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Defensive buzz

Key to last-second win wasn't Celtic offense

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By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / May 12, 2009
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The Celtics have been innovative in producing victories during the playoffs.

They owed their 95-94 Game 4 win over Orlando Sunday night to a surprising buzzer-beating jumper from Glen Davis. But the key was defending on the perimeter and limiting the penetration of the Magic's ballhandlers. That enabled the Celtics to stay in command for most of the contest, despite getting little production from their bench and another rough shooting night from Ray Allen.

In a 21-point defeat in Game 3, the Celtics' reserves provided 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting. In Game 4, only Stephon Marbury's bank shot in the first half kept the Boston bench from going scoreless. But the reserves did contribute to a concerted defensive approach that made the difference.

The Magic committed only eight turnovers Sunday after having 17 in Game 3. The Celtics had only three steals in Game 4, eight fewer than in Game 3. But the Celtics mostly followed their orders to play straight-up, fundamental defense without gambling. Allen (0 for 5) and Eddie House failed to connect on a 3-pointer, but one reason for their lack of production is that they joined Rajon Rondo in tightening up the perimeter defense, harassing Orlando into 5-for-27 shooting from 3-point range.

It took an improved effort on the defensive end for the Celtics to overcome their outside shooting deficiencies, finishing 1 of 10 from deep. Allen is 3 for 24 on 3-pointers in this series.

"You don't want to go down, 3-1," center Kendrick Perkins said. "We had worked so hard the whole game defensively. Now we go back, 2-2, for Game 5 and it's like we're ready for this. We go back to Boston and we know our crowd will be fired up, so we'll be all right."

Perkins injured his left shoulder late in the game when he collided with Orlando center Dwight Howard.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I was 100 percent but I don't think anybody is really 100 percent in the playoffs," Perkins said. "It's going to take time.

"Getting tangled up with Dwight and banging with Dwight [caused the injury]. At the time it was so much pain. I usually can take it but at the time I just couldn't take it. Luckily, we end up winning the game, because that was a big possession."

For the second time in three weeks, the Celtics will be home for a series-turning Game 5.

"It's like last series, deja vu," Rondo said. "It's two different teams but we're in the same situation.

"We lost in the first game and we tried to get a win [in Orlando] and we did. I think it's better to get the win in the second game because the momentum changes, especially after the shot that Baby made. It doesn't get any better than that.

"It's big for us to get back in the driver's seat. We could've been down, 3-1, if Baby missed that shot. Heads would have been down. A lot of fingers would have been pointed, but we don't do too much of that.

"We try to stick together. We've handled adversity before but we've never been down, 3-1. Our backs have been against the wall a lot of times and we've handled it very well. We have a never-give-up type of mentality.

"We have to take care of business. They took the first game at home. I know they think they can win in our building. From the jump, we have to silence them early - don't give them confidence."

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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