Boston Celtics: Game 43
Garnett had just 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals over 33 minutes, and got beat on a baseline drive by Rashard Lewis for the winning bucket with 1.3 seconds to play. Beyond all that, he just looked sluggish all night.
"No, tonight was definitely not my night," said Garnett. "The one thing about me is, I will continue to work, I will continue to try to get better. Some nights you look good and some nights you look like [expletive]. This was one of those nights where I looked like pure [expletive]."
Garnett was asked if his hyperextended knee, which caused him to miss 10 games recently, had bothered him, and he quickly brushed aside the question. Asked about the knee a second time, he again dismissed the notion that his poor play stemmed from anything but rust and his inability to regain his timing as quickly as he might like.
"No, I'm not making any excuses," said Garnett. "I just played like [expletive]. I told the guys, this one's on me. I've got to be better defensively."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers agreed Garnett was not his usual self Thursday.
"He was off today, the answer is yes, but I think he's OK [physically]," said Rivers. "He just didn't have a good game tonight... He was late on a lot of stuff, late on our offensive plays. Some days you wake up and you just don't have it. This might have been one of those nights."
Garnett didn't make any excuses, but he did politely pass on talking about the physical play surrounding Dwight Howard (which left Boston's bigs in foul trouble throughout the game).
"I cannot comment on that because it involves referees," said Garnett.
For all the negatives associated with being an older team, the one big plus those squads should be able to lean on -- their virtual cane, if you will -- is being better than their less-seasoned opponents in crunch time.
The Orlando Sentinel poked fun at the aging Celtics in advance of Thursday night's showdown between Boston and the Orlando Magic by producing a photo illustration of a prematurely aged Rasheed Wallace with a headline, "Old & Gray is the new Green." Despite the headline, the article stressed how dangerous Boston was because of its wealth of experience.
But the Celtics just looked plain old Thursday.
Boston disappeared mentally and physically in the fourth quarter of a head-shaking 96-94 loss to Orlando at Amway Arena.
"We deserved it," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I said it in the second quarter, we had a chance to be up 20. I thought we completely lost our focus. An 11-point lead, I told them at halftime, it was a joke. We should have been up 25 points at halftime.
"We started walking around like we had accomplished something by getting up. We don't do that, but we did it today.
"I told them, I love this team, but I didn't love them every play today."
Click HERE to read the full column.
Opposing View: Final play was designed for ... Vince Carter?!
When Magic coach Stan Van Gundy drew up a final play Thursday, it featured the ball going to Vince Carter, who was 2 of 13 shooting for six points. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you rooting allegiance), the play never got a chance to develop and Rashard Lewis saved the Magic with his baseline drive for a layup with 1.3 seconds remaining to win it.
Even still, Van Gundy had no fear going with Carter.
"Especially with the score tied, we don't really have anybody else that's been in that situation," said Van Gundy. "We have a lot of guys that have made big shots, but managing the clock and being able to get that shot and not give them time coming back is huge. And he's really the only guy we've got that's been in that situation. very much.
"To me, I knew he was having a tough night, but to me it was a fairly easy call. If you're down one, it might have been tougher because you're going quicker and we could have gone a lot of different ways. But it didn't end up mattering because the play broke. J.J. [Redick] did a good job holding his composure, getting Rashard the ball and then Rashard, great drive, all the way to the rim. Not something you expect to get at that point in the game."
Said Lewis: "The play was drawn up for Vince to come and get the ball. Paul Pierce played pretty good defense on him -- denied and couldn't get the ball into him. J.J. had to pick the dribble up so he couldn't dribble the ball. I just ran up to give him another outlet and got the ball from him, and turned the corner with my right hand and took it to the basket. I expected the defense to collapse and I was very surprised when I got around [Kevin Garnett]. I was surprised I saw the rim because they're usually a great defensive team."
Poor Wallace simply can't get away with screaming, "And one" when looking for a foul call in the Sunshine State.
Wallace got whistled for a technical by referee Greg Willard after making a basket with 3:21 to go in the first quarter and exclaiming the phrase looking for an additional foul call as the ball went through the cylinder.
Wallace incurred a similar technical foul against Miami on Nov. 29, when referee Bennett Salvatore hit him for screaming "And one" after making a short jumper. The NBA later rescinded that call.
Wallace had a few words with Willard during a timeout later, telling him, "You're whack with that."
Boston's Paul Pierce and Orlando's Matt Barnes were hit with matching technicals in the first frame for a dust-up under the Orlando basket that had both players face-to-face exchanging words.
BOSTON -- Instant reaction after the Orlando Magic rallied for a 96-94 triumph over the Boston Celtics Thursday night at Amway Arena:
How the game was won: Rashard Lewis scored a game-high 23 points and produced the winning bucket as the Magic rallied from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit to top the Celtics. Dwight Howard registered a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) for Orlando, while Ray Allen paced Boston with a team-high 20 points.
Turning point: Despite watching an 11-point lead evaporate in the final frame, the Celtics still boasted a three-point advantage in the final minute before J.J. Redick's 3-pointer tied the game. Boston settled for a rushed Ray Allen shot at the other end and Lewis made it hurt by driving baseline for the winning bucket with little more than a second to play.
Stat of the game: We'll nominate a pair: 1) The Magic shot more than twice as many free throws as Boston (40-18), and 2) The Celtics finished 12 of 24 from beyond the arc with Ray Allen (4 for 7) and Rasheed Wallace (3 of 5) leading the 3-point barrage. Eddie House had two 3-pointers overturned by replay with his foot on the line.
Unsung hero: We'll nominate another pair: 1) Redick not only hit the tying 3-pointer, but finished with a game-best plus-13 in the plus/minus category to spark the comeback, and 2) Marcin Gortat, who hit the only shot he took and four free throws for six points, grabbed eight rebounds, played some pesky defense, and logged a plus-4 overall.
What it means: The Celtics start this grueling stretch of four games in four cities over five nights on the wrong foot, but will have to bounce back quickly with a visit Friday to the Atlanta Hawks (and the Los Angeles Lakers looming Sunday). Boston won't be happy because this was a terribly winnable game. The officials did the Celtics no favors, but the team can only blame itself for some head-scratching possessions late in the game.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Celtics guard Rajon Rondo stood up from watching film inside the visitors' locker room at Amway Arena and walked over to Paul Pierce's locker stall so that the two players -- both named All-Star reserves Thursday based on coaches voting -- could discuss the honor with the assembled media.
Once the camera lights came on, Pierce tried to quietly slip away and let Rondo have the spotlight. The fourth-year guard reeled the captain back in saying, "C'mon, man. Ubuntu."
The brief exchange revealed a lot about the two players and how they view the honor. Pierce, who will make his eighth All-Star appearance, wanted to give Rondo his moment in the sun. Rondo, in turn, wanted to thank Pierce for what he's meant in helping him get to this point.
"I always thought I was an [All-Star-caliber] guard, but for the coaches to think so, it's an honor," said Rondo. "I try to play with that spirit, that tenacity each night. But having three future Hall of Famers in front of me, showing me how to do it, helped out a lot."
There was genuine excitement in the locker room for Rondo. While his inclusion in this year's game seemed like a foregone conclusion, Rondo swears he didn't know until he arrived at the arena and was informed of the news by Celtics media relations czar Jeff Twiss.
Rondo said he'll lean on Pierce and Kevin Garnett, voted an Eastern Conference starter by fans, when he treks to Texas for the All-Star festivities, capped by the game on Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who might end up in Dallas as coach of the Eastern Conference if Boston finishes the first half with the second-best record in the conference, beamed like a proud father for Rondo.
"I'm very happy for Rajon, it's just great for him," said Rivers. "Obviously for Paul and Kevin, it's old hat for them. For Rajon, it's phenomenal. He's put in the time, he's been great. If you think about the summer, flying up to Atlanta on the weekend to meet with a shooting coach. Or coming down to Orlando to coach in the summer league, just to learn about leadership and what coaches go through coaching players. He's done a lot of the little things to help become a better player and he's been rewarded by making the All-Star Game."
Rondo said the All-Star nod won't change him as a player; he expressed a similar sentiment after signing a five-year, $55-million contract extension earlier this season.
"It'll change the way I play, I'll probably shoot a lot today, take more shots, maybe I'll start averaging 16-17 shots per game," Rondo joked with a sly smile.
"I'm definitely [still hungry]. I won't settle. I'm sure people thought I'd settle after signing the contract. I'm going to keep trying to get better. It doesn't matter how many All-Star appearances or [contracts]."
As for Pierce, he took great pride in being named a reserve by the coaches yet again. Pierce has never been voted a starter and said the fact that the honor comes from the coaches means even more to him.
"When I really look at it, the way I've made the All-Star Game is like my whole career -- I know I've earned it," said Pierce. "I've never been voted, but when I get picked by the coaches, I know I've earned it. They must think highly of me, so it does [mean more]."
Said Rivers: "It's funny, we were talking about that earlier. This is Paul's eighth time and he's never been voted by the fans. It tells you the type of game he has. It's so easy to take it for granted. He's probably been on the ESPN Top 10 plays once in his career; except for game-winning shots, that's it. He just gets the job done and coaches notice that."
Rondo's selection allowed Pierce to reflect on his first All-Star selection in 2002.
"It was exciting," said Pierce. "I went out, enjoyed the parties and my peers. It was an exciting time for me. I had a chance to play with Michael Jordan, a guy who I really looked up to -- I had his posters on my wall in high school. Sitting there on the bench, a lot of the veterans were laughing. They thought my first shot would be an airball. It wasn't quite that, but it did totally miss the rim."
While the illustration pokes fun at Boston's aging roster, the story is largely positive, with Magic players (and NBA TV analyst / former Celtic Kevin McHale) praising the Green.
From the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins:
The main Amway Arena scoreboard tonight will display the words "Magic" and "Celtics." But maybe one of those team names should be changed to "Graybeards."
Haven't you heard the criticism the Boston Celtics have faced all season?
Supposedly, they're too old to win an NBA title.
On paper, the Celtics look ancient for the rough-and-tumble world of pro basketball. Paul Pierce is 32. Kevin Garnett is 33. Ray Allen is 34. Rasheed Wallace is 35. Detractors argue that Boston cannot depend on its aging nucleus once the playoffs arrive. The argument goes that the Big Four will be worn out from the regular season or one of them could miss the playoffs because of injury, as Garnett did last year.
The Celtics don't share that pessimism.
"I think we're an older team from the sense of experience," Allen said. "We're more mature. I think we're deeper. Our bench is better."
Allen uttered those sentences a month ago, just before the Celtics defeated the Magic 86-77 on Christmas Day. The two Eastern Conference rivals will meet again tonight before a packed house at the Am and a national-television audience.
Much has changed since Christmas. Orlando lost eight of its next 15 games as it endured a confounding slump. Boston lost eight of its next 14 games as it dealt with injuries to Pierce, Garnett and swingman Marquis Daniels.
But the Celtics (29-13) still have the second-best record in the East, and they now have everyone healthy except for Daniels, who should return from a thumb injury sometime in mid-February.
"They've just got a lot of veteran guys on the team, very smart guys, but they still get the job done," Orlando's Rashard Lewis said. "They're still one of the top teams in the league, so you can't take that away from them.
"I've got a lot of respect for that team, and if you don't have respect for that team, they'll show you. So, I think you can't look at them as an older team. They're still a team that's going after that trophy, and they very well have enough guys to go and win it."
The front page of the Sentinel displayed a headline, "Can coach Doc Rivers keep aging Celtics on their game tonight against Magic?"
Inside, Robbins lists three other aging teams that competed for a world title: the 1977-78 Washington Bullets, 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and the 1997-98 Utah Jazz.
1. Josh Smith, Hawks
2. Ron Artest, Lakers
3. Brendan Haywood, Wizards
4. Kendrick Perkins, Celtics
5. Dwight Howard, Magic
A classy move to rank Perkins one spot in front of him; one contributing factor: Howard has been limited to a total of 14 points in two meetings against Boston this season (he averages 17.4 points per game).
Howard writes of Perkins: "He is a really good low-post defender. He knows how to use his body to his advantage."
While it's highly unlikely Perkins will earn an All-Star nod when reserves are announced this evening, it's worth noting that not only is he considered in the upper echelon of defensive players by his peers, Perkins is leading the NBA in field goal percentage (63.3 percent). All-star or not, he's certainly developed into one of the best young big men in the league.
Play Podcast Sports Illustrated's Peter King weighs in on the Patriots' offensive line, the outlook for New England, Jim Harbaugh's relationship with his team and the Cowboys' success.
Play Podcast Colin Cowherd shares his thoughts on the state of the Patriots, New England's offense and Brady Hoke's future at Michigan.
Play Podcast Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith debate if the Patriots dynasty is over, if the 49ers have stopped listen to Jim Harbaugh and more. Plus, they make their World Series predictions.