many possessions. Because all it takes is a few, and the Magic will be up by 10 points. They are that good. 

And they are good enough to pull this off. 

So now it’s time for Boston to get some rest, find some of their own counters and get ready to play on Wednesday.

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Zach Lowe

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  • joe

    c’s win this in 6. calm down everyone.

  • I love Green

    Celtics lose in 7 mark my words!

    But don’t mark them if they win game 5, or 6.

  • joe

    celtics respond well after losses.they haven’t lost twice in a row the whole playoffs. Celtics nation needs to relax. In fact I change my first comment, C’s in 5.

  • PierceTurth

    UGGHHH!!! doc why dont you call time at the end of regulation… paul was obviously tired… we gotta win game 5

  • Ira

    Very disappointing loss making me of course worry about Wednesday, since coming home again for Magic would be a real pressure cooker. Magic now have hope and the C’s at least a tiny bit of doubt.

    So many missed open shots and layups and unforced turnovers. Not much from the bench save Big Baby. Terrible defensive rebounding!

    Still give props to Orlando for trying hard and to Nelson and Howard for playing great and Redick for hitting a few shots when it mattered early.

    We would have gladly taken 3-1(maybe even 2-2) at this point.

    I HATE the iso at the end of regulation!! Just run your offense and get a real shot up.

    Nelson’s 2 threes were a bit lucky but luck is the residue of design.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Paul & Sheed 0-10 from 3. Very costly when we don’t offensive rebound well. Paul playing 47 min. & looking tired= Doc riding Paul till the wheels fall off again. Sheed 2-7 = pass it brutha aka get the ball to Ray Ray (7-12). Rajon 3-10 Ugh! Get closer or pass it.

    Really, Nelson reversed roles on Rajon. Nelson ate Rondo’s lunch & dinner tonight.
    Nelson scored over twice as many points as Rajon!
    Nelson had 1 more assist (9 vs 8)!!!!!!!!!!
    AND Nelson had 2 more rebounds!!!!!!!!!!!
    They both played 43 minutes…What happened to Rajon? I can believe Nelson scoring more points….but Nelson having more assists???? & the 6′ getting more rebounds AGAIN!!!! I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD SEE ANY OTHER POINT GUARD OUT REBOUND RAJON SO MANY TIMES!

    Dwight & Barnes with 8 offensive rebounds between them. Surely, we could block at least 1 of them out, right?

  • legs-diamond

    Celtics played well and should not hang their heads. They out-rebounded the Magic and had few turnovers, and continued to play tough D. Orlando just made the right adjustments, mainly defensive spacing, and hit a few more threes. … The difference was a mere few shots. … I imagine Doc and Tibs will re-set, and for the C’s to continue to be a major thorn in the Orlando’s side.

  • Zain

    The Celtics will take a few days to work out the staggered screens that kept Rajon at bay. Once we figure that out, the Magic are cooked. It’s the only thing that kept them afloat tonight.

  • RBD

    Celtics looked TIRED out there by the end. They were lucky they survived as long as they did after the comeback at the end of the fourth quarter.

    I hear a lot of Celtics in 6. Screw that.

    This should have been Celtics in 4.

    They should close it Wednesday.

  • sacbobv

    At some point you had to know that Orlando could show up for a game. They won 1 game with effort and the Celtics not rising to it. 1 game, but I doubt they will pull 3 more wins after this one. I don’t even doubt this will be the only one they win, so why are so many posters upset? Spit happens in the playoffs, get over it.

  • Rob

    Zach, I love your posts, but PLEASE stop using the construction “make no mistake” — it’s a tired, tired cliche, and overdramatic to boot. Plus, it reminds me of George W. Bush. Keep up the good work, though; you’re great! The Magic played great tonight; you have to hand it to them. Pierce was undoubtedly tired by the end, and it was a weak game from Rajon. He went back to the old tentative Rajon on offense. That kills our flow. He just needs to take the jumpers and the little runners in the lane. If he misses, or gets blocked, so be it. Also: I would have added that the C’s really should have fouled Howard harder at least three times in the OT alone.

  • Cutch

    Everyone is talking about the great play of D. Howard; when are we going to talk about his dirty plays(2) that falls in violation of the leagues policy for blows above the shoulder. KG got suspended for game 3 against MIA for his blow to the head. Will the league hold to their standards or will they sweep it under the rug?

  • sacbobv

    They will sweep it under the rug, unless it’s Rasheed of course!

  • Eran

    Rondo was clearly not 100% in this game, and his inability to defend Nelson and penetrate and create plays on offense at the same level as in the previous games was the reason the Celtics lost the game. Hopefully his muscle spasms disappear by Wednesday. The Magic are likely to win any game in which Nelson is better than Rondo.

  • Zain

    I have a huge question. I noticed it earlier when it happened, but just saw this replay.

    4:28-4:20 left in the 3rd, KG misses the shot, offensive rebound, Pierce with the ‘3’. But we get credited with 2. No comment made about foot on the line or anything. His foot looked well before the line–what gives?

  • dslack

    @Zach, I don’t buy the “ton of minutes” explanation for Rondo’s game tonight. He’s 24 years old, he had played one game since last Tuesday, and only 34 minutes in that game. He played a hard 34 minutes, but come on, a 24 year old guy in phenomenal shape should be able to play 34 minutes of professional basketball in a week without losing his legs. He might have an injury or something, but this wasn’t run-of-the-mill fatigue.

  • MP

    Hollinger says Rondo had “muscle spasms” tonight?

  • Zain

    Rondo says he’s fine, just bad play. C’s will come out with a fire under them, just like G4 of cavs series. Amway has a horrible crowd, I’m not worried. Frustrating loss, but we will bounce back.

  • vlad

    they basically took rondos legs in this game by making him go through staggered screens on almost every possession, and it worked. rondo was gassed going through 3, 4 and sometimes even more screens that led to some switches (howard and lewis on rondo, saw this a lot of times)

  • Just chill out. Celtics just made the series a bit interesting. I’ll guarantee you, they’ll wrap it up in game 5..adding spice to their road domination..

  • Ray Leighton

    Guys, I’m not worried — think about it — not to take anything away from the Magic; they are a great team, and I am not surprised that they won one, but:

    (a) we played our worst defense of the series (which wasn’t that bad),
    (b) we had our worst assist to turnover ratio of the series,
    (c) Rondo looked exhausted,
    (d) Ray, Paul, and KG all shot less than normal from the free-throw line. If anyone of them makes any extra free-throw…
    (e) Sheed and KG (?!) both got hit with technicals, both of which were made by the Magic…

    and Orlando still had to go to overtime to beat us.

    We turn the A-game back on this coming Wednesday and the series ends.

  • Lee

    Rondo looked very tentative, he passed up a lot of wide open outside shots. I think he was bothered by the muscle spasms more than he was letting on. Now the 3 day layoff doesn’t sound so bad does it?

  • pam

    those two bricked 3s by pp at the end of ot were huge. compare that to nelsons 3s and thats essentially what finished the game. i know its debatable but i would rather see pp drive in that circumstance. dwight was in foul trouble and if you have been cold from the 3 but hot from everywhere else.. however i do understand that would have cut the deficit to 1 and we could have fouled.
    baby was great though. i am not sure if putting perk back in during ot was a great move because we needed all the hustle we could get.
    bad news- pp and rondo looked gassed and with traveling they dont have much time to rest…rondo needs to play well to finish the series off.
    and someone get dwight into foul trouble early!!!!

  • Scott

    I was at the game. Two things stood out. Jameer Nelson played as well as you will ever see him play and the transition defense. I am not sure of ghe official stat but the only fast break points I recall is the Ray Allen dunk after the steal. There were constantly 3 or 4 defenders back and Rondo had to pull it back every time.

  • Ira

    OK Zach. I stand corrected It looked like iso to me but I can’t really be sure. The team looked fine, just didn’t execute as well as Orlando. Hey! They just won SIX games in a row against the best the NBA has to offer. Did we think it would be 11?!

  • urbeltic

    I’m sticking with Celtics in 4.

  • Jay P

    I think they’ll bounce back and take it in 5.

    The only thing that worries me is they just looked downright tired yesterday. Rondo complained of fatigue and muscle spasms. Paul looked gassed in the 4th, KG was sucking air the whole second half it seemed.

  • Herb

    Jameer needed a PRAYER of a 3-pointer (a bank shot? In the NBA? Come on), then another ridiculously ill-advised 3 with a hand in his face for the Magic to take this one. I respect the Magic and they’re clearly a great team, but given the C’s sloppy/listless play last night, a 4-point loss in OT isn’t ringing too many alarm bells…yet.

  • Jay P


    Ya, no question about it, I made the comment during the open thread that both of those shots were 30% makes at best.

    I’m not going to say they got lucky in that win, because a basketball game is won in more than two shots… but well… let’s just if you play that same sequence out 10 times, he’d probably hit both shots once, maybe twice or the 10.

  • Sweeney

    I was complaining via text last night and first thing on the phone to someone this morning on how inept the offensive looked. Too much Truth and not enough ball movement. I was so happy to see Doc talk about HERO BALL. What a selfish style of basketball played for the majority of the game.

    Also, can I explode about two shot clock violations? No time out at the end of regulation? The sorry execution at the end of OT? I don’t mind losing, but I do mind the manner in which they lost.

    I thought actually Nate played better than we have seen but still too tentative. Doc should of played him more than TA, as he was not a factor.

  • kevbo

    Great analysis per usual, though one minor quibble about that ugly Rasheed stretch in the 4th quarter. He picked up that tech in response to complaining about a Dwight Howard slap to the face. While we don’t know what Sheed said, given DH got KG for the same thing earlier and mauled Perk soon thereafter, Sheed’s gripe was legit and if not for his rep (caveat: we don’t know what he said), probably not technical worthy. I am willing to let that go, but the subsequent illegal screen call seemed like the refs we’re trying to goad Sheed into a meltdown. I’m sure it was an illegal screen, but then so are 95% of the screens set in the game. To my eyes, with that call, the refs seemed to be a) definitely sticking it to Sheed, b) hoping to get a chance to toss him, and c) at the least, send him back to the bench saddled with fouls. Whether or not Sheed engenders this treatment is an endless debate, that I’ll leave aside. My point though is this: By forcing Sheed to the bench, Doc had to put KG in far sooner in the 4th than he probably wanted, and it was clear KG was gassed when he threw that skip pass away at the end of the game. If Sheed had stayed in, KG might have been fresher down the stretch. Most of that is Sheed’s fault. Nonetheless, it fundamentally disturbed me to see refs openly sticking it to a player (deserved or not) when the stakes are so great.

  • Ersatz

    Howard’s a punk. And the NBA’s a punk too for letting him get away with some of his crap. He whines because he gets in foul trouble, but he continually takes cheap shots that would get most other players suspended but never him. I want Perk and Sheed to rough him up next game. They were way too nice last night.

    Oh, and unlike other people here, I am worried about the Magic coming back. Terrified actually.

  • Ira

    How can we NOT be worried? A poor performance in a game that it was important to win; Magic showing energy and drive, beating C’s to loose balls and getting way too many putbacks. Magic considerable favorites in Game 5 making 6 more or less “must” game. Game 7 might shift pressure to Magic but lsing 3 in a row after having a 3-0 lead would not be good.

  • Herb

    Jameer needed a PRAYER of a 3-pointer (a bank shot? In the NBA? Come on. If I make one of those in a pickup game, I’m embarrassed), then another ridiculously ill-advised 3 with a hand in his face for the Magic to take this one. I respect the Magic and they’re clearly a great team, but given the C’s sloppy/listless play last night, a 4-point loss in OT isn’t ringing too many alarm bells…yet.

  • Zain

    My main worry is our legs. Played a lot of minutes last night. Between now and g5, 6, 7, there is hardly any rest in between any games. I’m not saying it’ll go the distance to g7, but every game we fail to close out makes this harder on us.

  • Tim

    Hey I just want to remind everyone who’s been saying that losing by four when you made sloppy plays isn’t that bad, is that’s exactly how Orlando lost the first two games to put themselves in a huge hole to begin with. Game 1- terrible game from Orlando, Boston catches some lucky breaks in the clutch and wins 92-88. Game 2- another game with a lack of serious effort from Orlando, terrible play in the clutch, and Boston wins 95-92.

  • Herb

    Sorry about the double post- my phone said it didn’t send. Whoops.

    From here on out, I’d say every game is a “must-win” game. With every game the C’s drop, the Magic gain more and more confidence, and from there it has a snowball effect. My biggest concern, though, is the C’s getting complacent and saying to themselves “Well, we don’t HAVE to take Game 5, because Game 6 is back in Boston, so worst-case scenario, we take care of business there.” But from there, it could turn into “Well, we lost games 4,5, and 6, but we’re the best road team in the NBA (still alive in the playoffs, at least), so we can take a game 7 in Orlando.” I don’t anticipate this happening, because the Celtics have appeared to be far more focused and driven in these playoffs than at any post-Christmas stretch this season, but given their lack of consistent play down the stretch, it’s not unfathomable to think they might get sucked into that line of thinking. I mean, they have done it before, no?

    C’s win game 5.

  • celtic love

    Guys dont worry and please donot panick this series is over we get back to our defense execute our offense stop the one man show bulls..t let rondo run offense series over game 5 not even close blow out with that said NEXTTTTT UP.

  • Wow, everybody needs to calm down. I agree with Ray Leighton. Rajon played like garbage, got owned by Jameer, and Dwight goes for 32 – 16 and it STILL takes overtime to beat us?! Wow Orlando, you guys threw your best punch and it takes overtime?! Celtics in 5.

  • DW

    As an Orlando fan, I like to read the threads from other teams to see what the fans are thinking, and I can honestly say this may be one of the most thoughtful, intelligent groups. No mindless bashing of own or opponent. Pre-Magic(hometown team), I was a Celts fan(circa Bird, Ainge, et al), so if we have to go down to an opponent, I can live with it being the Celts.(and just as long as its not the Lebron Cavs, oops Clev Cavs). So far the best team has won each game and Im sure that trend will continue. Good luck and thanks for the insight.

  • espnstever

    If David Stern isn’t a gutless leader, he’ll suspend Howard for the flagrant elbow on KG. The officials totally ignored it and there are only 2 possible reasons for that, they cheated or they are not competent.

  • DW

    I vote for incompetent.

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