April 24, 2014

Keeping An Eye on the Magic/Celtics

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

  • TampaBrett

    God I hate the Celtics, but can’t help want them to win so we can beat them. I like how Eddie House in an interview said (after he go slapped) that those were bush tactics and they don’t play that way. Wow…just wow…that slap in head must have knocked something loose, or maybe he was too busy doing something else on the bench with all of their incidents.

  • adam

    boot, does orlando have to win games 3 AND 4 at home to win the series? if they drop one what are their chances of winning?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Don’t know exactly what the numbers are, left my flash drive in my laptop at home. But if the Celtics do manage to turn this thing to 2-2 and heading back to Boston for game 5, they have to be the favorites to finish it out.

    I would guess that when it is 2-2 in the current format of 7-game playoff series, the initial home team would usually manage to take care of business. This would mean that Orlando would have to take another game in Boston, and that would be very tough to do. I’ll get back to you with some exact numbers later tonight.

  • TampaBrett

    I honestly don’t see Orlando winning another game. Ray Allen and Pierce haven’t even got started this series yet.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Does anyone think that if Boston makes it to the next round, we see KG come back?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I think he’s so intense that he’ll stare a hole through anything between him and the Championship Trophy. Including Bill Russell.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Honestly Scott, I don’t think so. All reports were saying that he wouldn’t be back this season, and I think the media just keeps hyping it up so much more than necessary. Not like I think it will even matter though. The Celtics are a very scrappy and cutthroat team right now, but I think the Cavaliers are playing so much better that a 7-game series with them would not be that close.

  • mgbode

    Rondo had a very good game for him….but he only shot 7/19 in a game where they guarded the other 4 guys on the court most of the time and left him alone. not quite to the extent that we did last year, but the same general principle.

    where he has learned to take advantage of this style of defense (since he cannot hit jump shots) is he now drives to the basket and hits the weakside post-player with a pass.

    I would be surprised if he could do this well against our defense….don’t expect 18 assist games if they win this series…and definitely don’t expect the uncontested layups and dunks he got either.

  • adam

    rivers and ainge both have said time and again KG is done for the playoffs and even thought the celtics could be using that as a smoke screen ill take home court advantage in that series where the road team hasnt won in over 2 years.

    whew thats one long sentence

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I think if KG comes back it’ll be to the detriment of his team. He won’t be able to move around the court as well as when healthy, and everyone will expect him to be Paul Pierce Willis Reed v2.0. He would just end up taking minutes away from the guys that have been playing fairly well to this point. The “emotional boost” that the team would get would be negated by the fact that they’d be playing with a starting center with one knee.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Three years actually Adam haha. I would actually agree with you there Denny, I can’t imagine KG would play well upon his return from serious knee problems. IF he does come back, he would be a fraction of his 2009 self, which is also a fraction of his prime back when he won MVP and led the T’Wolves to the conference finals.

  • B-bo

    The thought of Mo trying to stay with Rondo gives me nightmares. If Rodney Stuckey was routinely working him over, I don’t like his chances of stopping the league’s hottest point guard right now. And calling Rhonda that makes me queasy, but it’s true.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    That Rhonda, so hot right now…

  • B-bo

    Mo needs to bust out “Blue Steel”

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Getting back to you on that earlier comment Adam, the initial home team wins 72.7% of series that are tied at 2-2 going back to their home court. In addition, the numbers from above that I guessed are 60.9% and 85.7% exactly.