The Magic had also been shaky lately, despite a three game win streak. For some reason, the Celtics always seemed to have problems with the teams they should be able to put away early. Thatís what had happened with the Hornets, and a letup tonight might be disastrous for the Good Guys.
Recently, the Cís had problems with consistent play, particularly on offense. I cringed on those rare occasions when they ran a fast break, since it was obvious they were unpracticed in it. Their defense was fineówhen they worked at it. But there were too many times when they let weak teams score more easily than they should have.
In particular, Iíd realized that
Paul Pierce had developed a habit of cheating off his man into the lane,
in hopes of picking up a loose ball. Sometimes this worked well,
but in a recent game against the Raptors, it was disastrous. It all
depends on whether the man Pierce guards can shoot well from the perimeter.
Since Pierce had neither been benched, nor had he changed his ways on defense,
I had to assume that Coach OíBrien was ok with this. Iím not sure
the increase in steals necessarily outweighs the increase in shooting chances
for Pierceís man.
Things started fast as both teams ran with the ball. Orlando decided to try to put bodies on Walker and Pierce every time they got the ball. The ploy had limited effect through the first half of the quarter as Pierce had 6 points in 6 minutes. Tony Battie was a monster off the boards, and got some help from Tony Delk to boot.
But about halfway through, Battie went down with what appeared to be a problem with his knee. Vin Baker came in and committed a foul. I really hoped Battie would return quickly. The teams sent the lead back and forth throughout the rest of the quarter.
Walker showed smarts as he went on the break and hesitated just a bit to draw the foul, and yes-he made the free throw.
Just after word came that Tony Battie looked ok on the sideline, Tracy McGrady hurt his ankle, and limped off the court. A minute later, Vin Baker came up limping. Battie came back in for him. I wondered if they waxed the floor or something. During the following timeout, McGrady walked back to the court, and he looked ok.
A minute after that, McGrady sat back down with his 2nd foul. The Cís were working hard off the boards, and it was paying off so far. In addition, the Cís had a better shooting percentage, even though Orlando took more shots in the quarter. As time ended, the Celtics held the lead at 25-23.
Iíd been surprised, watching his
game on the Sunshine Network, that the announcers seemed almost reverential
when discussing the Celtics. There was none of the garbage that had
deluged the Minnesota announcers.
The Cís started turning it on at both ends, forcing fouls and turnovers and shooting better. This included a mystery hook shot from Walker as he was literally covered by three opposing players under the hoop. He stuck out the hand with the ball, and flipped it up and in like it was something he meant to do. Somehow, he was not fouled, according to the officials, but you canít have everything.
Eric Williams was also making his presence known at both ends, and had 8 points so far coming off the bench.
But the Magic werenít done yet, mounting a 10-2 run that included some carelessness with the ball on the part of the Good Guys. Tracy McGrady also highlighted this on a breakaway after a steal. The Magic also started hitting from outside, as the Cís were double teaming down low and daring them to shoot from the arc.
But as a whole, the second quarter was sloppier than the first, and it showed for both teams. The shooting percentages plummeted for everyone, even as trips to the free throw line increased.
As the quarter drew to a close the Cís went almost totally cold as the Magic tried to hold on to their three point lead in the final minute. Things held, and the half ended with the Magic ahead 48-45.
The first half started out sort of ok, but went downhill for the Cís from a defensive and offensive standpoint. The Magic were hitting the looks they got well enough to erase a Celtics lead and take on of their own. The Celtics went through one of those really aggravating periods of time when they got open looks and couldnít hit a basket. Thatís the kinds of thing that makes players reluctant to pass instead of shooting it themselves.
Up until the end of the 2nd quarter, the Cís actually had a good shooting percentage. But the Magic were getting too many looks and the Cís werenít hitting well on the other end.
Plus, when the Cís went to the free throw line, the Magic knew theyíd just caused the Celtics to cough up one point for their hard work, as the Good Guys werenít very good at the line.
The teams were shooting nearly even, the C's at 42% on 18-43 shots, and the Magic at 37% on 18-49 shots. Up to now, neither team was doing well from the arc - Boston was 1-9 and Orlando was 3-9. Free throws were not good for Boston, as the Celtics were 8-16 while the magic were 9-9. Orlando also outrebounded Boston 26-25. The big difference for Boston was a 26-14 lead in paint points. It would be imperative for the C's to get their offense in gear if they wanted to win this game.
The Cís and Magic both changed their ways in the third, as the Magic kept going inside and the Celtics worked the perimeter. Orlando kept going to the line on what seemed like every possession while the Cís needed to show a bloody trail to have one called their way when they went inside. But the shooting percentage for Boston went way up to 80% in the quarter in the first 6 minutes.
The Good Guys continued this as
they also started hitting the three, while slowly turning up the defense
against Orlando. They erased the Magic lead and had a lead of their
own, but the Magic were holding their own, and it looked like the third
quarter was going to end up just as close as the first two had. The
Cís only missed from the field when fouled hard and had a 36 point quarter
en route to ending the period with the lead at 81-75.
The teams went at each other hard, though the foul calls were inconsistent to say the least. Pierce had picked up his fourth foul and that limited his effectiveness against Tracy McGrady. But over the first part of the quarter the Boston lead had been trimmed to 85-81 when a timeout was called with 8:11 remaining.
But the next three minutes featured some aggressive play at both ends, as the refs appeared determined to give 6 fouls to someone before the game ended. There was one play where the Magic had a near steal, only to have Waltah! recover the pumpkin and get it to Walker who nailed a three. At the end of those three minutes, the score was tied at 89.
After a timeout, the teams continued to push hardósometimes too hard. Antoine Walker got called for a ďTĒ for his admittedly childish reaction to being called for a cheap foul. A minute later, the Cís stole the ball under the hoop and while McGrady was arguing, the Cís took the ball and scored. The Celtics held the leadóbarelyóat 96-95 with 2:34 to go as another timeout was called.
Following the timeout, the players kept pushing hard and looking for their offense. I felt the Cís wasted several possessions by taking too long to set up for a shot, but the last time up, Pierce was bailed out with a foul. He sank both shots and another timeout was taken with the score 98-95 with 1:07 to go in the game.
After that timeout, the Cís played good defense and the Magic were forced to foul with 21.5 seconds left. After the free throw, the score was now 99-95 as the Magic called a 20 second timeout to set up before the second free throw. The shot went in and Orlando took the ball.
They got a shot in and fouled Pierce with the score 100-97 and he sank both, prompting the last Orlando timeout with 13.5 seconds to go and the score now 102-97. The Magic were certain to attempt some kind of three point play. The question was whether they would drive hard and try to draw the foul.
McGrady got a good look at a traditional
three and The Cís rebounded the miss as Walker was fouled trying to dribble
out the clock. He went 0-2 and the Magicís final shot missed as the
Celtics won the game by a score of 102-97.
This was a hard-fought game, and
the intensity was certainly better, but the C's were actually a little
too frenzied at times, leading to careless fouls. Orlando did what
they intended--kept throwing fresh bodies on Walker and Pierce all night,
gambling that the other Celtics wouldn't be able to pick up the scoring
slack, and it very nearly worked. The C's need to work more on passing
out to force opposing teams to abandon that plan.
Orlando statistically played a better game than Boston in several ways. They went 33-88 from the field, while Boston went 36-79. They outrebounded Boston 47-43. The Celtics, on the other paw, improved from the arc--mostly due to that explosive third quarter--7-22 while the Magic were statistically better at 7-20. The Magic went 24-28 from the line, for better stats and production, while the C's were 23-34. The C's had more assists, more steals and more blocks, but you can see where the Magic could easily have ended up winning this game. When you torch the opposition for 36 points in a quarter and end up winning by 5 points, it becomes obvious that the Celtics didn't make the most of their chances, while the Magic were efficient by comparasion.
The C's get a day to travel to Phildelphia
and take on the 76ers on Wednesday.
HEROES AND ZEROS:
Antoine Walker: 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Paul Pierce: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists. He also did better from the line.
Tony Battie: 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1 steal. He is the Bat-Man.
Eric Williams: 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 assist. Very nice work.
Shammond Williams: 11 points,
6 rebounds, and he hit all his free throws.
Vin Baker: Just doesn't have his game together.
Celtics free throw shooting:
23-34 for 67%. Consider that those 11 points would probably have
put the game away by the start of the fourth quarter.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Final|