Worst Defense of the Year? Magic 117, C’s 96
Posted by Zach Lowe on May 9, 2009
The Magic scored 117 points tonight in a (roughly) 93 possession game.
I could probably just end the recap there. (I won’t, but before I go on, yes, people will call for Perk to be suspended for Game 4, and, no, he shouldn’t be. We’ll get to this later).
The Orlando Magic shot 59 percent tonight. That is the highest shooting percentage the Celtics have allowed in a game this season. In the 91 games prior to this one, the Celtics allowed an opponent to crack 50 percent just eight times. So what happened tonight is pretty extraordinary.
Oh, and the Magic shot 36 free throws tonight; the Celtics allowed that many FTAs in regulation just six times this season.
As a fan, the impulse is always to blame your own team (or, even better, the refs) for what is, statistically, a poor defensive performance. The Celtics screwed up screen/roll, they let Anthony Johnson get into the paint, they committed silly fouls and they left three-point shooters open in the 4th quarter. It’s our fault we lost.
The reality is that Orlando creates mismatch problems all over the floor, and in some games, they are going to score a lot of points against the KG-less Celtics. This was one of those games. Dwight Howard made the highlight plays, and Anthony Johnson went from being the good story (wily old man saves the day!) to the bad story (cranky old man shoves irritating coach!). But the game comes down to this: Hedo Turkoglou and Rashard Lewis scored 52 points on 17-of-29 shooting from the floor and 13-of-15 from the line. That’s the story, and we knew this could happen without Kevin Garnett available to guard Lewis and help everywhere else.
Turk and Lewis combined to put the game away after Brian Scalabrine hit a foot-on-the-line jumper (really, enough with these) to pull the C’s to within 90-79. The next three Orlando possessions went like this:
(8:22)–Turkoglu drives from the left wing toward the lane, drawing Scalabrine away from Rashard Lewis at the top of the key. This is necessary help, but it creates exactly the problem I worried about in my post from Thursday analyzing Scal’s defense on Lewis. Namely: Turk kicks the ball out, leaving Lewis with two choices–pull the open three, or pump and drive past Scal. He chooses the latter, and Scal flies by on a strong contest of the potential three-pointer. Lewis hits a wide open 14-footer.
(7:31)–Turkoglu finds Rondo guarding him on the left wing, drives laterally into the paint and hits an easy 18-footer over Rajon.
(7:15)–This time it’s Scal on Turk along the three-point line on the left side of the court. Turk knows Scal can’t guard him off the dribble, so he fakes the dribble-drive to create a little extra space before rising and hitting a step-back three. 95-79, and that was about it.
Fouls also killed Boston tonight. Among the defining stretches of the game was the one from the 8:03 mark of the second quarter until the 3:50 mark, when Orlando stretched a four-point lead to 11. The Magic scored on eight of nine possessions in that stretch, and foul shots accounted for the points on three of the possessions.
Three times in that stretch, Rashard Lewis posted up Brian Scalabrine. He scored one field goal and drew two fouls on Scal–and made all four free throws. This is not a knock on Scal. He just can’t guard Lewis in the post, and the Magic took advantage tonight.
In all, the Celtics committed 10 fouls in the 2nd quarter. They average about six fouls per quarter. Only three were defensive fouls on shooters; one was a charge on Glen Davis (or, more accurately, a flop by Rashard Lewis) and five were defensive fouls of the non-shooting variety.
Those included three loose ball fouls in the last 1:38 of the half, when Boston was in the penalty. The last two were needless off the ball fouls by Mikki Moore (surprise!) and Pierce (guarding Lewis on another mismatch). Killer fouls that allowed Orlando to stretch the lead back from seven to 11.
Mama said there’d be games like this without KG. Let’s just accept it and move onto Game 4. Thoughts on the offense, Perk’s “elbow” and other stuff, after the jump.
• Obviously, the C’s offense didn’t perform well, making it two of three for Orlando’s league-leading defense over Boston’s top-five offense. Ray Allen was 3-of-13, and clearly the whole “Ray will torch Redick” prediction has proven false so far. Give Redick, Pietrus and Lee credit–they fight through screens well, and the Magic bigs slide up nicely when Ray makes the catch near the three-point line. We all believe Ray Allen has a big game or two in him. We need one now.
• There may not be such a thing as a hot hand, but there such things as good shooters, and when really good shooters go on random good streaks, they tend to be really, really, really good streaks. Eddie House is 24-of-31 in his last four games, including 13-of-16 from deep. Whatever they mean in the context of the hot hand debate, those are completely insane numbers.
• I think the C’s may have the jump-shooters with the quickest and slowest releases in the NBA in House and Scalabrine. Scal’s a great shooter, but, man, he needs time to lock and load.
• I do NOT want to hear any more Ewing Theory talk with Pierce. The offense was dead and ready to pack it in when Pierce started to attack the rim late in the third quarter, igniting a mini-run. He wasn’t hitting from the field tonight, but there are nights when “Pierce at the foul line” is the best weapon the Celtics have. He also had six assists, and I counted only three isolations I’d classify as “the everyone stands around isolations” that annoy us all.
• The Magic are keeping Rondo away from the rim. Not out of the paint, but away from the rim. The distinction is important, and it’s one Jon Barry brought up several times last night. They are making Rondo take floaters instead of lay-ups. Dwight Howard probably has a lot to do with this.
• Finally, we get to Perk. There are going to be calls for Perk to be suspended for his “elbow” to Mickael Pietrus’s throat/neck area. Call me a homer, but this does not warrant a suspension. I’m not even sure it was technically an “elbow.” It was sort of a forearm/elbow combination that was not much different from what Perk (or any other big man) would do to clear space/ward off another player. I didn’t see intent behind it, and the league has clearly indicated that–right or wrong–intent is what matters.
Matt Moore covered this nicely on Hardwood Paroxysm today. Flagrants that have sent guys to the hospital (or, ahem, bloodied up Brad Miller’s face before crucial foul shots) have not resulted in suspensions–because they were “plays on the ball” that didn’t look like unseemly attempts to injure someone. On the other hand, mean-looking elbow swings (hi, D12) that make minimal contact and silly-looking slaps that look bad or have bad intentions behind them–that’s where the league is coming down hard.
Perk’s flagrant doesn’t fall into the latter category, and Pietrus did not get hurt. Under the standards the league has set in the last two weeks, Perk doesn’t deserve a suspension. And just so we’re clear, the league’s elbow rules mandate an ejection for any elbow above the shoulder level, not a suspension. Suspensions are at the commish’s discretion in these cases.
• That’s it for now. Is Game 4 a must-win? I’ve always disagreed with that notion if the team down 2-1 has home court. I don’t think falling down 3-1 is insurmountable if you only need one road win (Game 6) to take the series. But 2-2 is much nicer.