NBA Playoffs, Celtic Magic Game 5: It's all about the pick-and-roll

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Thumbnail image for Magic_team.jpgThe numbers tell the story: In the first three games of the series the Magic ran 33 pick-and-roll plays. In Game 4 they ran 43. And won.(via Eddy Rivera)

And these weren’t just your standard screens. They were staggered double screens, with Rashard Lewis setting a first screen before Jameer Nelson came off that one and got to Dwight Howard setting a second one. It worked. According to MySynergySports the Magic got 10 of their 33 baskets directly off the pick-and-roll, but when you notice the most of the 9 spot-up shots they made came off the pick-and-roll.

Nelson came off those screens and was able to penetrate, often getting back behind the basket where he could kick out to shooters or even find Howard or other bigs. Celtics bigs had to help on Nelson, freeing up Howard and others to grab offensive rebounds and get easy putbacks. Finally the Magic were able to do to Boston what they did to every other team in the league.

But can they do it again? If the Magic are to send this series back to Boston, they are going to have to keep running the pick-and-roll. A lot. Everybody knows it.

The question is, what does Doc Rivers — and really Tom Thibodeau — come up with?

Rivers said at shoot around he wants more ball pressure, look for the Celtics to do what they do — be physical on defense. As much as the referees will let them. Rivers said he wanted his defenders to “put their body” into the Magic ball handlers.

He’s talking specifically to Rajon Rondo. This is going to come down to how Rondo fighting through the picks and not letting Nelson have is way. The Magic will be playing with a renewed confidence and energy, but you can bet the Celtics will not play as poorly as they did last game. This is a veteran team that has responded better on the road all season.

But in the end, it will all be about the pick-and-roll.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

shaq o'neal
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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.