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Orlando Magic 96, Boston Celtics 93: The Day After

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As promised, here's my recap. I had too many things to do yesterday after the game to write it yesterday.

What a game. I guess it's not a Magic win unless it involves coughing-up a double-digit lead, but obviously, we're happy with the result.

Kelly Dwyer writes the following in his Behind the Boxscore post today: "I mean, at home, and with Kevin Garnett on the bench, the Magic should be beating the Celtics. And probably by more than three points."  That's true. The win certainly could have been -- and should have been -- more decisive. But between Rajon Rondo's suffocating defense and the team's inexplicable reluctance to throw the ball to Dwight Howard late in the game, it's remarkable we even won at all.

Celtics fans, as you can see in the comments section of this post on CelticsBlog, took issue with the officiating yesterday. From my vantage point in the upper bowl, the game was called fairly on both sides. I respect that what was a foul on one end was also a foul on the other end, I respect that Paul Pierce and Hedo Turkoglu were allowed to defend each other physically and without penalty, and I respect that no ticky-tack fouls were called down the stretch.

What Boston's defeat really comes down to is the Celtics having plenty of chances -- the Magic turned the ball over 20 times for 22 31 Celtic points -- and still not being able to win. Furthermore, the Celtics had a 13-8 rebounding advantage after the first period, but ended the game with a five-rebound deficit. The Celtics, even without Kevin Garnett, should have been able to rebound better than they did, so they can also point to that as a reason they lost.

Even if we had lost this game, I would have been pleased with the individual efforts.

  • Rashard Lewis was invisible offensively, but worked harder for rebounds than I ever recall him doing.
  • Keith Bogans might have been the goat had we lost, as he left Ray Allen wide-open in the left corner when Allen made his game-tying trey, but he also played hard; I counted three loose balls he chased down for us.
  • Brian Cook and Maurice Evans combined for 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-6 on three-pointers, making the Ariza trade look pretty good.
  • And Dwight Howard didn't score too much -- 18 points is below his season average -- but he made up for it with five highlight-reel blocked shots. The Magic are 21-2 this season when Dwight has 3 swats or more, and it's probably not a coincidence.

Perhaps the most telling example of how focus and team-wide effort played a role in our victory was our free-throw shooting: 19-of-20, or 95%. Outstanding.

Some final notes on the Celtics:

  • Celtics fans do not appreciate Hedo Turkoglu.
    • Shamrock Headband called his game-winner "fairly preposterous."
    • Red's Army "hates it" when the Celtics lose because of "the BS 'wait until no time is left, take a crappy shot' play."
    • For what it's worth, the shot looked good all the way, and was nothing-but-net. Pierce defended Turkoglu well and forced him to take a difficult shot, but it wasn't a bad shot.
  • Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm doesn't appreciate Celtics fans' disrespect of Turk, and wrote them a brief letter.  Here's an excerpt:

    Dear Boston fans,
    We're sincerely happy that you've turned around your team [....] But seriously. Enough is enough. If it was Paul Pierce/Ray Allen/Rajon Rondo that hit that three pointer yesterday fading away with a Magic player in his face, there'd be nothing but "What a magical player!" and "What a great shot by a great Celtics!" and "I wish Ray Allen would defecate on me!". But because it was the other guy, it was "lucky"? Come, now. You're better than that.

    Matt also emailed me during yesterday's game to inform me about how pro-Celtics the ABC announcing crew of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown was. Apparently, after a Pierce layup over Howard, Hubie exclaimed, "In your face!" Anyone else care to weigh in on the announcing yesterday?

  • Teams like Phoenix and Golden State go into a special gear on offense sometimes, when it seems like they just cannot miss a shot. Boston is the only team in the league, at least that I've seen, that can go into that special gear on the defensive end. When the Celtics were in a full- or half-court press, we had a difficult time just getting a shot off. Frequently, Keyon Dooling or Hedo Turkoglu would be double-teamed with the ball 35 feet away from the basket with just 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Yeah, good luck with that.
  • If I'm building a team from scratch, I really want Rajon Rondo on it. It's not just that he came up with 6 steals and played great defense; it's that he did it with effort and skill, not with dirty play. He's also freakishly athletic; one of Dwight's credited field-goals was actually a shot the 6'1" Rondo rejected at its apex, resulting in a goaltend. It was unbelievable, and if he had swatted it cleanly, the highlight would have been on ESPN forever.
  • Perhaps the Celtics would have rebounded better if Doc Rivers opted to play Glen Davis, the 6'8", 300-pound rookie forward. Although he would've had trouble guarding Rashard Lewis, he also would have made a big difference on the glass. He's 5th among rookies and 60th overall in rebounding rate (14.2) and would have punished the Magic with put-backs on Boston misses. His DNP-CD, coupled with Brian Scalabrine's astonishing ineffectiveness (22 minutes, 1 point, 1 rebound), must have been vexing for Celtics fans.

The Magic went 3-1 last week and are 5-2 since that disastrous West-coast road trip ended. It's important for us to realize, though, that we just as easily could have been 1-3 last week, and that this team still has not turned the corner. However, it is encouraging that, as Stan Van Gundy pointed out in his post-game news conference, the team only played one quarter of bad basketball this week. It makes me wonder how good we'll be if Rashard Lewis ever awakens offensively.