Orlando Magic (0-2,8-2) at Boston Celtics (2-0,10-3)
Saturday, May 22
8:30 PM ET
Post Season Game #13, Home Game #6
Referees: Bennett Salvatore, Greg Willard, Bill Spooner The series now shifts back to Boston for game 3 with the Celtics in position to sweep the Magic and move on to the Finals once again. The Magic are a team with their backs against the wall and will be playing with desperation. The Magic are talking about making changes, especially on the defensive end, where Matt Barnes is expected to cover Paul Pierce who has been on fire in this series.
With 3 days off between games, it seems like an eternity since these two teams last played. While the Celtics could use the time off to heal some bumps and bruises, especially Perk's creaky knees. they haven't always come out focused after a break. This season, when playing with 3 days rest, the Celtics are just 5-4 and 0-2 in the playoffs. The Magic, on the other hand, are 6-1 when playing with 3 days rest and 2-1 in the playoffs, with their one loss coming in game 1 of this series.
Against the Cavs, the Celtics gave away game 3 as they played with no focus, urgency or defense. But, the Celtics haven't lost again since that game and hopefully we won't see a repeat of the poor effort we saw in that game again. They simply allowed the officiating to destroy their focus early and they never regained it.
The Celtics are playing the best ball of the playoffs right now. Their defense rivals that of their 2008 championship team. They are healthy and they are motivated to hang Banner 18. The tweets about a sweep have been proven to be from a hacker, but in his post game interview after game 2, Pierce all but promised that they were going to close the Magic out in 4. Dwight Howard and the Magic are using this as added motivation to win this game.
If the Celtics let their success in the last two games go to their heads and they come out expecting the Magic to lie down and let them win, the Magic may just come out with a win. The Magic had the second best record in the NBA this season and they swept their first two opponents for a reason. They are a good team. The Celtics must play as though they are the ones down 2 games. They can't let the Magic think they can get back in this series.
The Celtics must come out with intensity and look at this as game 7 because that is certainly how the Magic are going to be looking at it. The Celtics can't give the Magic any hope that they can beat them or they may be in trouble.
PG: Rajon Rondo PPG 17,8 RPG 6.0 APG 10.6 SPG 2.0 +24.92
SG: Ray Allen PPG 16.9 RPG 3.2 APG 2.8 3P% .398 +15.08
SF: Paul Pierce PPG 17.6 RPG 5.4 APG 3.7 +16.08
PF: Kevin Garnett PPG 16.2 RPG 8.6 APG 2.5 +20.00
Key Player Rajon Rondo When Rondo is aggressive and setting the pace for the game, the Celtics are a completely different team than when he is tentative. As goes Rondo, so go the Celtics. He must continue to be aggressive in running the offense and setting the pace of the game.
C: Dwight Howard PPG 16.6 RPG 11.0 APG 1.8 BPG 3.6 +21.20
SF: Matt Barnes PPG 6.7 RPG 4.8 APG 1.5 +9.6
PF: Rashard Lewis PPG 14.2 RPG 5.5 APG 2.7 +17.10
Key Player Dwight Howard Howard is the leader on this team and controlling him goes a long way toward controlling the Magic. The Celtics bigs must play him one on one and try to avoid foul trouble.
Kendrick Perkins vs Dwight Howard
Perk, Big Baby and Sheed must continue to play Howard one on one and keep him from getting position under the basket. Perk spent much of game 2 in foul trouble, allowing Howard to have a better game than he did in game 1. All 3 must continue to play him tough and get into his head.
Rajon Rondo vs Jameer Nelson
In the two previous series, Nelson was taking over games and putting up big numbers. He is capable of hitting big 3's if left open. So far in the two games in Orlando, Rondo has been able to keep him from putting up big numbers and taking over the games. Rondo must continue to control Nelson while also continuing to run the Celtics offense and looking to be aggressive himself.
Paul Pierce vs Matt Barnes
Pierce got going early in game 2 and has been a different player in this series now that he is free of LeBron James on both ends of the court. Matt Barnes has indicated that he wants the chance to slow Pierce down. He also called Pierce a flopper. The Celtics need Pierce to continue to come up big for them and hopefully he will no matter who is covering him. .
Bench vs Bench
Tony, Sheed and Big Baby came up big for the Celtics once again in game 2. The Celtics need them to continue to play tough and smart so that they don't lose ground when the starters have to go to the bench for a rest.
Keys to the Game Defense
The most important key to this game is for the Celtics to continue to play the tough lock down defense we saw in games 1 and 2. They have to defend Howard with single coverage and stay home on the Magic 3 point shooters.
Crashing the boards is very important in this game because of how dominant Howard is with put backs once he gets the rebounds. The Celtics must limit Magic second chance baskets by boxing out and grabbing the rebounds. There were a couple of possessions in game 2 where the Celtics gave up 3rd and 4th chance basket. That can't happen. Effort, energy, and desire will show up in the rebounding stats. The team that wants the game more will win the rebounding battle. Hopefully, it will be the Celtics that want it more.
Run the Offense
The Celtics must run their offense. They have to move the ball and find the open man. They have to run their set plays and make their shots when they are open. If they are up, they can't play the score or the clock. They must continue to attack and get good shots on every possession.
The Celtics need to come out focused from the start. If they come out sluggish, they will find themselves in a hole that they may not be able to dig out of, as they did in game 3 vs the Cavs. In the first two games in Orlando, they had double digit leads in the 4th quarter and allowed the Magic to come back. They must keep their focus for 48 minutes because the Magic will be ready to pounce on any lapses. They will be desperate and the Celtics have to have a killer instinct to put them away.
Defense and Officiating
The Celtics must keep their defensive focus and continue to keep Howard off his game as well as staying on the Magic's 3 point shooters and not allow them to get going. The Celtics still haven't had a really good game from Ray or from KG and this would be a good time for all 4 of their big guns to get going. If the game is called fairly, the Celtics have a good chance of winning it. With Bennett Salvatore as the crew chief, the Celtics are fighting an up hill battle. The Celtics have lost just 3 games so far in the playoffs and one of the 3 refs we have today were on duty in each of those losses. The Celtics must keep their focus play their best today in spite of the bad calls that are sure to come. .
Overall Home Team W/L 46/24
Home Team Win % 44%
% of fouls called on Home team 49%
47 fouls called per game
Bennett Salvatore has refereed over 1,400 regular season games, 175+ playoff games and 20 NBA Finals games. Bennett has the distinction of being the worst referee alive today. The man is just incompetent. Salvatore seems to miss more calls and make more bad calls per game than all the other refs and tonight he is our crew chief. Salvatore made one of the most controversial calls in NBA finals history in game 5 of the 2006 finals. The call basically gave the Heat their championship. Here is Bill Simmons' take on the call.
Salvatore called the foul on Wade's final drive in overtime (remember, the call where ABC couldn't find a replay to show that anyone touched him?) even though he was standing at midcourt a full 35-40 feet from the play, and even though two other refs were closer to the play. Not only was that NOT his call, he butchered it.
Another of Salvatore's controversial calls was in the 2008 conference finals when he waved off a contested 3-pointer that Pierce had hoisted over Richard Hamilton, inducing him to leave his feet with a ball fake and land on Pierce's back. Pierce, however, was charged with an offensive foul for creating the contact with Hamilton. Salvatore called game 3 of the Heat series which the Celtics won by 2 points. He was also the crew chief for game 3 of the Cavs series in which the Celtics were blown out. This is the one game in the Celtics playoff run so far that most of us can point to as being called horribly. The Cavs were 9-0 this season when Salvatore called their games. Seeing Salvatore's name has to make every Celtics fan cringe a little as tonight's game just got a lot harder to win.
Here are a couple of video examples of Salvatore's ineptness.
Overall Home W/L 43-24
Home Team Win % 57%
% of fouls called on the home team 46
Fouls called per game 49
Spooner has officiated over 1,000+ regular season games and 50+ play-off games. Spooner served as president of the high school referee association in 1982. Spooner is the ref who failed to call Kobe's elbow to the throat of Ron Artest, even though he was the ref in position to call it. Artest's complaints resulted in his ejection but nothing was called on Kobe in the game. The league later admitted their error and assessed Kobe a flagrant 1 for the elbow. But that didn't help Houston who had to play without Artest the rest of the game. Spooner called game 3 in Miami which the Celtics won and game 1 in Cleveland, which was called very one sided in Cleveland's favor, especially in the 4th quarter when Cleveland made a run to overcome a big deficit to beat the Celtics.
Overall Home W/L 43/29
Home Team win % 67%
% of fouls called on the Home team 50%
Calls 47 fouls per game
Willard has officiated over 1,100+ regular season games and 75+ play-off games. Willard also officiated the 1992 Japanese Opening Games in Yokohama. Before working for the NBA he accumulated 4 years of CBA officiating experience, 7 years in college level and 22 years in high school level in California. He called a technical on Yao Ming in a game in 2007 for saying "ahhhh" after a dunk. He is known for being wildly inconsistent in calling charges/blocks. Willard called game 4 in Miami, which the Celtics lost, and game 5 of the Cleveland series, which the Celtics won.
The Celtics have lost just 3 games in the playoffs so far and in each of those losses, one of today's referees was present. That is a very ominous fact since we have all 3 today.
This wait between games 2 and 3 seems to be an eternity. I know that it will help the Celtics to rest their bumps and bruises, especially Perk's knees. But I worry about how they will come out after all this time off. This season the Celtics are 5-4 when playing after 3 days rest. And, they are 0-2 in the playoffs when playing after 3 days rest. The Magic, on the other hand, are 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the playoffs when playing after 3 days rest. Let's hope that whatever switch the Celtics flipped after game 3 stays flipped and they come out ready to play in game 3.
The Delonte/Lebron's mom story is taking a bizarre twist with Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy coming out on ESPN radio to confirm that it is true. So, now, the Cavs not only lost because of LeBron's phantom elbow injury but also because he was so distraught over finding out about his mom and Delonte. Maybe that's the reason Delonte thought he needed all those guns. Just sayin'.
I'm a little worried about the refs for game 3. We are due for another Salvatore officated game. The only game that was truly officiated terribly one sided was game 3 of the Cavs series when Salvatore did everything he could do to take the Celtics out of the game early. If the league wants to extend this series for any reason, I expect Salvatore and Bavetta to be on the officiating crew. Tim Donaghy had this to say on his facebook page:
Dwight Howard's elbow to the face of Paul Pierce was a flagrant foul. If Orlando was up 2-0 in the match-up, Howard would be suspended for game 3. But with being down 0-2 it's a whole different marketing plan with the hope of Orlando getting some wins to extend this thing moving forward.
I just have this horrid feeling that Salvatore, Bavetta and Mauer are going to be the officials and the Celtics will truly be playing 5 on 8.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Defense will win this series. The Celtics have to continue to play their game on the defensive end. They have to limit Howard with single coverage and they have to stay at home on the 3 point shooters. The Magic are scrambling and they are going to be changing some things to try to get going. Barnes is talking about stopping Pierce and calling him a flopper, which should serve to fire up the Captain even more. Problem with that is that Vince on Ray could get him going. With the Celtics it's always pick your poison.
Perk was upset with Howard's 30 points in game 2, but what could the guy do when he fouled out in only 15 minutes while Howard got away with the same stuff that Perk was given fouls for doing. I'm a bit leery of the officiating in the game coming up, but I am hoping that the greed over a Celtics/Lakers final will overcome the greed of wanting this series to go longer. Hopefully Perk will get the benefit of a few more calls in this one and can stay on the court longer.
I hope that Doc has the Bruins' recent playoff collapse posted somewhere in the locker room. Up 3-0, they were thinking sweep too. Then, they just collapsed and allowed the series to slip through their fingers. The Orlando Sentinel is saying that the Magic shouldn't give up because there is a good chance that the Celtics could fold, just as the Bruins did. A lot of the Magic fans are pointing to the Celtics struggles on their home court this season as reason to still believe that they can still win this series. The Celtics must come out focused and get game 3 no matter what refs they get and no matter what the Magic do to change their strategy. If the Celtics lose game 3, it will give the Magic hope and that is dangerous. There is a reason that the Magic had the second best record on the NBA this season and there is a reason that they swept their first two opponents. And there is a reason that they were heavily favored over the Celtics going into this series. They are good and if the Celtics let up in the least, they are going to show it. No let ups. No mercy.
I just love Larry Johnson's cartoons on WEEI. Above is a recent one on Rondo, who has indeed been the real superman in these playoffs, for the Celtics, at least. He is playing huge minutes because the Celtics have no one to replace him. It's funny. In 2008, the Celtics brought in Sam Cassell to back up Rondo because Eddie wasn't a true PG and Eddie ended up being the back up anyway and did a good job of it. Then last season they brought in Stephon Marbury to back up Rondo but once again Eddie ended up being the guy they turned to down the stretch to back up the PG spot. This season they brought in Nate Robinson to back up Rondo. Originally, Marquis was supposed to be the PG back up and he has been the forgotten man, getting no minutes in the playoffs. Nate isn't getting the job done and now we have no Eddie to go back to. Tony's been giving him a few minutes but that definitely isn't ideal. Hopefully Rondo won't get burned out and will have enough in the tank to get us to the gold ball.
The Celtics are a scary team the way they are playing. They have once again found their defensive identity and are playing defense like they haven't since the 2008 playoffs. They are also tough for teams to plan for. They just have so many weapons. Teams used to be able to double off of Rondo but those days are over. Any player they double off of, including the subs, are capable of burning them. That makes them a very dangerous team.
Perk fouled out for just the 4th time this season in game 2 and the Celtics are just 1-3 when he fouls out. Perk is so much more important to this team than the box score shows, especially against Howard and the Magic. What he does you won't see in the box score, but you don't win without it either.
It wouldn't be my random thoughts without a few about the refs. Game 3 of the Cavs series that Salvatore and Mauer called was terrible. It was one sided and part of the reason that the Celtics got blown out on their home court by the Cavs. But I have to say that games 4, 5 and 6 were very well and fairly officiated. They called it the same on both ends of the court. Game 1 in Orlando was fairly officiated. They let them play and called it the same on both ends for the most part. Game 2 was terrible. After being allowed to play playoff basketball in game 1, these refs called some very ticky tack fouls. And they just weren't consistent. They'd let something go one time and then call it the next time down. But it was terrible on both sides. It wasn't biased. There were bad calls on the Celtics (the last 2 fouls called on Perk for instance) and there were bad calls on the Magic (that charge they called on Reddick comes to mind).
One reason the Celtics should not want to go back to Orlando is their slippery floor. Rondo slipped 3 times because of the wet floor and it cost the Celtics a possession on the last one in a very crucial time. Vince Carter slipped and came down on his wrist and that could have cost him and the Magic a whole lot more than a possession. Thankfully he was ok but that is something the officials have to be on top of and if the floor continually gets slippery spots as it did in game 2, they need to stop play until they can figure it out. Running full speed and cutting like the players do on the court can result in an injury if they hit one of those slippery spots.
The word came down that Howard will not be suspended. I'm ok with that because I'd rather beat them at full strength so we won't have to hear excuses all off season and next season. But anyone being honest will admit that it it was Perk, KG or Sheed who committed a foul that hard on say Carter or Nelson, it would have been a flagrant 2 right off the bat. Perk got called for a flagrant 1 on LeBron for barely touching him. KG's elbow barely touched QRich. Howard clobbered Pierce with the intent of doing just that. To send a message. It should have been a flagrant 2 if they were being consistent. But they aren't. But, it should give us a free pass to clobber one of their guys going to the basket and get the same treatment.
The Celtics have won the first 2 games of the series on the road for the first time in their storied franchise history. That's pretty amazing. But then again, for most of their series, I imagine they had the home court advantage and the first two games would be on their home court. The Celtics are 32-0 when starting a series 2-0. But the fact that it's never happened before shouldn't be reason to relax. Last year they were up 3-2 and had never lost a series up 3-2 with home court advantage and they lost the series. So although history bodes well for the Celtics, they can't rest on their laurels and have to play hard and give them no hope.