Playoff Rule #5: The hardest game is the elimination game.
In Game 4, Monday at the TD Garden, Boston fell in overtime 96-92, failing to sweep the slumping Orlando Magic.
Tonight, on the road, at Amway Arena, in Orlando, FL, up three games to one, Boston will take another shot at knocking off the now emboldened Orlando Magic.
To win, Boston must match the energy and focus that Orlando played with in Game 4. Boston came out soft in game 4, expecting an easy win, and they never quite recovered from the rocky start. Tonight, Boston must start well in order to silence the Orlando crowd. The Magic fans should be out in full force, hyped and ready to cheer, considering that this could be the last Magic game the Amway Arena ever hosts. Next season, Orlando will be moving into a bigger and better stadium.
Strategically, Boston’s primary focus must be on limiting the effectiveness of the Magic pick-and-roll game. The Jameer Nelson- Dwight Howard combination had a field day in game 4 on the pick-and-roll: Nelson exploded for 23 points and 9 assists, while Dwight Howard added 32 points and 16 rebounds. Howard also had a series-high seven dunks in Game 4. In games 1-3 combined, Howard totaled just 5 dunks.
In order to stop the pick-and-roll offense of the Orlando Magic, Rajon Rondo, who suffered from muscle spasms in Game 4, and Kendrick Perkins, who is battling wrist and knee injuries, must return to form. Rajon Rondo struggled to stay in front of Nelson, and had just 9 points and 8 assists, while Perkins had just 3 points and 4 rebounds in 27 minutes. During most of the crunch-time minutes, Perkins was sitting on the bench, while Glen Davis played. Davis rotates and takes charges well defensively, but he doesn’t have the size to match up with Howard.
Limiting turnovers will be another key to the game. Boston is averaging 14 tpg– with just 9 turnovers in game 3–and, on the road, protecting the ball is paramount. If Boston can limit its turnovers–like it did in the game 3 blowout– then the offense should have little trouble scoring, as it has all series.
Paul Pierce has lead the Celtics scoring attack with 21.8 ppg. Look for Pierce to continue to score the ball because Vince Carter and Matt Barnes of the Orlando Magic have been unable to slow down Pierce thus far. For the Orlando Magic, Howard and Nelson have been the most effective, but reserve guard J.J. Redick has been the most reliable for coach Stan Van Gundy.
You can say he’s their most consistent player in this series,” Doc Rivers said. “He’s been phenomenal against us. We keep losing sight of him.”
Redick hit 3-5 three-pointers in game 4 and scored 10 straight points for the Magic during the middle of the fourth quarter. Redick finished the game with 12 points.
For the aging, injury-plagued Boston Celtics, the quick turnaround from Game 4 could be an issue. Boston and Orlando are playing their third game in six days, after having almost a week off in between game 1 and game 2, and between game 2 and game 3.
Notebook: Rajon Rondo was limited by muscle spasms in Game 4, but told reporters he is feeling better tonight…Rashard Lewis has been battling a stomach virus all series long, and will take intravenous fluids before Game 5…Magic coach Stan Van Gundy expects J.J. Redick to continue to contribute and play big minutes…Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau will likely be offered the head coaching job for the New Orleans Hornets sometime soon.