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It's about basketball, and nothing more

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  May 28, 2010 04:54 PM

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Forget about the Bruins. Forget about "pressure." Psyche is not a factor leading up to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Magic tonight.

The one thing I can guarantee is that the game is not going to the team that plays the hardest or who believes they want it more. There is no doubt that both the Celtics and Magic are both going to bring it.

It's about making a few more shots than the other guy. Sure, that means offense, but it also means defense and they are intimately connected. It was not stressed enough in the aftermath of Games 1, 2 and 3 that, while all the attention was being focused on the Boston defense, the offense was equally effective. By making shots, and taking good shots, even if missed, the Celtics were either forcing the up-tempo Magic to take the ball out of the basket or play continually into the teeth of the formidable Boston half-court defense.

On the flip side, the Magic began figuring out said Boston defense, beginning with the idea that the best place for Dwight Howard to receive the basketball is on the left side as you face the basket, just outside the paint. He can then make his one-and-only reliable move, a right-to-left
deal (for him) that ends in his little half jump hook/half flip. He has no up-and-under. He has, sadly, (or, i should say, happily for the Celtics), no turnaround jumper. But he does have faith in that right-to-left move.

In Game 1, he got the ball too deep, and all he wanted to do was bull-in-the-china-shop people, shoulder lowered. He actually was getting the ball in better spots by Game 2. Game 3 was just a total Orlando disaster, so it doesn't count.

Beyond that, the Magic have obviously found ways to free themselves that they had not seen in Games 1,2 and 3.

Boston, meanwhile, did not move the ball well in Games 4 and 5. Period. That led to problems at both ends of the court.

What I'm saying is that Game 6 won't be about history or motivation. It is going to be about basketball, and who plays it better on this particular occasion. That may sound elementary, but too many people have lost sight of that simple fact.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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