You know how you know things are going badly for your team? It’s when your coach wants to throw up the white flag in the 4th quarter of a blowout, but still has to leave one of his starters in the game. Not because he’s sending some kind of message to the starter or his team by leaving him out there, but literally due to the reality that there aren’t enough healthy bodies left out of the reserves to put together a garbage time crew.
Hence we had Paul Pierce roaming the floor for the final four minutes of a 41 minute night, facing a 20 point deficit with Tony Allen (also banged up), Nate Robinson, Shelden Williams and Michael Finley. Yep, it was one of those nights for the Green team.
It’s hard not too panic if you’re a Celtics fan right now. New Englanders are on edge already after seeing their hometown hockey team blow a 3-0 series lead just two weeks over. So tonight’s result is one of those games that will get the worry warts out in full effect.
And normally I would tell everyone to remain calm, but after the amount of crap that went down at Amway Arena tonight, it’s clear to everyone involved that the C’s are going to have a hell of a fight on their hands to close out this pesky Magic squad. To start, I’ll admit I didn’t feel good about the C’s chances to win tonight, even before game 5 started. Winning three games on the road in one series, against a team as good is Orlando is a hell of a lot to ask of any team. After failing to close out game 4 when they had the chance, I figured Boston would be forced to do the deed in game 6 back home.
Well while I was right on the bad feeling, I didn’t count on that scenario getting a hell of a lot tougher, but after tonight it did. The dominoes are falling in the exact places Orlando needs them, to allow them a chance to complete a potentially historic comeback.
Let’s not look too far ahead just yet though, back to tonight. First, before we go any further, credit has to be given to Orlando. They shot the lights out tonight, pure and simple. Sure, Kendrick Perkins’s ejection helped to open up the perimeter for them, by forcing some mismatches and opening up the drive and kick game more, but let’s not kid ourselves. The Magic were making outside shots before Perk got tossed and continued to thrive without him out there.
To be frank, they were due for one of these nights. Jameer Nelson led the way once again, attacking the basket relentlessly, opening the floor up for the team’s sharpshooters. He got them plenty of open looks this way in game 4, but Orlando still only managed to hit 10 of 28 3′s in Beantown. Through four games the Magic were shooting just 30.6 percent from deep in this series.
A lot of that had to do with Boston’s defense, but Orlando is still a better shooting team than that. Tonight they showed it, shooting 52 percent from downtown. Everyone got into the act with 6 players hitting from beyond the arc. Their solid shooting remained in effect from all over the floor, hitting 52 percent overall from the field and 80 percent at the line.
It was Boston’s worst nightmare. Everytime the C’s made anything resembling a run, Orlando would respond and keep them at a comfortable margin with a big basket, many times a three. It was an uphill climb all night long for Boston, some of it thanks to their own doing, but no matter how everything else shook out, it’s likely the Magic were taking this W home anyway.
They kicked the C’s ass on the glass (43-28), got strong performances from their top dogs in Howard and Nelson along with their role players (37 points from bench) and just remained in command all night long. Give credit where credit is due. Orlando earned it tonight.
Now, please allow for the less civil Celtics fan in me to arrive to the party. Why is that? Well, because even though the C’s weren’t winning tonight, they have been dealt a very tough hand for these next two games, and frankly a lot of it isn’t their fault.
Let’s start with Perk. Zach will have more on this in the morning, but that entire situation is a joke. The first T was unwarranted for obvious reasons. He elbowed Gortat, by all looks inadvertently and got the T. Crappy situation, but refs are trying to “maintain control” and give the double technical. I don’t like it but I can live with it.
The second one though? That’s unprecedented. Yes, he was throwing a hissy fit, but HE WALKED AWAY. Eddie Rush, YOU CAN NOT throw him out of the game for this. You have to know he already has one BS technical and realize you made a questionable call. Let it go! Don’t change the complexion of the game like that. You may be sick of Perk’s act, but guess what? It’s the playoffs, it’s not about you, so deal with it!
Just incredibly frustrating to say the least. Obviously, the T’s are going to be rescinded. Probably just one though, so the refs aren’t completely hung out to try. Perk will be ready for game 6. Still, the fact his ejection eliminated any slim chance the C’s had to win this game was disturbing. All that being said, the C’s have bigger problems on their hand.
First, let’s start with Big Baby. Reports have him being blacked out thanks to that Dwight Howard elbow. How many of those will he get away with in this series, I don’t know, but it’s reached a point now where my buddy Corey is wondering when the C’s are going to unload a flagrant on him. He’s earned it by now, problem is C’s don’t have enough healthy big men to get it done at this point.
The concussion for Davis looked scary at the time and given the smart protocol in dealing with concussions in this day and age, I doubt we see him in game 6. Same goes for Quisy. Brian Scalabrine get your jersey ready! I’m not even kidding look for some of Scal in game 6 if Baby can’t get out there. Former NBDL’s Tony Gaffney and Oliver Lafayette will also likely be seeing the chance to suit up.
Let’s just make a list of all the other C’s injuries and potential problems to wrap this up with mini bullets.
* Sheed (sore back) He shot lights out tonight, but obviously will have a much heavier burden on himself with Baby out for potentially rest of series.
* Daniels (concussion)
* Big Baby (concussion)
* Perk (possible suspension for game 6, sprained wrist, knee tendinitis)
* Rondo (muscle spasms) Played solid tonight, but still don’t like how he’s moving around out there, especially on defensive end.
* TA (sprained ankle) Definitely looks limited out there and was ineffective in 10 minutes tonight.
* KG (sore knee, bad series) Team needs more from him on the offensive end, shooting just 37.5% from field
* Paul Pierce (41 minutes in blowout loss) He only took 8 shots tonight as well. That’s not enough. As Tommy Heinsohn mentioned in the postgame, when team went away from him in 2nd half, they lost their chances to hang with Orlando.
* Nate Robinson (useless) Makes dumb fouls and mental mistakes everywhere. Sorry that was a bit harsh, but it’s tough to like the C’s chances at any juncture when he is in the game at this point. He’s just not ready for this type of primetime playoff basketball. Too much of a liability out there.
So other than that the C’s are fine. That’s one hell of a mountain for the C’s to climb against a squad that is feeling pretty good about itself and its chances right now before they fly up to Boston tomorrow. Rightfully so as well.
I stand by my pick of Boston in 6 before this series started, but Boston will be tested like nothing else. With a hobbled crew and likely a short bench to contend with, it’s going to take a gutty effort out of the C’s Big Four and the Garden crowd to get it done.
Friday night, Celtic Pride will be more important than ever.