Choking In Boston….
Could the Orlando Magic do any more to blow a pivotal Game 5 on the road last night? Up 85-75 with 5:39 left to play, Orlando watched Boston end the game on a 17-3 run. The Magic were thoroughly out-hustled, they turned it over, took terrible shots and never got the ball to Dwight Howard in the final minutes. Well, save the inbounds play with 5.9 seconds remaining when Orlando passed it in to their worst free throw shooter. Maybe there was a little substance to Shaquille O’Neal’s labeling of Stan Van Gundy as the “Master of panic.” Van Gundy was far from impressive in his late-game play calling and game management. Howard took exception to his lack of touches and Van Gundy could now have a problem. But the Magic have got to execute better. Rashard Lewis bricked two late 3-pointers and had a costly turnover down the stretch while struggling to defend Glen “Big Baby” Davis on the perimeter at the other end. Davis hit two jumpers in Lewis’ grill to start the run. Orlando also let Stephon Marbury of all people take over the game at the start of the fourth by scoring 12 points in the period. Orlando deserves to lose this series in Game 6. To me, this was more of a case of Orlando losing the game than Boston winning it. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins all had off nights and the Magic couldn’t take advantage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was forced to go with a lineup of Marbury, Eddie House, Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and Davis early in the fourth because so many of his key guys weren’t getting it done. I’ll give Boston credit for this much, when Rondo, Pierce and Perkins did finally check back in they turned up the defensive effort and closed it out. And that comeback was enough to deliver the defending champions (technically) a scent of blood and two games to get one W…………I use the phrase defending champions loosely because this Celtics team is far from the team we saw signing, dancing and shouting “Anything’s Possible.” last June. Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe are both out with knee injuries. James Posey is in New Orleans. P.J. Brown is retired. And Ray Allen is averaging one good game every two outings. That leaves Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as the Cs best offensive options. And one of those guys can’t shoot. Add Perkins to that mix and those are the only remaining defenders Boston has. Scalabrine and Davis play hard on D, and House and Marbury can get it going offensively. But if those are the guys the Celtics are banking on to repeat it ain’t happenin’……….I swear I kept seeing D.J. White seated behind the basket closest to the Magic’s bench. Looked like he was wearing a Reds baseball cap.
It’s over! Consider the Lakers’ 40-point win last night a message L.A. sent to Houston and the remaining playoff teams. A warning that says “Don’t count us out just yet.” Yes, the Lakers have had their rocky moments. But like most things coming out of L.A. it’s been overblown. The Lakers have had one bad game, the rout in Houston in Game 4. They brought little energy and effort and were outplayed by an undermanned Rockets team fueled on emotion due to the loss of Yao Ming. But I chalk up the Game 1 loss to the Lakers’ time off between the first and second round. Tuesday night’s game showed that the Lakers are finally putting it all together. For the first time, the Lakers’ entire supporting cast played well. Well, save Derek Fisher. Andrew Bynum finally played halfway decently. Phil Jackson is finally smartening up and playing Jordan Farmar. And Trevor Ariza is hitting shots. I expect the Lakers to close out this series Thursday night in Houston, not wanting to give the Nuggets any extra time to rest up after their likely close out of Dallas tonight.
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