Tag: Orlando Boston Game 4

NBA Playoffs, Magic Celtics Game 5: Vince Carter should do the exact same thing he did last game, only completely different and much better


Vince Carter had no redeemable value for the Magic in Game 4. He wasn’t scoring well, and finished with just three points on 1-for-9 shooting. He wasn’t making plays for his teammates, even if he wasn’t necessarily a ball-stopper. He wasn’t hitting the boards particularly hard, and he certainly wasn’t making any significant contributions on the defensive end. Stan Van Gundy ultimately pulled Carter for much of the fourth quarter in favor of J.J. Redick, and it was absolutely, positively the right move.

So naturally, SVG is expecting a bit more from Carter tonight. From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Carter missed eight of the nine shots he attempted in Orlando’s
96-92 overtime victory in Game 4 on Monday, and Van Gundy was asked
moments ago what he needs to happen for Carter to be more productive.

“It’s a combination of everything,” Van Gundy said after the Magic
completed their shootaround. “I think he needs to be more aggressive.
We probably need to get him in better situations, and he needs to make
the shots he gets. I mean, part of it is simple. Everybody in this
series other than Paul Pierce has had both good nights and bad nights.
Paul’s the only one on either team offensively who’s has four good
nights. So, you can ask that question about anyone except him.”

In summary: every non-Paul Pierce player has had a bad offensive game in this series, but Vince Carter needs to be more aggressive (coach-speak for show better shot selection while looking to attack the rim), get the ball in situations better suited to his talents, and actually make some damn shots. That’d be a start, because as Game 4 showed, Carter’s utility for this team is significantly limited when he’s not scoring. Putting up points is never easy against a defense like Boston’s, but Vince will have to find ways to get his if he’s going to help the Magic stave off elimination again tonight.

NBA Playoffs, Celtics Magic Game 4: Sometimes it's just about making shots

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Jameer Nelson helped get the Magic its first series win by nailing two three pointers in overtime. Neither of them were particularly good plays, except the part where they went through the net. And that’s all that really matters.

NBA Playoffs, Magic Celtics: Game 4 a good a reason as any of why Stan Van Gundy's job isn't in jeopardy


SVanGundy.jpgThe Magic were on the brink of franchise embarrassment on Monday night, as the Celtics were in command of the series with a 3-0 lead and came back to force overtime despite fantastic outings by Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. Orlando’s season could have drifted away had Paul Pierce found an open Ray Allen at the end of regulation, but Pierce uncharacteristically bobbled away a late-game possession and the Magic survived the overtime period to avoid elimination.

That possession though, and the overtime as well, were icing on the cake of a much-improved overall game for the Magic. The defense still has plenty of room for the improvement and some of the missed opportunities on offense were just painful, but Orlando looked to be a substantial step closer to the excellence they displayed in the first two rounds of the playoffs and the final months of the regular season.

As good as the Celtics have been, the Magic’s unraveling has been something of a wonder. It can’t all be chalked up to Boston’s top-notch defense, as some of Orlando’s underwhelming Conference Finals showing seems to stem from nowhere at all. The Magic played against quality defensive teams in the regular season, but none of those games have been quite as befuddling as the first three in this series, during which Orlando’s offense was shackled, weighted, and thrown into the ocean.

Even beyond that, the Magic were the second best defensive team in the regular season, but the Celtics have averaged a full +3.7 points per 100 possessions above the Magic’s regular season mark in defensive efficiency. Considering how ho-hum this Boston team can be on offense when Rajon Rondo isn’t inspiring epic poems of his exploits, that’s a troublesome and somewhat inexplicable number. Orlando has underperformed in this series, perhaps woefully so.

Reading through that narrative, it may sound shocking similar to that of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were a superb team in the regular season and still looked awfully strong in their playoff debut. Yet the team crumbled, and the first head to roll was head coach Mike Brown. LeBron received plenty of criticism for his Game 5 anomaly, but it was Brown’s reluctance to adapt the rotation that made the series against the Celtics far more difficult than it had to be. The Cavs still may not have won even if Brown’s performance had been flawless, but he was as culpable as anyone for the way Cleveland left the playoffs.

Yet you won’t — and shouldn’t — see anything in the coaching of that series that even remotely parallels this one. It may seem like Stan Van Gundy’s system is under fire, but SVG’s offensive adjustments in Game 4 showed why he’s still one of the best in the business.

With an understanding that guard penetration would be the key to unlocking the offense and that limiting Rajon Rondo’s effectiveness on the other end would ease his team’s defensive burden, Van Gundy devised an approach that could tackle both problems simultaneously. Whenever Jameer Nelson had the ball on the perimeter, he had the option of using two staggered screens to brush off Rondo. Rajon’s length and quickness had bothered Jameer throughout the series, and having not one, but two big bodies running interference freed up Nelson enough to pull-up from behind the arc or get all the way to the rim.

Plus, no one should discount how much running through screens can take out of a defender. Just ask any player who’s had the displeasure of defending Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, or Rip Hamilton about how exhausting it can be to chase shooters through screens all night. It’s not exactly the way that any player wants to spend their time on the defensive end. With Rondo asked to fight through several screens on pretty much every possession down the floor (another essential component of the plan was putting the ball in Nelson’s hands more often, which worked beautifully) while also running the Celtics offense, the burden of those dual responsibilities undoubtedly took a physical toll on him.

Running Rondo ragged, playing J.J. Redick major minutes, sitting the ice-cold Vince Carter during crucial moments in the fourth quarter — these are the reasons why Stan Van Gundy would have a job even if the Eastern Conference Finals had ended in a sweep. Among the most logical reasons to fire a coach is a distrust in them to make the right adjustments. That has never and will never be the case with Van Gundy. He makes mistakes — with sets, with the rotation, with certain play calls — but he’s a perfectionist that works tirelessly to correct those mistakes. He’s always tinkering, and his willingness to adjust is what makes him so valuable as a head coach.

Stan Van Gundy is not Mike Brown. Brown may not deserve the ridiculous amount of criticism he’s received over the years, but his inability to compromise — which is a bit odd to say for so amicable a coach — put his team at a disadvantage at inopportune times. The same is just not true of Van Gundy, and wouldn’t have been made more true if the Magic’s playoff run ended in a sweep. 

NBA Playoffs, Celtics Magic halftime: Magic 51, Celtics 47

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That was the best half the Magic have played this series.

For the first time in four games, there was a real passion from the Magic, which explains the 52-47 lead. Orlando’s stars are stepping up. Dwight Howard was 6 of 8 shooting in the first half, while Jameer Nelson was 4 of 7. The Magic stars were making plays (even if overall they shot 28.6 percent from three as a team).

This was what we expected Magic. It was their best half of the series. But could they really hold the lead.

Magic came out far more aggressive. They shot the ball from everywhere and they made them, they got to the spots they like on the court. Boston stepped up their intensity, but they could not force the Magic out of their game.

If the Magic can keep this up for a second half, things get interesting.

NBA Playoffs, Celtics Magic Game 4: Is there any hope for Orlando? Who can be their Dave Roberts?


Thumbnail image for rondo_howard.jpgOne beloved Boston sports team — the Boston Bruins — just lost a series where they were ahead 3-0. The Philadelphia Flyers came back and spanked them.

So there it is Orlando, your ray of hope. It’s not much of one, it’s not even the same sport, but your team hasn’t given anybody much reason for hope in this series, so you take what you can get.

The smart money is on the Celtics closing this series out tonight. Not only have they been the better team –with the Magic unable to execute their game plan in the face of the Celtics defense — but also they have taken the fighting spirit out of Orlando. After the Magic rolled over in Game 3, what would lead one to expect anything will be different for Game 4 tonight?

Orlando needs somebody to be their Dave Roberts. Someone other than Dwight Howard, who the Celtics will let have a big game as long as his teammates stay cold (see Game 2 for example). Someone on Orlando needs to step up and start hitting the shots the team has been missing, someone needs to make some defensive plays, someone needs to inspire them with effort.

The Magic need that one win to plant the seed of hope and give it a little water.

But that seems a long shot, the Celtics have intimidated the Magic. Boston can cover Dwight Howard one-one-one so they stay home on the three-point shooters, and Orlando can’t seem to deal with that. Orlando was one of the best executing teams in the NBA during the season, now they look timid. The Celtics got physical, and the Magic backed down. Not Stan Van Gundy, the players. There has been no fight in that dog. What we will likely see tonight is a lot more of this.

Maybe, maybe Orlando will come out with some fight tonight. Maybe they will be proud and the Celtics overconfident. Maybe Rajon Rondo will decide to work on his midrange game tonight. Maybe Rashard Lewis will get hot from three.

Probably not, though. It’s probably over and tonight we will just watch the death throes of a Magic season that had looked so promising. And we’ll watch the Celtics get ready for another Finals.