This post is by the newest member of team Celtics Town, Kyle O’Connor. Welcome aboard, Kyle.
Entering Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the Magic, you couldn’t help but wonder how the Celtics would respond to the huge series victory versus King James and the Cavs. The green answered that question early on at the Amway arena in Orlando, FL this afternoon by acting as the aggressor from the start versus a shell-shocked Magic squad. The result was a 92-88 Celtics win in which the Celtics thoroughly dominated play for three and a half quarters.
It was prevalent from the start that Paul Pierce’s goal was to assert himself on the offensive and defensive end. The defensive scheme versus Dwight Howard worked to perfection as they forced him into 3-10 shooting and only 13 points. Tom Thibodeau and the green did exactly what the Atlanta Hawks failed to do in the previous round, running big bodies at Dwight Howard and forcing him to make plays away from the basket. First it was Kendrick Perkins forcing Howard to do his running hooks from 10 feet out, then came Rasheed Wallace who put in 20 solid minutes and used as many fouls as possible on “Superman.” The Celts’ plan worked to perfection and unless the Magic (and Stan “Ron Jeremy” Van Gundy) make some serious adjustments they could be in for a long series. Howard is a player who thrives off of fast break opportunities and garbage points, and the Celts did a great job limiting both of those opportunities.
Pierce flexed his muscle by showing what he had failed to show in the Cleveland series, that he can be the aggressor. No matter who was guarding The Truth, it didn’t matter, he was getting wherever he wanted to on the court. Whether it was his mid range game or getting to the basket, nobody could stop him from doing whatever he wanted to on the court.
Pierce’s aggression and play will continue to be a key as the series goes on, particularly because Rajon Rondo seemed to have trouble with the Magic defense. He had no issues getting past Nelson and getting to the hoop, but he can no longer just flip the ball up wherever he chooses because of the big 7 footer standing there waiting for him. In game 2 Rondo needs to be more aggressive on his mid-range game in order to get that floater in the lane that he has become so accustomed to.
Ray Allen ran the Orlando defense ragged by dropping in 25 points on 2-5 from behind the arc. He needs to continue spreading the floor to open up opportunities for Rondo and Pierce to get to the rim versus the tough Orlando front court. Rashard Lewis, who was the key to the series win last year, was non existent due to the great defense by Kevin Garnett. One of the best 3 point shooters in the league, KG forced Lewis to put the ball on the floor every time he touched it.
There was the classic blip in concentration halfway through the 4th quarter that let the Magic cut the once 20 point lead down to a 2 point lead in the final minute. This was obviously aided by a phantom back-court call (How the hell does Carter tip the ball to Reddick and not get called for back court on that??!), but that is no excuse. The point is that the green dominated this game for all but about a 7 minute span in the 4th quarter.
They have the personnel to match up with Howard, and I don’t trust any team whose go to guy is Vince Carter in the 4th quarter. While Carter did have a good game with 23 points, he is still not the closer that Hedo Turkolu was during last year’s run. If you have been watching this team all year, you kept waiting for that run where the green relinquish the lead, but it never came. It never came because this Magic team does not have a player that can take over a game/series, a la Lebron James. If they get behind, they need to slowly and methodically work the ball to get open 3′s and get Howard the ball to make runs.
The Celtics match up better with Orlando than any team remaining in these playoffs, this is because they have the bodies to match up with Howard, and the length and speed on the wings to get out on shooters. Game 2 is a must win for Orlando on Tuesday night, and if the Green play at the pace that they played today, they could be coming back to the Garden looking to put their foot on the throats of the Magic.
A couple quick thoughts..
- Every single time Jameer Nelson brought this team close to making a monster run early in the second half, that was always answered by a hustle play from Glen Davis or Rasheed.
- Anyone else think that Marcin Gortat looks like he shouldv’e been in one of the Rocky movies at some point?
- Rasheed did a fantastic job getting in Dwight Howard’s head, this was evident by the double technicals the two took in the 2nd half.
- Matt Barnes has to have something bothering him. I had heard before the game that he had some back spasms, but that was no the defensive effort I was expecting versus Pierce and Allen.
- Glen Davis did a monster job in using the rim multiple times to avoid Howard blocks. He was like me trying to avoid traffic on 93 in the morning, but with a lot less yelling and obscene language (or maybe not).
- If the Celts can somehow come away with a game 2 win, do you think Josh Cohen from Orlando will back off his comments the the Magic are one of the greatest teams of all time? (What a dipshit that guy is, obviously from Florida.)
One quote from Ray Allen after the game was great:
“There were stretches in the season, we know each other so well now, where we were becoming less patient with each other,” Allen said. “We were getting on each other a little too much. We can take it, but we respected each other.
“When we started the playoffs, we said teams are going to hit us, they’re going to attack us. But when somebody scores on us, which they will, we go get the ball out and come back.”