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Magic know to do job, perimeter game needed

The Celtics’ rotation of big men frustrated Dwight Howard in Game 1, and the Magic star’s task wasn’t made any easier by largely off-target Orlando outside shooting. The Celtics’ rotation of big men frustrated Dwight Howard in Game 1, and the Magic star’s task wasn’t made any easier by largely off-target Orlando outside shooting. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 18, 2010

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MAITLAND, Fla. — Rashard Lewis knew what he had to do after going 0 for 6 from 3-point range in Sunday’s 92-88 loss to the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

He took one look at the box score, winced at the goose egg beneath the column that read “3P,’’ and resolved to report to practice yesterday to address the issue the only way he knew how.

“I got up a million shots,’’ Lewis said after practice at the RDV Sportsplex. “I’ve got to learn to do my part. I’ve got to knock down open 3-pointers in order to bring the defense out.’’

Asked if he made the first of his “million’’ attempts, Lewis emphatically replied, “Oh yeah. I made a lot more after that, too. I just wish Game 2 was [yesterday].’’

The Magic were an inside-out team this season, with a squadron of perimeter scorers surrounding Dwight Howard in the low post.

That identity was reinforced in the first two rounds of the playoffs when the Magic swept the Bobcats and Hawks, hitting 37.5 percent of their treys against the Bobcats and 39.3 percent against the Hawks.

But when the Magic converted just 5 of 22 attempts from behind the arc Sunday, missing nine in a row before Jameer Nelson knocked down Orlando’s first trey 25 seconds into the second half, it had become apparent there would be little inside threat from Howard, who had to fight his own battles underneath, without much help from the perimeter players.

“The thing is, it’s not about shooting the three or anything like that,’’ said Nelson in anticipation of Game 2 tonight at Amway Arena. “It’s a big part of our game, but we just want to play aggressive. I think we played on our heels a little bit and we were letting them attack us.’’

It was the Celtics’ Paul Pierce who drilled a game-opening trey, and Boston wound up converting 6 of 14 attempts, with Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rasheed Wallace knocking down two apiece.

“I think they made a real concerted effort to stay home and to take that away and I thought they did a very good job of that,’’ said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy about the Celtics’ perimeter defense. “But with anything you take away, there’s other things there, and we weren’t able to take advantage. I thought because of them staying home, we got more drives to the basket than we normally get, but at the same time we didn’t convert a high enough percentage of those.’’

“I thought we were able to get the ball into the paint to Dwight more than we normally do when teams are collapsing, but again, we did not convert on those opportunities,’’ Van Gundy added. “If we don’t do that, and they’re staying home on perimeter guys, then clearly we have a problem. As a good offensive team, you have to take advantage of whatever the defense gives you.’’

The Magic know they must establish more of an outside presence.

“It’s very important, that’s a big part of our game,’’ said forward Matt Barnes. “Not to take anything away from them, they played great defense. We weren’t just missing our shots. A majority of them were contested shots. I just think the rhythm being a little off, and us not really focusing and bringing intensity, all that will change. I think it was a good wake-up call for us.’’

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we may have been feeling ourselves a little too much,’’ added Barnes, referring to the Magic’s 8-0 start in the playoffs. “They came in and kicked our [butts] and we’re going to get back to work.’’

For Lewis, that meant reawakening his 3-point stroke from its slumber after a five-day hiatus between Game 4 of the conference semis and Game 1 of the conference finals.

“I have to do my part,’’ Lewis said. “I have to find the open 3-pointers in order to bring the defense out, make Kevin Garnett come out to the perimeter, and that opens up the paint for me to drive to the basket or get somebody else open shots.’’

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