WOW...I'm so jazzed up after this awesome win tonight. To keep myself actively engaged I decided to make this breakdown. It will be lengthy, but hopefully worth it.
Rafer Alston: Maybe no Magic player drew as much ire from the fans as Skip. I personally never really got too sour on him. I don't think he gave us anything different this series than what we knew about him. He's an incredibly streaky shooter. I said in one past a few games ago that he makes just enough to keep shooting. In the half-court, he can't compare to Jameer Nelson. But after watching the first half of tonight's game, I couldn't help but wonder why Orlando didn't run more in this series. Skip is very talened on the run...plus Howard and Lewis are much quicker than Perkins and Davis. Pushing the ball up more often could have helped mask Alston's deficiences and made him more of a distributor than a shooter.
JJ Redick: Never thought these words would come out of my mouth: JJ played excellent defense this series. I still question why he conintued to get starts (more on that later) but he did a great job on Ray Allen. I'm not exactly sure what the balance is between Ray just being off and JJ playing great D...but Redick made sure to make Allen's life tougher by not giving him many clean looks. And he hit a huge three tonight that helped push the lead from 4 to 7.
Hedo Turkoglu: He certainly knows when to show up. Despite overall playing pretty awful through two rounds...he saved his best for when we needed them. The game winner in Game 4 against Philly. The 3-pointer to ice it against Boston in Game 6. And then tonight...just phenomal game...9 of 12 shooting and 12 dimes. It's no coincidence the Celtics cut into the lead in the first half when he was on the bench with 3 fouls.
Rashard Lewis: Outside of Magic fans, not many people knew he could do much but shoot. But Lewis did it all in this series...hit the threes, drive the lane and work the post. This was the biggest mismatch of the series and Lewis consistently exploited it.
Dwight Howard: At this point in his career he's not going to take over many games offensively. Too many running hooks for my liking. But there isn't a better rebounder in the league. He's a great shot blocker and just his presence makes people think twice about putting a shot up when driving the lane. It was a tough matchup for him down low and he didn't quite exploit his speed advantage...but he guarenteed victory after Game 5 and certainly came through.
Mickael Pietrus: Great effort off the bench. He came through in a lot of big spots for us...especially in Game 7. Every time Boston seemed to be inching closer, Pietrus was there to hit a big shot to break their spirits. He still is a little too turnover prone for my liking. It seems for every great play he makes, there is usually a bonehead one to accompany it. But he proved in this series why we brought him in here.
Courtney Lee: I guess it's kinda hard to complain about the role he had in this series. After House dropped 31 on us SVG wanted to make sure he was a non-factor, and Lee certainly did that. I'm just concnerned the limited minutes have killed any chance of him getting into a rhtyhm against the Cavs where we will need everyone at their best.
Anthony Johnson: He did everything a veteran back-up is supposed to do. Great performance in Game 3 when we were without Alston. He definitely held his own. He's definitely a safer alternative to Skip... his positive impact on a game is more limited, but he'll make less costly mistakes.
Marcin Gortat: It's tough to get serious minutes when you are backing up Dwight. But I think after Game 6 in Philly, most of us (including the players) feel just as confident with this guy on the court.
Rajon Rondo: I really like this kid. He will be following in the footsteps of Jason Kidd as a triple-double snaring point guard. He stepped up his game this post-season and made this offense go. If he develops a consistent 20 foot jumper, he could be the best point guard in the league.
Ray Allen: He seemed to will Boston to victory in the first series, but you wonder how much he had left for this one. He seemed to consistently hit the mid-range jumper, but could never get his 3-ball going which makes me think his legs were just dead. Regardless, like I said earlier, JJ did his best to make sure he didn't get many clean looks, which certainly didn't help his cause.
Paul Pierce: At times he showed that killer instinct that makes him one of the top closers in the game. But just like Allen, he could never really get it going on a night to night basis...and just like Allen I think it's a combination of fatigue and Orlando not giving him any looks. You gotta tip your hat to Hedo...so far he's had the difficult task of guarding Iguodala and Pierce...two guys who are great off the dribble and in Pierce's case, deadly wth the jumper. But despite his deficiencies, he held both in check.
Glen Davis: The best thing this kid did for his career was develop a mid-range J. It was no fluke he hit that game winner in Game 4...even though I don't think there's a Magic fan our there that wanted anyone else taking that game-winning shot. Just like Rondo, he really stepped up his game when Garnett went out. He still has a ways to go, but he's shown the makings of a very solid player down the road.
Kendrick Perkins: One of the few centers in the league that can give Howard trouble. Like Jason Maxiell said last year...thick guys with low centers of gravity can frustrate him and Perkins did a great job of that. He exposed Dwight's offensive limitations and had a very quiet series.
Eddie House: Probably no Celtic I hate more than this guy...mainly because of his attitude and his mouth. But he showed he can still bury the long ball if given the look AND he helped take Courtney Lee out of the series by making Van Gundy adjust to stop him.
Brian Scalabrine: I understand that Celtics fans love him, but to me he was really just a slightly better version of Donyell Marshall. Give him an open look, and he will knock it down. Other than that he doesn't bring a whole lot to the table. Still, he contributed when needed for a depleted Celtics bench.
Starbury: Well...he showed up for one quarter this series. Hard to believe this is the same guy who 22 pts and 9 assts in a game. Good for him for getting a second chance, but he clearly did not give the Celtics what they needed coming off the bench.
I give Boston a ton of credit. I didn't think they'd be able to stretch this series to seven. But the won Games 4 and 5 with a lot of heart and grit...something it took the Magic until the fourth quarter of Game six to find. And honestly, this might all work out for them. They had no shot of winning it all without Garnett...but this experience immensely helped the progression of their young guys...Rondo, Davis and Perkins.
Orlando's got a tough series ahead of them. Cleveland is playing great and it's tough to win on their floor. But the Cavs really haven't been challenged this post-season. It will be interesting how they handle a team capable of hanging with them. I thought when the playoffs started Orlando was the only team in the East capable of beaing the Cavs in a 7-game series. That doesn't mean I think they will, but we match up well with them and should have confidence with our regular season success over them and just having won a Game 7 in Boston.
Years have certainly been taken off my life because of this series. I think it went longer than it should have, mainly because of Orlando's inability to close games. But when they needed to most, they showed they can keep up the intensity for 48 minutes in one of the most pressure-filled situations. So great job Orlando...with Nelson's injury in mind, I think unless we get swept in the next round I can call this season a success.