Game 5: Celtics vs. Magic

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
8:38
PM PT
By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.

Monday night’s Game 4 in Boston was exactly how this series was supposed to play out. Two of the best teams in the NBA, going head to head, with the game being decided in overtime. Whether you root for the Magic or the Celtics, that was the kind of game we all expected. Give the Orlando Magic a ton of credit for regrouping on Sunday and giving the kind of effort we saw. Call it desperation, call it mental toughness, call it what you want, the Magic played their best game of the series and came away with a hard-earned victory.

Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard are the two reasons the Magic are still alive. Nelson, who has been outplayed by Rajon Rondo, was the MVP of Game 4. He knew exactly what he needed to do to help his team win and he did it. Nelson broke down the Celtics, coming off pick-and-rolls and got in the lane. He not only got in the lane, he lived in the paint. Nelson scored 23 points, had 9 assists, and was without doubt the most important reason the Magic will play a Game 5. He was aggressive coming off pick-and-rolls, he turned the corner and made plays all night.

Howard had another big game for the Magic. He scored 32 points, had 16 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. He was aggressive and active on the glass and he rolled to the front of the rim the entire game. Howard was on the move all game and that is what made him effective. He scored off pick and rolls, he went after every missed shot by his teammates, and he caught numerous lob passes from Nelson and others for slam dunks. Howard was 13-for-19 (68 percent) from the field, because almost every shot attempt was in front of the rim.

Game 5 Adjustments

The Orlando Magic must continue to play with a faster and quicker pace in Game 5. The Magic did a good job of playing fast in the first half. They pushed the ball on makes and misses, they drove it, moved the ball and made the extra pass. However they got bogged down in the fourth quarter and in overtime and got away from the faster pace. They walked the ball up and had to go against the Celtics' half-court defense. This is one of the main reasons that they scored 51 points in the first half and then had problems scoring in the second half, only scoring 35 points in the third and fourth quarters.

The Magic made a nice adjustment in their pick-and-roll schemes. They utilized staggered picks to free up Nelson. Instead of Rondo having to get over just one pick the Magic hit him with multiple picks and it helped get Nelson some room to maneuver.

Howard was a dominant force in Game 4 because he was in constant movement, he set a ton of picks and he rebounded the ball. He set excellent picks and they opened up things for himself and his teammates. He rolled to the front of the rim after setting picks, he attacked the offensive glass on missed shots, and was a physical presence for the Magic all game long.

There are two statistical categories that could come back and haunt the Magic in Game 5. Turnovers and free throws. The Magic had 19 turnovers for the game and 12 came in the second half. The Celtics thrive on turning opponents over and converting at the other end. The Magic must take care of the ball in this series. Secondly the Magic can not afford to miss 13 free throws in a game again. They shot 20-for-33 (61 percent) from the line. Howard missed 8 of those 13 shots. He was only 6-for-14 from the free throw line and that is going to get the Magic beat.

Vince Carter was a no-show in Game 4, and he will have to play much better if the Magic are to win Game 5 and send this back to Boston. Carter was only 1-for-9 from the field and picked up too many fouls early in the game. Carter is not a good defender, he struggles to stay in front of his man one-on-one and is not tough enough to handle Ray Allen coming off screens all game. If he is not going to score points for the Magic, coach Stan Van Gundy will continue to go to Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick down the stretch of games. At some point Van Gundy will play the best competitors and I am not sure Carter is one of them.

The Celtics are a talented, veteran team that is on the verge of heading to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. However just when they have control of a series they revert back to some very bad habits. Their play in the fourth quarter last night was atrocious. They did not play smart, Celtic basketball. Rondo did not attack the basket, they played isolation one-on-one basketball and did not have the crisp ball movement they had displayed in Games 1-3.

The Celtics must be more disciplined when Howard catches the ball deep in the paint. They were fouling him earlier in the series when he caught it in front of the rim not allowing him easy dunks or layups. They must get back to that strategy. They must wrap him up and force him to make free throws. Howard was only 6-for-14 from the line and the Celtics should have fouled him 3-4 more times and made him make free throws.

The Celtics' bench must deliver in Game 5. They had outplayed the Magic bench until Game 4. The Magic bench brought tremendous energy in Game 4 with Redick delivering 12 points, and Brandon Bass also giving the Magic a boost. The Celtics got some rebounding and scoring from Glen Davis, but very little production from Tony Allen or Rasheed Wallace. The bench’s lack of production forced Doc Rivers to play Paul Pierce (47 minutes) Ray Allen (46 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (41 minutes). Those big minutes appeared to hurt the Celtics late in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Game 4 was exactly how I imagined this series. There are three games left if this series is to go seven games and two of those games are in Orlando. The Magic deserved to win Game 4. They outplayed and outfought the Celtics. If they can get the same kind of production from Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard and if they can get Vince Carter to step up his game and produce, this series could head back to Boston for Game 6.

Prediction: Magic win Game 5

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