A Daily Babble Production
The first half of Game 6 of Celtics-Magic made me think there was a shot at having a three-day weekend to rest before making a visit to Cleveland on Monday night. The second half proved analogous to watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. We covered the Celtics' disastrously poor ball movement yesterday. On we go to the rest of the ups and downs of Thursday's 83-75 loss:
- Much as it kills me to say this, Rafer Alston came up big down the stretch. He picked off Paul pierce's forced pass to Rajon Rondo at the left elbow and then drained an open three at the other end to finish the play and put the Magic up two with four minutes left. I'm happy to let him take big shots and fairly confident he won't make them most of the time, but he knocked down that one and then a runner in the lane to extend the lead to three in the final two minutes. Well done.
- My proclamations of J.J. Redick snapping out of his shooting slump have been about as spot-on as my continued predictions of the Ray Allen blow-up game (which I still believe is coming). Mark the former Duke star down for 3-for-25 over the last four games after an 0-for-7 showing in Game 6. He even missed a free throw, his first brick of the postseason, after knocking down 81 of 93 regular season attempts. Yeesh.
- While I wasn't thrilled with Rajon Rondo's second half (as noted yesterday), he did a fine job of attacking the basket early. He challenged the Magic bigs with several successful takes to the rim as well as a couple of nice dishes. The rebounding continues to leave me in awe. I've raised enough complaints of late with Raj's decision-making and defensive issues (and I stand by those), and given how much this guy has achieved over the course of the postseason, I'm happy to give him a break today.
- For the first two and a half quarters of this game, with the issue of boxing out excepted (more on that later), I could hardly have been happier with Kendrick Perkins. He looked poised offensively, knocking down multiple jumpers outside the paint and banking in a one-hander from the left side. In perhaps his neatest play of the night, he caught the ball on the left side underneath the bucket, ball-faked to get Dwight Howard in the air, went under the basket to use the rim as a shield and finished with the right hand while drawing the foul. He snared 10 rebounds, blocked three shots and looked like the best Celtic on the floor while staying out of foul trouble for much of the night. It's too bad he began piling up the fouls and turnovers in the fourth quarter.
- Dwight Howard played an excellent game and deserves plenty of credit for the Orlando victory. But let's be clear on something: This performance did not validate Howard's potshots at Stan Van Gundy in the media this week or his reference to himself as a dominant post player at the offensive end. Howard performed because he focused on doing the things he does well on the offensive end: clearing space to make deep catches, finishing lobs and crashing the glass to create garbage buckets off second chances. Aided by the fact that no Celtic seemed interested in even trying to get a body on him underneath, Howard collected 10 offensive rebounds, which directly resulted in four of his nine made field goals as well as eight of his 12 field-goal attempts for the night. He created more touches for himself by playing with renewed off-the-ball aggressiveness, and the result was an excellent 23-point, 22-rebound showing. But Howard finished 9-for-16 from the field because when Kendrick Perkins did force him to take shots away from the rim, he had trouble finishing once more, hitting just one lefty hook. He missed seven of those 12 attempts from the stripe as well. None of this is meant to contradict praise of D12's Game 6: He played to his strengths and caused the Celtics all sorts of trouble. But given the media firestorm about his offensive game this week, it seems worth clarifying that the numbers alone don't justify his assessment.
- Howard is currently posting a 26.8 rebound percentage for these playoffs. More than one out of every four misses when he is on the floor ends up in his hands. That's insane.
- Two impressive defensive plays from the bench: Eddie House made a sweet seal early in the fourth, and Brian Scalabrine got up just enough to block Rashard Lewis' jumper on the way up in the last three minutes of a one-point game.
- Thinking of House and Scal reminds me that I'm awfully curious to find out where this Celtics squad ranks on the vaunted list of "most foot-on-the-line-two-pointers made in a postseason."
- Hedo Turkoglu actually managed to look worse than his 3-for-13 shooting performance indicated for most of the night. He couldn't seem to find any consistency in his release, and the shots missed badly in every possible direction. Until he drained the dagger trey to extend the Orlando lead from three to six with 83 seconds left, that is. Shooters keep shooting.
- Shooters keep shooting. Ray Allen will start making.
- Bad foul trouble game for the Terrifying Toddler, who played just three and a half minutes while picking up three fouls in the first half and played most of the third quarter with four fouls. He also made one horrific defensive play: After Ray Allen had the ball stripped, and the Magic broke the other way in transition, Glen Davis sat in the middle of the paint completely oblivious to Courtney Lee cutting straight to the basket behind him. The Baby didn't even recover quickly enough to commit a foul, and only Eddie House sprinting back into the play to send Lee to the line prevented a lay-up. There's no excuse for not knowing someone is behind you headed to the rim in that situation defensively.
- Mickael Pietrus is quietly having himself a nice series.
- Loved the Celtics' first basket of this game: Ray passed up a shot to dump the ball off to an open Perk outside the right block. Perk drew a defender and made a fine pass to an open Newborn in the paint for a lay-in.
- Paul Pierce made a couple of great moves to the basket early, and his six-points-on-three-shots sequence provided a rare thrill in the fourth quarter. Rough night for him otherwise, including two late missed free throws after getting shook up on the preceding take to the rim. That said, his 5-for-8 off day at the line dropped him all the way to 40-for-46 (87 percent) for the series. Miserly indeed.
- Four fewer offensive rebounds, 12 more turnovers: It's no shock that the Celtics saw the Magic take five more shots from the field and get 18 more opportunities at the foul line. It's hard to win games when a team uses its possessions so poorly and allows the opponent to extend its own chances with the ball.
We're back at this earlier-than-normal Babble time tomorrow (best wishes to our fearless leader Jeff Clark for a great vacation as Green17, Roy and I try not to burn the house down while he is gone) with 10 truths about the Magic heading into Game 7.