- Brian Schmitz comments about the Magic's victory last night over the Celtics:
The most satisfying sign for the visitors was Celtics Coach Doc Rivers — the former Magic coach — taking out his starters with 2:30 remaining, the NBA version of waving white flag.
Everything was against them, especially the Celtics' playoff experience in Game 7s and their storied history. But the Magic were afire from the field, hitting the 3-point shot — their season-long specialty — and built a 23-point fourth-quarter lead to whip the Celtics.
[...] The question was whether the Magic would suffer a simil ar Game 5 meltdown in the final period. They had coughed up a 14-point lead and a 10-point lead with just over five minutes left, which also caused Howard to second-guess Van Gundy.
The Magic led by just five at 66-61 to start the fourth quarter. They pushed the lead to 17 after just three minutes, playing with poise and defense — components missing in Game 5. Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen (23 points), who finally found his jump-shot, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 12 at 90-78 with just over four minutes to play.
"It looked similar and we learned from it," Van Gundy said.
- Mike Bianchi thinks it's time for the city of Orlando to unite behind the Magic:
It's time for this city to once again galvanize and get behind this team. Just ask the Magic's self-proclaimed No. 1 fan, local attorney Dennis Salvagio (a k a "The Fat Guy") who was at the game wearing a white tuxedo (accented in blue, of course).
"This is Game 7," the Fat Guy said of his tux. "You have to look a little more sophisticated in a game of this magnitude. This is a game that shows the Magic are back as one of the elite franchises in the league. We've been waiting for this a long time."
The Boston Celtics may have looked into the rafters Sunday night and saw the retired jerseys of past legends Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Bob Cousy, but guess what?
The Magic looked within themselves and found a vestige of their own past — a past of heart and hustle and hopes and dreams.
The Orlando Magic — your Orlando Magic — buried the ghosts of Celtics past and now are poised to march into their own blazingly bright future.
- George Diaz notes that Dwight Howard is here and ready to win, now.
- Kyle Hightower states that Mickael Pietrus deserves (rightfully so) a lot of credit for his good play against the Celtics for the majority of the series:
When Mickael Pietrus signed with the Orlando Magic in the offseason, he came in with huge expectations.
A former lottery pick with a reputation for defense, he was brought in mainly to stop people first and to score second.
But after a rocky regular season that featured multiple injuries, Pietrus came into the postseason looking to make his first real mark on the Magic's season.
Building on an already productive series against Boston, he had probably his biggest impact of the playoffs Sunday night.
Pietrus scored 17 points off the bench in Game 7 — 11 in the second half — to help the Magic stun the Celtics.
"Just seize the moment," Pietrus said of his series against the Celtics in which he scored in double figures all but two games. "It wasn't about me making tonight, we did it as a team.
"It was what we wanted and we got it."
- J.J. Redick talks about his experience playing in a Game 7 at Boston:
"It's two different things. There's no comparison between college and the pros, other than you still you to put the ball in the basket," said Redick, who had struggled mightily doing that against the Celtics heading into Sunday.
"The mindset, though, is a little similar in knowing the stakes."
- Here is the schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals:
Game 1 - Wed., May 20, Orlando at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 2 - Fri., May 22, Orlando at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Sun., May 24, Cleveland at Orlando, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 4 - Tue., May 26, Cleveland at Orlando, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 - * Thu., May 28, Orlando at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 6 - * Sat., May 30, Cleveland at Orlando, 8:30 p.m., TNT
Game 7 - * Mon., June 1, Orlando at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m., TNT* If Necessary
- David Steele offers his assessment of Orlando's win over Boston last night.
UPDATE 3: Dwight Howard shares his thoughts on his official blog, today:
We played really well and got a lot of contributions from so many people. Turk was really aggressive finding people and making shots. Rashard was killing ‘em posting up, MP was knocking down shots and I told J.J. this morning he’d hit some big shots and sure enough he did. And I was out there doing my thing on the boards and rebounding because that’s where my focus has to be for us to win games like this.
We pretty much led start-to-finish and this time there was no comeback in the fourth quarter by Boston. I think that shows how we have matured as a team. We knew we had to bring it hard for the full 48, and that’s what we did.
For a Celtics perspective on Game 7, check out CelticsBlog and Celtics Hub.
Give credit to J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. They were fantastic on defense for the bulk of this series. On a plane earlier today, I was finishing up the book John Feinstein co-wrote with Red Auerbach in 2004 ("Let Me Tell You a Story"). In it, Auerbach discusses Redick’s prospects after attending a Duke game. Red told Feinstein that Redick was a better athlete–and a better defender–than people thought at the time, and that he’d be a better NBA player than people expected. Red Auerbach–right again.
This excerpt, from Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub, caught my eye. Cheers, J.J.
Click after the jump to see what the national media had to say about Game 7.
- Tim Povtak of NBA Fanhouse thinks last night's win for the Magic over the Celtics "will be a defining moment" in Dwight Howard's career:
This will go down as a defining moment in the still-budding career of Dwight Howard, the series in which he went from another well-hyped NBA star without a resume, to a legitimate leader who proved he could take a team deep into the playoffs.
It should be the beginning of a long run for the Orlando Magic, who will meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference final for the first of what might be many times in the next several years.
The guard has changed in the East. The Pistons are history, and the Celtics aren't far behind.
Howard, 24, and James, 24, will only get better as the cast of characters sprinkled around them improves, opening a long-running debate over who will rule in the East.
- Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com asserts that the 'Master of Panic' tag, first introduced by Shaq, doesn't fit right now for head coach Stan Van Gundy:
No longer can we call all of them the Masters of Panic, what with their propensity to blow leads and fail to close out games they should have won. They buried that moniker in this one with every bit as much zeal as they removed the title of defending champions from the Celtics' formal title.
Did they have a weak link? No.
Did they seize up after they took control? No.
Did they look worthy of giving the Cavaliers a run for their money in the conference finals? Well, we're not quite ready to take things quite that far at this point.
But the Magic, a group that established itself as the better team early in this series -- but a team that also showed itself deficient in playing with the poise that all champions must possess -- exorcised quite a few demons with the display they put on Sunday in closing out Boston's season.
- Elias Sports Bureau, Inc. shares some cool nuggets about last night's game:
The Magic ousted the Celtics from the playoffs with a 101-82 Game 7 win at Boston. It was the largest margin of defeat for a defending NBA champion in an elimination playoff game since the Spurs knocked the Lakers out of the 2003 playoffs in the second round with a 110-82 victory at Los Angeles in Game 7.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 25 points and handed out 12 assists for Orlando on Sunday. The only other player with at least 25 points and 10 or more assists in a Game 7 against the Celtics was Jerry West, who had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the Lakers' two-point loss to Boston in the decisive game of the 1969 Finals (108-106 at Los Angeles).
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports notes how Dwight and the Magic have been able to grow up in the series against the Celtics:
In his own way, on his own terms, Howard made the leap from franchise player to franchise leader in the Eastern Conference semifinals. After a Game 5 debacle, he publicly demanded Van Gundy get him the basketball more, and that placed the burden of performance onto Howard. All around the Magic dressing room, they stopped. Howard never, ever talked that way.
Whatever discomfort came to Van Gundy, it was clear the Magic loved that Howard had stepped out of comfort and into combat.
"He did that for a reason," Lewis said. "He wanted the pressure on himself." [...]
This was an immense series for the Magic. They blew leads. They fell apart late in games. Sometimes, they just looked so lost. Everything changed at the Garden on Sunday night. All the history here, all the Game 7 lore, and the Magic just destroyed the Celtics. No new banners, no more hope that K.G. could pull his Willis Reed in these playoffs.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie talks about yesterday's win for Orlando:
The reason you should be happy as the Magic moves on is because a Magic win means that the better team played up to its potential. They may not have done it for the entire series, but in the end, you saw the Magic cashing in on all that talent. I still think they played over their heads for most of the season, but the sort of team we saw in Games 2 and 5 was well, well under their, uh, heads. You know what I mean. I hope.
Every would-be Boston run in that third quarter was met by a well-executed, well-intentioned score from the Magic. It was fantastic to watch, because this squad was just on point at a time of the game and an overall situation where so many had fallen before. This team just stayed calm, worked the ball, and nailed shots. Boston had no answer for Orlando's screen and roll.
- Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm delves a bit in his recap of Game 7 ...
Tradition. Legacy. Clutch. Mental toughness. Playoff experience.
All NOTHING in the face of a return to the statistical mean.
The Magic played the way they’re supposed to tonight. They’ve struggled to hit this gear all playoffs. Tonight was the first time the Magic shot the ball the way they’re capable of, where they created the kinds of shots they can create with their passing. They didn’t just accept any shot. They asked themselves, "Can we get a better shot?" and often the answer was yes. Yes, they can.
There was a three-headed monster of failure for Boston defensively inside tonight. Kendrick Perkins was outclassed, with guys just out-talenting him. Davis was outsmarted, with the Magic whipping his head around and always putting him in the wrong position. And Pierce was outworked. If you watch the replay, most of those super-explosive dunks that the Magic got? Yeah, Pierce was staring at them before they dunked, but unwilling to get posterized. Pierce had trouble with both Hedo and Pietrus tonight,like it was just rough for him to try and defend these young whippersnappers.
One of the things I love in a defender is a willingness to get burned if he knows he’s doing the right thing. It’s something I love about Battier. He’ll let you nail shot after shot in his eye and go back and play you the same way if he knows that it’s the best way to play you. JJ Redick did that tonight. Allen was bursting a little more off screens, getting shots, and knocking them down. But he didn’t deviate. Didn’t try and cheat on an off the ball screen. Didn’t get frustrated, just did his job and made him work for it. Meanwhile he got off his shooting slump and then made some smart passes to get buckets.
... and the following excerpt gave me a nice chuckle. This is good stuff.
I loved what Marvelous said about Courtney Lee tonight. "I think that when Eddie House got in his car to leave his house this morning that Courtney Lee was there guarding him."
UPDATE: Henry Abbott of TrueHoop writes a nice piece about J.J. Redick:
while he was out there, he made some great passes. He sprinted to open shooters and covered them before their teammates even knew they were open. He finished at the rim a few times. But by far the most notable thing Redick did was to play defense -- running around and around after Ray Allen, who (many feel certain it must have been a coincidence) had one of the worst offensive playoff series of his storied career.
Redick shot 39 times in 178 minutes vs. the Celtics, making just 13. That's about one shot every five minutes. He shot more like once every three-and-a-half minutes in the regular season, and made a higher percentage. But Redick was more important than ever in these playoffs because of the defense he has clearly been working on.
Stan Van Gundy rewarded the effort. Redick played in all seven games of this past series, averaging 25 minutes per game. In the regular season, he only got into 64 games, in which he averaged 17 minutes.
In fact -- doesn't Redick's whole body look different? He was vastly scrawnier in college, and you have to credit the man with that. Beefing up. Chasing Ray Allen. That's work. Work for anyone. Even more work for someone who has already made a name for himself playing a different way.
UPDATE 2: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus provides his take on last night's proceedings between Orlando and Boston:
Apparently, Orlando was just saving all its threes for Game Seven, hitting 13 of them in 21 attempts to more than double its previous accuracy in the series (to 61.9 percent). The triples came from all over, with four different players making at least two of them. They carried a Magic offense that was otherwise uninspired, turning the ball over 16 times and recording but three offensive rebounds. In fact, Boston had the advantage in three of the Four Factors. It's just that Orlando's advantage in shooting efficiency (60.7 percent eFG% versus 41.9 percent for Boston) dwarfed everything else.
Besides being due, the Magic benefited from bizarro factor No. 2: The return of Hedo Turkoglu. The pick-and-roll assassin--dangerous as a shooter, driver or passer--re-emerged, creating huge problems for the Celtics' defense. Turkoglu scored 25 points and came up with four of those Orlando three-pointers, and he also set up teammates with 12 assists. The Magic's ball movement was phenomenal in the first quarter in particular, and the team finished with 26 assists on 36 buckets, with every starter save Dwight Howard handing out at least four. Orlando made the extra pass, translating into better looks from downtown, and Turkoglu set the tone.
The last bizarro factor worked against the Magic, that being Allen finding his jumper, previously MIA. In Game Seven, Allen was Boston's best offensive player, scoring 23 points on 19 shooting possessions with three triples. Alas, a strong effort for Allen could not offset rough shooting nights for the rest of the Celtics. Among the reconstituted Big Three, Paul Pierce just could not find a rhythm, missing nine of his 13 shot attempts, and Rajon Rondo played passer with as many assists as shot attempts (10 apiece).
In a game where his offensive numbers don't jump off the page (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting), Howard was a force at the defensive end. He blocked five shots, and the plus-minus backs up his critical importance. In the 10 minutes Marcin Gortat was on the court in place of Howard, Boston scored 25 points. That means the Celtics had 57 points in Howard's 38 minutes, which is a 72-point pace over the pace of a full game.
- UPDATE 4: Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated gives props to the Magic for the team's performance yesterday.
Make sure to check out this post every few hours for updates.