- Ben Q. Rock gathers the thoughts of head coach Stan Van Gundy yesterday before Game 6 began. Check it out. Some good stuff from the ol' coach.
- Brian Schmitz recaps last night's victory for the Magic against the Celtics:
Counted out by most everyone after losing two heartbreakers in Game 4 and Game 5 to the Celtics, the Magic stayed alive by winning Game 6 the Celtics' way — by grinding and gutting it out. They had no choice. [...]
A Magic team that couldn't score against the Celtics' vaunted defense scored the last eight points.
- Mike Bianchi states that yesterday's per
formance for Dwight Howard was all "heart and muscle" ...
Dwight Howard called for the ball.... and comments on what the big fella's "big mouth" has meant to the team.
Dwight Howard got the ball.
Dwight Howard shot the ball.
Dwight Howard rebounded the ball.
Dwight Howard — a personally determined and nationally denounced
Dwight Howard — dominated the ball.
The amazing thing about all this is that Dwight's big mouth probably helped the Magic come up with a big performance. This manic-depressive Magic team somehow thrives on controversy and consternation — whether it's enduring suspensions, coming back from choke jobs or overcoming the star player backing the bus over the head coach.
This is the Magic way. Let them lose a game everybody thought they should win as in Game 5 and something happens to them. Let the naysayers come out and start criticizing them and they respond. Let the doubters start disrespecting them, and these Magic men turn into tough guys.
They didn't win Thursday with glitz and glamour; they won with doggedness and determination. This was not the finesse and free-wheeling Magic everybody likes to say they are; this was the down and dirty Magic nobody ever gives them credit for being.
- Geoge Diaz believes Orlando has a great shot against Boston in Game 7.
- Kyle Hightower asserts that it was the "smart guard play" (not a joke, folks) for the Magic that aided the team in the victory last night over the Celtics.
- Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com surmises it was a non-touch, not a touch, for Dwight Howard that was the biggest of the game:
Dwight Howard's biggest touch of the game was a non-touch. At least that's the way I saw it, so I took my premise straight to Howard's locker and bounced it off him when he came out of the shower.
The play came right after Howard checked back in with 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Ray Allen drove the lane and saw the Defensive Player of the Year standing between him and the basket, and he hesitated.
"Yeah, he did one of these," Howard said, motioning as though he were double-clutching upon releasing a shot -- just as Allen had done.
Allen ended up having to put several extra inches of arc on the ball to get it over Howard -- a play known in stat geek circles as an altered shot -- and the attempt missed. Howard then grabbed one of his dozen defensive rebounds, leading to a transition bucket by Courtney Lee that boosted Orlando's lead to three. He never laid a finger on the ball, but I offered it up for consideration as Howard's biggest touch or non-touch of the game.
"Yeah, that's fair," Howard said.
- Tim Povtak of NBA Fanhouse shares his recap of Orlando's win versus Boston.
David Whitley of NBA Fanhouse (remember him, Sentinel readers?) thinks that the Magic & the Celtics "have brought out the worst in each other":
Maybe the entertainment bar was set unrealistically high after the classic Boston and Chicago gave us in the opening round. But Orlando and Boston have brought out the worst in each other.
The games have been decided by which team plays the worse, not the best. On Thursday, the ringside judges gave the decision to Cooney, er, the Celtics. Their fourth-quarter disappearance was almost Orlando-esque.[...]
"We didn't make a lot of shots, but we fought hard and so did Boston," Van Gundy said. "It was not the prettiest game in the world to watch, I'm sure."
A win is a win is a win. Personally, I thought the game was entertaining. Not because the Magic won (it helps), but because last night was a battle of wills between two teams that traded blows from the opening tip to the final horn.
- David Steele runs down last night's proceedings between Orlando and Boston.
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports explains how Dwight Howard was able to talk to talk and walk the walk in the Magic's win last night.
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie chimes in on Game 6:
The game was ugly. Well, no, the game was inefficient. Yes, there were plenty of missed open shots, but the rest of the clangs mainly had to do with good defense forcing good-to-great players into tough shots.[...]
Same goes for Orlando. Glen Davis can't guard Rashard Lewis(notes), but that hardly matters when Lewis is being funneled into defensive help, forced to tough hangers, and ending with a 7-18 mark from the floor. Hedo Turkoglu was 2-12 before hitting a game-deciding three-pointer late in the fourth, and Rafer Alston was 2-7 before hitting two tough ones down the stretch.
Nothing really different with Dwight Howard in Game 6, it was the same guy we saw all season, save for Game 5. He got offensive rebounds, and some lobs, which means he got shots, and eventual points.
Off memory, he had one back-to-the basket move that resulted in a field goal, but it was an awful lefty hook that Kendrick Perkins(notes) beat him to the spot on, though Perkins fouled Howard and sent him to the line for the and-one. 23 points and 22 rebounds, absolutely keeping Orlando in it with his 10 offensive rebounds.[...]
rlando only hit for 37 percent from the floor and 55 percent from the free throw line, but because they were awarded five more field goal attempts and 18 more free throw attempts than the C's because of the turnovers, the errant shooting didn't matter.
And the bench help from Orlando, in such a slow, error-prone game, was big. And it was almost entirely in the form of Mickael Pietrus(notes) and Courtney Lee(notes), who combined to provide 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one turnover in 46 minutes of wing play.
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus tosses in his two cents on the issue surrounding Dwight Howard's complaints about touches ...
Analysts, myself included, considered Howard’s performance in the game and in this series and found that he hasn’t done much with the touches he has gotten against Boston’s Kendrick Perkins. John Hollinger of ESPN.com looked at Howard’s shot attempts and how they correlate with the Magic’s success over the course of the season, while Ben Q. Rock of the Third Quarter Collapse blog weighed in a day later with a nice look at Howard’s production in this series broken down into second-chances opportunities and touches in the flow of the offense (the latter not nearly being as effective).
That aside, I think the biggest problem here is people are looking at Howard at his worst. First, we can all agree that Perkins has developed into one of the league’s better defensive centers. I’m wiling to argue that Howard doesn’t deserve touches against Perkins. That’s not the same as suggesting he’s a bad offensive player in any matchup. Second, the specific portion of the game being spotlighted is the stretch run, and few centers are effective in close games because it is so much more difficult to get the ball to a post player than a perimeter scorer who can bring the ball up, and also so much easier to double-team them. That’s only exacerbated by Howard’s poor free-throw shooting.
The same complaints apply to Howard’s literal predecessor in Orlando and his spiritual model, Shaquille O’Neal, and they haven’t stopped him from winning four championships when paired with wing players who could help offset his deficiencies down the stretch. Hedo Turkoglu is supposed to be that guy for the Magic, or maybe Jameer Nelson, but Nelson is watching from the bench and Turkoglu hasn’t quite been the same in this postseason, possibly due to his ankle.
The other issue is the classic overreaction to what has happened recently. That goes double for Stan Van Gundy, who has apparently become an idiot overnight. Van Gundy was my pick for Coach of the Year, and I wasn’t alone. Yes, he’s made some strategic mistakes in this series, but are there a lot of other coaches who would have this relatively motley collection of talent in this position? Maybe there’s another coach who would execute much better than Van Gundy in the postseason, but if that coach is unable to get the Magic this far in the first place, that’s pretty much pointless, no? You can’t switch coaches depending on the situation.
Depending on what happens Sunday in Boston, this topic may be entirely moot, and that’s precisely the problem. If Glen Davis misses his jumpshot in Game 4, we’re never having this discussion. It’s entirely too easy to blow things out of proportion, either positively or negatively, under the microscope of the playoffs. The smarter play is virtually always to consider the long-term picture.
Pelton echoes some of my sentiments (especially in the first sentence) concerning the overreaction over Stan Van Gundy's coaching acumen.
UPDATE: ... and Pelton also provides his post-game assessment:
Whatever is ailing Allen, Boston could use a quick fix. This time around, Allen was unable to make the big shot after struggling all night. He missed a three with 2:32 to play in a one-point game. With the game largely out of hand, he missed again with 40 seconds left, then missed a wide-open look inside the final 10 seconds to finish 0-for-7 downtown. This isn't about defense. This is about Allen simply being unable to find the mark.
Where Allen has been successful in this series has been as part of unconventional 3-2 pick-and-rolls with Pierce initiating. The Magic has limited those opportunities by involving Rondo's defender in the play and daring Rondo to beat them from mid-range. Rondo was 3-for-9 on jumpers, and even though two of the makes happened to be three-pointers, that's too many attempts from the perimeter. That's one coaching adjustment for which the much-maligned Stan Van Gundy is not getting enough credit. The other is that, while I'd like to see more of Courtney Lee, making him the designated Eddie House-stopper has essentially taken House out of this series, robbing the Celtics of a source of offense to make up for Allen's frigid shooting.
Doc Rivers and his coaching staff have two days to figure out a way to get the offense back on track in Sunday's deciding Game Seven. Given the trajectory of this series, or lack thereof, I have no idea what to expect from that game.
- UPDATE 2: Dwight Howard, on his official blog today, credits former Magic coach Johnny Davis for instilling a mentality that helped him in Game 6.
UPDATE 3: Elias Sports Bureau, Inc. puts Superman's other-worldly performance against the Celtics yesterday in perspective:
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 22 rebounds for the Magic on Thursday. Over the last 20 years only two other players have had a 20/20 (points/rebounds) game in the playoffs against Boston: Jermaine O'Neal for the 2003 Pacers and Shaquille O'Neal for the 1995 Magic. Howard was the first player to have a 20/20 (points/rebounds) game when facing playoff elimination since Kevin Garnett did it for the Timberwolves in 2004.
- For a Celtics perspective of Game 6, check out CelticsBlog and Celtics Hub.
Make sure to check out this post every few hours for updates.