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. 

Mike Budenholzer smirks at lawyer calling Thabo Sefolosha ‘NBA superstar’

Mike Budenholzer, Thabo Sefolosha
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The funny part, via Robert Silverman:

The substantive part:

NEW YORK (AP) — NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, who was arrested outside a New York City nightclub in April following a confrontation with police officer, has a character “of the highest order,” his head coach, Mike Budenholzer, testified Thursday.

Taking the stand as the final defense witness in Sefolosha’s trial, Budenholzer described the Atlanta Hawks guard-forward as “highly intelligent” and a “hard worker.”

When asked by defense attorney Alex Spiro to describe his character, he said it was, “of the highest order.”

“Thabo is of the highest character,” he said during brief testimony in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The Swiss national is charged with misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges stemming from a confrontation with officers outside a trendy Manhattan nightclub early in the morning on April 8. He has pleaded not guilty.

Officers testified this week that Sefolosha and former teammate Pero Antic repeatedly disobeyed their orders to move off the block and away from a crime scene that had been established following the earlier stabbing of another NBA player, Chris Copeland, and two women.

One of the officers also said Sefolosha lunged at an officer with his arm extended but was intercepted before making contact, eventually taken to the ground and arrested.

Sefolosha has testified that he was complying with orders and moving up the block as a particularly aggressive officer screamed profanities at him.

His attorney has argued that his client was singled out by the officer, who is white, because Sefolosha is black.

Sefolosha testified Thursday that he was trying to give money to a panhandler before entering an awaiting car when he was grabbed by police. He said his leg was kicked in the scuffle and he was taken to the ground, handcuffed and hauled to a police precinct. He suffered a fractured right leg, which forced him to miss the playoffs.

The case is the second one involving high-profile athletes accusing New York Police Department officers of wrongdoing this year. On Wednesday, the city agency charged with investigating police misconduct substantiated claims by former tennis star James Blake that an officer used excessive force when he took him to the ground last month after mistkaing Blake for a fraud suspect.

As expected, Jimmy Butler says no issue between him, Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler
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Is the Derrick Rose/Jimmy Butler relationship nothing but puppy dogs and rainbows? No. There will be sparks between two intense competitors.

Have those sparks started a fire Bulls fans should be concerned about? A report on Wednesday said the core problem was Butler doesn’t respect Rose’s work ethic, which provided some kindling for that spark to catch.

However, as you would expect, Butler said this was all much ado about nothing, that he and Rose are all good. Via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Spin this however you wish: Their relationship is fine and someone in the media is making this up; or their relationship has been rough, and this is all just leaking out now.

This is a Bulls team in a bit of a transition as Rose declines some and Butler has grown into a top-flight player. Clearly that dynamic has some people around the team — likely the people in one of one of the players’ camps doesn’t like the power struggle or where it leaves his buddy — talking out of school to the press.

But as Butler noted, winning cures all ills. If Chicago can get off to a fast start, nobody will be asking chemistry questions.

For now, however, tounges are wagging.