If there's anything positive to take away from the Orlando Magic's 92-88 loss to the Boston Celtics in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals yesterday, it's that the Magic rallied from a 20-point deficit in the second half to make the game interesting in the final minutes.
Or maybe not. Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus explains:
In fact, I found myself shaking my head at Orlando's rally. If they had been able to win, it would have been a fluke. There was little about the effort that resembled Orlando Magic basketball. At some point in the second half, the Magic abandoned its base offense altogether and also its preferred tempo--two things which can happen when a team falls behind by 20 points. Everything was coming off of isolations, with J.J. Redick, [Jameer] Nelson and [Vince] Carter going one-on-one. Orlando assisted on just 10 of its 32 made field goals in the game and its mark of 3.68 touches per minute was way below its season average. It worked because those three guys began to throw in shots and you can't blame the players for taking that road because nothing the Magic tried in the first half worked worth a damn. Still, if the Orlando offense is going to morph into a series of Carter one-on-one showdowns, the Magic aren't going to win this series.
More from Doolittle after the jump.
The Celtics held the Magic to under a point per possession for the game after Orlando averaged 1.2 during the first two rounds. The split between the halves was significant (.7/1.3), but the poor mark was what resulted from Orlando's original game plan. The solid mark came from scrambling the game, something which really can't be replicated unless you're the Golden State Warriors.
Doolittle makes a good point: the style the Magic played during their comeback isn't exactly sustainable, which probably bodes ill for them going forward. Of course, as he later notes, there's at least one adjustment coach Stan Van Gundy can make:
Even though Boston will surely stick with its single-coverage of [Dwight] Howard, we've seen--not just on Sunday--that the Celtics can handle Howard down low when his back is to the basket. Van Gundy may want to get Howard moving with more high screens early, something which he did more frequently in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Whatever adjustment Van Gundy makes, it's got to create more space for his perimeter shooters. Orlando basketball is inside-out, but Van Gundy may have to flip that approach on its ear against the stout defense of the Celtics.
I do wish Doolittle had considered the defensive part of the equation in his overall assessment of Orlando's comeback. Remember, the Celtics only scored 4 points in the game's final 5:34, and those came at the foul line, where Orlando sent them intentionally to prolong the game.
And though Howard will continue to struggle against the Celtics' front line in post-up situations, his perimeter-oriented teammates are unlikely to shoot as poorly from distance again. Tom Haberstroh notes:
Magic shot 7-for-29 from beyond 15 feet yesterday. Lowest FGM from that zone all year. Does it happen again? No chance.
You can see HoopData's advanced box score here.
Further, Sebastian Pruiti points out that the Magic got a lot of good looks from three-point range, yet just didn't knock them down, which is another thing that likely won't hold the rest of the way.
Put it all together and you've got, well, a rather murky picture of how Game 2 might unfold, which brings us back to how close this series ought to be.