NBA Playoffs, Celtics Magic Game 5: Magic find their form, pull within game of Celtics

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You can talk about Perkins’ suspension. You can talk about Rajon Rondo’s second consecutive sub-par game. You can talk about Garnett and Pierce both struggling from the field. But the biggest reason the Orlando Magic won game five of the Eastern Conference Finals is that they played like the team who won 59 games in the regular season and dominated the first two rounds of the playoffs. They got Howard going without having to force-feed him in the post. They dominated the paint on defense and contested every shot. And most of all, they hit those three-pointers they love to shoot so much.
Yesterday, the three-point shot was what allowed the Suns to tie up their series with the Lakers. On Wednesday night, it was Orlando’s faith in the three-ball that allowed them to make the conference finals competitive again. After being held scoreless for the first two minutes of the game, Vince Carter jump-started the Magic offense with a three. Rashard Lewis hit a three of his own on the next Magic possession, and the onslaught from beyond the arc would continue for the next 45 minutes of the game. 
After struggling mightily from deep over the course of the first three games, the Magic finally found some success with the three-point shot in game four; on Wednesday night, they opened the floodgates. The Magic hit eight three-pointers in the first half, and went 13-25 on threes over the course of the game. Instead of dumping the ball to Howard and hoping the ball would return to their shooters for open looks, the Magic came out looking to get their three-point shooters going first and then setting up Howard. It was a subtle adjustment, but it was the key to the game. 
When the Celtics lost Jameer Nelson on the pick-and-roll, he would pull up for a three. When they sagged back to try and stop someone from getting into the paint, that player would toss it back to the corner for a three. When the Magic got an offensive rebound, they would kick it out for a three. Catch-and-shoot, off the dribble, off a screen, it didn’t matter. The Magic never hesitated to let it fly, and with their home crowd giving them confidence, they never stopped hitting them. 
The Celtics didn’t have a horrible offensive game, but Orlando was able to impose their will on that end. KG never got comfortable down low, the Magic packed the paint on Rondo in the half-court and kept him from getting out in transition, they never lost Ray Allen on screens, and they never gave Pierce any open shots in the half-court. They swarmed the ball on the perimeter, and Howard was there to contest every shot inside, even getting a chase-down block on Rondo at one point.
The Magic weren’t as red-hot in the second half as they were in the first, but with Perkins off the floor, they were able to use their size advantage to wear the Celtics down by drawing foul after foul after foul. The Celtics were able to hang around for a while, but two quick-trigger threes by Jameer Nelson and a Pietrus dunk put the Magic up by 18 with five and a half minutes to play and effectively ended the game.
Not that long ago, it looked like the Magic were on the verge of getting swept. If Perkins’ suspension holds, the Celtics will either have to win without Perkins at home or win in Orlando to make it to the NBA finals for the second time in three years. Sometimes your luck can change just that fast in the world of professional sports. 

PBT Extra: What did Phil Jackson think he would accomplish with shot at ‘Melo?

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Phil Jackson wants us to know Carmelo Anthony can hold on to the ball too long and stall out the offense.

Shocking. Such a revelation. It’s not like he knew that when he gave Anthony a five-year contract extension… oh, wait, everybody did know that already.

Which leads to my criticism of Jackson in this PBT Extra. Taking a shot at a player as a coach who sees said player every day comes off differently than the same thing from the ivory tower criticism of a GM. Plus, Jackson’s timing made no sense.

Carmelo Anthony says Phil Jackson’s comments “temporary black cloud over our heads”

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 07:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks and the rest of the bench react to the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on December 7, 2016 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The New York Knicks were on a four-game winning streak, they have looked like a potential playoff team in the East, team chemistry has been pretty good, and there seemed to be more sun shining on Madison Square Garden then we have seen in a few years.

So Phil Jackson decided that was a good time to a CBS Sports Show and take a shot at Carmelo Anthony, saying he could play the MJ/Kobe role, but he holds the ball too long on offense. Anthony wouldn’t comment on the shot at the time, then took to Instagram to express his frustration and displeasure.

How do we know for sure it was aimed at Jackson? Because on Friday Anthony said so, adding that Jackson’s comments were unnecessary. Here is what ‘Melo said, via Stephan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“At the end of the day we’re playing good basketball,” Anthony said. “That’s the only thing that matters at this point. So any negativity that’s coming towards me or towards the team, I don’t think we need it at this point…

“I feel like we’re playing good basketball, and just to have a temporary black cloud over our heads,” he said. “I don’t know when the comments were made or the gist of them, I just know something was said.”

Anthony is spot on here. Jackson isn’t wrong that Anthony can hold the ball too long, but Jackson knew that when he gave Anthony a five-year contract extension. Also, the Sports VU camera data shows Anthony is holding the ball less and dribbling a little less than previous seasons.

But the real question: What did Jackson think he would accomplish with this? He’s too smart, too calculated — he doesn’t just say things to the press without a motive. But with everything going about as well as one could hope with the Knicks, and with Anthony not at a point in his career he’s going to change his game, what’s the point?

Anthony has a right to be ticked.

Report: NYPD nearing arrest of Matt Barnes over club assault

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28:  Matt Barnes #22 of the Sacramento Kings looks on against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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While in New York, Sacramento’s Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins were involved in an altercation at a Chelsea club, which led to them being questioned by police. Barnes’ representative said it was self-defense , but the video of the incident reportedly shows Barnes as the aggressor and choking a woman at the heart of the brawl. Both Barnes and Cousins have already been sued over the altercation.

Now things could get worse for Barnes, NYPD may be looking to arrest him, reports Graham Rayman of the New York Daily News.

“They’ve got enough to charge Barnes with an assault on a woman,” a police source said. “It will probably be a misdemeanor assault on one of the females who was pushed or choked or sustained some sort of injury. She’s obviously cooperating.”

Cousins, a key member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team, will likely not be charged, the source said.

According to the lawsuit, Jasmine Besiso was knocked unconscious by a Barnes’ elbow, while her boyfriend, Myrone Powell, was punched by Cousins.

Barnes put this on Instagram.

A photo posted by matt_barnes9 (@matt_barnes9) on

The Kings released this statement, which came out before the lawsuit or current report: “We have clear standards of conduct and behavior expected of the entire Kings organization – on and off the court. We are working with all parties involved to gather information in order to take any appropriate next steps.”

Report: Magic looking to trade for scorer

AUBURN HILLS, MI - OCTOBER 28: Mario Hezonja #8 of the Orlando Magic while playing the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on October 28, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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The Magic rank 11th in points allowed per possession and 28th in points scored per possession, but that doesn’t fully explain the disparity.

Over the previous 25 days, they rank even better defensively – first in the league, in fact – and even worse offensively.

So, Orlando is considering a move.

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic will sift through the trade market in an effort to add a scorer, a league source with knowledge of the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.

Marc Stein of ESPN offers (informed?) speculation Orlando could dangle Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick last year who has yet to make a dent in the pros.

Other trade candidates? Nikola Vucevic always looked like the odd man out. There are still 25 franchises that have not yet been disappointed first-hand by Jeff Green.

But those are all offensive-first players anyway.

The Magic’s top defenders are:

It’s tough to see Magic general manager Rob Hennigan parting with any of those four. They’re too integral to his record.

Mostly, it’s interesting 10-13 Orlando is seeking to plug its biggest immediate hole rather than building for the future. Clearing a frontcourt logjam that has killed spacing and submarined the offense might be done most effectively by dealing a superfluous player for a draft pick. But in Hennigan’s fifth year, he could be feeling pressure to make his first playoff appearance.