Friday, January 27, 2012
Observations: Oh, Oh It's Magic
By Chris Forsberg
AP Photo/Mike CarlsonCeltics forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce slowed Dwight Howard and the Magic.
A handful of observations after the Boston Celtics rallied from a 27-point, second-quarter deficit to stun the Orlando Magic 91-83 Thursday night at the Amway Center:
His bruised heel seemingly healed now, Celtics captain Paul Pierce is simply leaving opponents on their heels. Pierce keyed Boston's second-half comeback Thursday night, connecting on 7 of 13 shots for 19 points with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and a blocked shot after the intermission. Put another way, Pierce had one fewer second-half bucket than the entire Orlando Magic team (on 22 fewer attempts). Pierce had nine third-quarter points, chipping away at Orlando's 21-point halftime cushion and setting up the improbable final frame. Overall, he contributed a game-high 24 points, overcoming an 0-for-5 start in which he posted a mere five first-half points, with 10 assists over 44:24. Pierce, who played all but 23 seconds in the second half, was seemingly so gassed at the end of the game that he missed a trio of fourth-quarter free throws while trying to seal the win. It didn't matter, he had done enough in generating points for both himself and his teammates to prevent Orlando from rallying back late in the game.
LEAVES YOU WANTING MOORE
After watching E'Twaun Moore miss all four shots he put up in a loss to Oklahoma City a couple of weeks back, Celtics coach Doc Rivers opined after the game, "I just wanted one of those freakin' shots to go in for him." Yes, Moore was shooting just 23.7 percent (9-of-38) entering Thursday's game in Orlando and it seemed like all he needed was a couple of shots to fall to give him a little confidence boost. Well, Moore didn't get one of those freakin' shots to fall Thursday, he got freakin' five of them, including all four 3-pointers he put up and a key fourth-quarter driving layup to aid Pierce in spearheading the offensive portion of the comeback (and Moore was no slouch on defense, either). Even as a late second-round draft pick (55th overall), you could see Moore's potential after watching him hit big shots in training camp and preseason games. Now he's putting it together in the regular season, and that bodes well for more floor time moving forward. Moore didn't have an assist Thursday (the offense was running through Pierce), but he didn't have a turnover either, which is another encouraging sign he values the ball, even as a primary ball handler at the backup point guard spot.
ARE THE CELTICS IN THE MAGIC'S HEAD?
Outside of the Kevin Garnett-less 2009 playoffs, the Orlando Magic simply haven't had much success against the Celtics in recent years. The old way of thinking suggested that the Celtics had an ability to match up Kendrick Perkins on Dwight Howard one-on-one, allowing Boston to smother the outside shooters and neutralize the Magic's typical plan of attack (where opponents often had to double Howard, freeing the perimeter players). Well, the Celtics didn't even have Jermaine O'Neal on Thursday night and still limited Howard to a manageable 16 points and 16 rebounds. Go figure, the Magic built their 21-point halftime cushion with Howard chipping in a mere four points over 6:43 in a foul-plagued first half. Howard scored 14 of his team's 25 second-half points (nine of which came at the charity stripe) and played all 24 second-half minutes, but could only watch as Boston rallied. You can't help but think that, at the moment, the Celtics would be perfectly fine crossing paths with the Magic in the postseason if this sort of dominance keeps up.
STATS TELL THE STORY
Here's just a handful of stats that tell the story Thursday night:
* The Magic were 8-of-35 shooting (22.9 percent) in the second half, missing 6 of 8 3-pointers and 7 of 14 free throws. Orlando was a woeful 2-of-17 shooting (11.8 percent) in the fourth quarter, generating a mere eight points and missing 5 of 8 attempts at the charity stripe.
* Conversely, Boston was 21-of-39 shooting (53.8 percent) in the second half, connecting on 5 of 10 3-pointers and 7 of 12 free throws. The first half, though, was a complete flip of the script for Orlando (22-of-44 shooting, 50 percent, 58 points) and Boston (13-of-34, 38.2 percent, 37 points).
* The Celtics thrived off ball movement, registering 23 assists, compared to Orlando's 16.
O'Neal sat out with a sore left knee, the same injury that limited him to 24 regular-season games last year and has been a chronic issue in the latter stages of his career. ... TradeWatch: Brandon Bass started in place of O'Neal and, after an over-caffeinated first half against his former team, he scored 7 of his 10 points after the intermission. Bass finished with 10 points, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks over 29:12. Old friend Glen Davis was 0-for-5 with no points and a rebound in nine second-half minutes off the bench, while finishing the game with 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals over 26:12. ... Von Wafer, the other part of that sign-and-trade swap between Boston and Orlando, did not get off the bench. ... Rivers drew a second-quarter technical foul. ... The game featured only two lead changes. Boston's only other lead: an early Bass jumper aided an 8-2 start, but Boston didn't lead again until Moore's 3-pointer with 7:39 to play. ... Kevin Garnett played nearly 35 minutes, but chipped in 12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals. ... Greg Stiemsma generated four first-half fouls over 7:18 and didn't see the court again. ... Chris Wilcox, in his first game back after missing six straight with a calf strain, logged 19 big minutes and made both shots he took for four points. ... Mickael Pietrus continues to thrive, drawing a spot start and chipping in 12 points against his old team while hitting three more 3-pointers. He also generated his first two assists in a Boston uniform.