It was interesting to see that Doc didn't experiment with Telfair at the 2 and Ray at the point down the stretch. Al Jefferson played 37 minutes. West played 41 minutes. Telfair and Ray were on the bench and Doc kept his starters in down the stretch. What a difference a clinch makes.
The Celtics started off playing well, up on at the end of the first quarter. Then, they couldn't seem to hit a shot in the second and fell behind by 19 at the half. They chipped away at the lead to come back to within 1 in the final minute but with the refs as well as the Magic against them, they came up just short of the win. They had the ball with 4.2 seconds and a chance to tie and even though West was very obviously fouled on his drive to the hoop, there was no call and his shot was blocked and the Magic clinched a playoff spot with the win.
Rondo shows more and more that he is the point guard of the future. He played 43 minutes and is showing poise and maturity in running the point as well as showing that he is a defensive threat as well. He finished with 16 points on 5-9 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. His jumper is coming along and he looks much more confident shooting it and he has proved that if they back off him, he is a real threat to get to the hoop. Telfair played only 7 minutes and had nothing to show for it in the box score except 2 fouls.
West started at the 2 and played 41 minutes. He finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. I like having West start and play at the 2 guard. Our back court of Rondo and West will cause problems for a lot of teams next season. Ray played only 16 minutes and finished with 3 points, 3 assists, and 1 steal. Green had a very off night and scored only 5 points on 1-7 shooting along with 2 rebounds and 1 assist.
Just before the game, Doc said that Al would be starting but that he didn't expect him to play much or very well. Al played 37 minutes and was dominant in the paint finishing with 28 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. It was almost as though he was never injured (wink, wink). We haven't seen moves like his since Kevin McHale walked through those doors. Perk had 6 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks in 25 minutes. He was limited by foul trouble but he also played excellent defense on Howard. I love the combination of Perk and Al as they have great chemistry and play very well off of each other.
Gomes played only 24 minutes. I wonder if maybe that was a message for talking too much about not playing because the Celtics were in the hunt for ping pong balls. He finished with 6 points on 3-10 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal. I don't expect any quotes from Gomes after this game. Powe played 20 minutes, mostly due to foul trouble for Perk and Al and as always, he made the most of his minutes, with 3 points and 5 rebounds and some good defense in the paint.
It was great to see the Celtics fight back from 19 down to almost win the game. But it was the starters on the floor and not Ray playing point guard down the stretch. I am excited about these kids and feel that next seasons, even without any changes, this team will be in the playoffs if they can stay healthy. They played an interview with Al during the game and he said that we are just scratching the surface of the player he is going to be and that next season he will be much better because of the work he plans to put in during the offseason. We have some of the hardest working young players in the league and I believe they all will come back much better.