Looking ahead to the Conference Finals, here is a recap of Game 2 from the series between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. Just like in the first round, we are taking a confident stand towards the Cavaliers playoff hopes, and this post looks to serve that exact purpose.
In other NBA news, the Boston Celtics fought back to win game two 112-94 and tie their series with the Orlando Magic. The Celtics jumped out to an early 20-10 advantage then built the lead up to as nineteen in the first half before holding on to beat the Magic. Game one was an early rout for Orlando as them built up a 28-point lead before holding on to win by five, and this series is starting to look like the exact inverse of the first round series between Miami and Atlanta.
The surprising storyline in game two was the hot shooting of reserve guard Eddie House. The 6-foot-1 product of Arizona State scored a playoff career-high and matched his regular season career-high with 31 points on 11-14 shooting including nailing all four of his three balls. While the bench and specifically Mickael Pietrus were instrumental in giving Orlando the 1-0 edge in the series, the Boston bench out-scored the Orlando bench 43-29 in this one for the win.
Rajon Rondo picked up his third triple-double of these playoffs with a 15 point, 18 assist, and 11 rebound game after only having two in his first 235 regular season games. As a team, the he Celtics shot 51.3% from the court and won the rebounding edge 41-34. I remember turning on the game mid-way through the second quarter, and hearing that at the time the Celtics had 20 assists and 22 field goal makes, and in the end they finished with 34 assists on 41-84 shooting. I am not sure if that is a playoff record for a team on only 41 field goal makes, but it is probably very close and that is what Rondo is doing in the playoffs this year.
While Rondo has starred this series with a triple-double average, and the combination of Ray Allen/Paul Pierce have flip-flopped twenty point games, Rafer Alston has disappeared for the Magic (outside of simply slapping House). He was a huge key in round one against Philadelphia, and his presence all year for Orlando helped them to make due without All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson. Through two games against Boston, he is now shooting 6-22 from the field, 0-6 from threes, with a combined 15 points, 12 assists and 7 turnovers. Rondo had as many points and way more assists in game two alone, and I guess his defense on Alston is being under-rated as well.
The series now shifts to Orlando with the Celtics regaining a big dose of momentum with this rout. Game one proved that this series will be very competitive, but in game two the Celtics showed that they are not done yet. They are a very scrappy team right now led by Rondo, and if they are able to split the two games in Orlando, the series is tied and heads back to Boston for two out of the last three games. That is definitely the goal for Boston and Coach Doc Rivers right now, as a win in game three would just about lock it up for them.
I have a spreadsheet with the last ten years of playoff information, and I remember discovering how important it is for the initial home team heading into a game three with the series tied at one. If Orlando wins, according to these numbers, they will still have about a 60% chance of winning the entire series heading into a pivotal game four. If Boston wins game three, on the other hand, the series shifts big-time and their odds of winning the rest of the series become about 80%. Not too many teams, especially one as young and streaky as Orlando, would be able to withstand the giant momentum shift that would come with a second straight Boston victory.
In addition, Orlando has to find ways to hold back Boston’s shooters, and create easy opportunities for Dwight Howard inside. Boston lit up this game big-time with a combined 53 points from just Ray Allen and Eddie House, while Dwight Howard continues to struggle offensively and so far in the series, is 11-25 from the field and 6-13 from the free throw line for 28 total points. It is so bad for Superman right now that even Big Baby Davis is out-playing him offensively in these two games, as he is 10-15 from the field for 25 total points.
In game three the Magic will welcome back starting rookie guard Courtney Lee, and will try to stop this series from becoming a Boston blow-out. Chicago found a way to wear down Boston and Rajon Rondo by the end of that series, but Orlando has yet to find an answer defensively for this team. If Courtney Lee and Dwight Howard can re-gain their offensive flow from the first round where they combined to average 36.6 points on 58.8% shooting, then the Magic will at least be able to counter Boston’s great offense. Otherwise, this series could get ugly real fast and the Celtics could be headed to the Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
Game Recap: http://espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=290506002
Magic Recap: http://www.orlandomagicdaily.com/?p=307&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1
Celtics Recap: http://www.redsarmy.com/home/2009/05/thats-more-like-it.html