Doc Rivers didn’t mince words when it came to his feelings about his teams status among the league’s elite. They’re 4-10 against the teams currently seated in the league’s Top 10.
“One of the guys said, ‘We’re better than Orlando.’ And I said, ‘No you’re not. That’s a bunch of crap. They beat you three games. Two at your place. They’re better. They knocked you out of the playoffs last year. Orlando’s better than us right now. Atlanta’s better than us right now. LA’s better than us right now. Those are the teams that have beaten us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be better than them at some point. But right now, those teams are better than us.”
KNEE FINE FOR PIERCE, OUTCOME DISAPPOINTS GARNETT
With Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels back in the lineup it was the first time the Celtics had been at full strength since training camp. A loss — to the team that bounced them from the playoffs no less — was frustrating.
Garnett: It’s unpleasant, we don’t like that at all. Our goal is to establish home court and try to add that as an advantage and we really haven’t done that consistently, at least against good teams. That’s something we gotta get better at going into the break and second half.
Once a team that was eying 72 wins, the Celtics just took their 17th loss and Gary Washburn says this is a team that has to learn how to beat the elite.
It seems like this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for coach Doc Rivers. It seems that he’s going to put his foot on the neck of these players as far as being more disciplined being more focused and not falling apart in critical stretches.
CELTICS FALL TO MAGIC FOR A THIRD TIME
Two weeks ago, the Celtics waited until the fourth quarter to let a 14-point lead slip away and hand Orlando a 96-94 win. This time they built another double-digit lead. It didn’t hold up nearly as long.
After going up 51-40 in the first half behind sound defense that created easy offense, the Celtics gave it all back in the third quarter, letting the Magic shoot 70.6 percent from the floor and outscore them 36-11 in the period, Orlando going up 76-62 by the end of the third and never looking back.
The Magic dealt the Celtics a 96-89 loss, giving Orlando wins in three of the four meetings between the two teams this season and snapping a three-game winning streak that had seemed to get the Celtics out of the funk they had fallen into during a run of games against Orlando, Atlanta and Los Angeles where they went winless.
Vince Carter led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting, and after playing just eight minutes in the first half Dwight Howard notched his league-leading 39th double-double with 16 points and 13 boards.
Paul Pierce played 30 minutes and scored 13 points in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a foot strain, but hit just two shots in the second half.
Rajon Rondo flirted with a triple-double with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Kevin Garnett was as effective on the glass as he’s been since his return, grabbing nine rebounds to go with 13 points.
The Celtics went 5 for 20 in the third quarter while Orlando made its push. They never recovered. The Magic swept the two meetings at the Garden and now hold the head-to-head tie breaker for the playoffs. The Celtics, Hawks and Magic all battling for second and trying to make up ground on Cleveland, which is seven games ahead of the pack.
IN GAME UPDATES
90-79, Magic, 3:37: Ray Allen drove baseline and drew some contact from Dwight Howard. Whether it was a foul is debatable, but Allen didn’t get it. The next possession, Dwight Howard was fouled by Glen Davis and made 1 of 2 free throws. making it an 11-point game. If you’re keeping track of such things, the second-half foul count: Boston 14, Orlando 8. Fans are starting to head out.
89-79, Magic, 4:10: Glen Davis missed a couple of free throws that would have eaten into the Magic’s lead. They look a little more crucial after Kevin Garnett threw down a dunk while being fouled and then knocked down the ensuing free throw. What would have been an 8-point game with 5 minutes left is a 10-point game with 4 left.
89-74, Magic, 7:09: Mickael Pietras just drilled a 3 from in front of the Celtics bench, trotting back on defense flashing the three fingers and the circle as one fan shouted, ‘Put Cedric Maxwell in the game!”
84-71, Magic: After falling behind by as many as 17, the Cs were able to close it to 84-71 on a long-J from Eddie House. It was initially ruled a 3 but after review, his foot was on the line.
76-62, Magic, END OF THIRD: The Cs were riding smoothly for 24 minutes then the wheels started falling off. The Magic shot 12 of 17 in the quarter, they got to the paint at will (12 points there in the quarter after scoring 14 in all of the first half), and knocked down 3s (4 of 5), ultimately outscoring the Cs 36-11 in the third.
Dwight Howard’s got a double-double double already with 11 points and 10 boards.
The Celtics missed 10 of their 14 shots in the quarter. After scoring 11 first-half points, Ray Allen missed all four of his third-quarter attempts.
The Celtics have had to come from behind in the fourth quarter twice in the past three games, beating Washington and New Jersey in the fourth quarter. But on the year, they’re 6-10 when they trail after 3. The Magic, on the other hand are 28-5 when they’re up going into the final frame.
70-60, Magic 3:08: Quick turnaround here. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis knocked down two 3s, Dwight Howard got an easy dunk, Jameer Nelson swooped in for an easy layup and the Celtics are down 10 after being up 11 at the half.
60-60, 4:34: The Magic erased the Celtics 11-point halftime lead
Obviously having Dwight Howard on the floor helps out. He only played about 8 first-half minutes with 3 fouls.
He’s scored seven points so far this quarter, going to the line for three of them.
Orlando’s made made seven of their 11 third quarter shots. Boston’s made 4 of 8 shots, and they’re going with Rasheed Wallace instead of Kendrick Perkins on Dwight Howard.
57-46, Celtics 9:03: Kevin Garnett just got his first three buckets of
the night, hitting a jumper on the left side, throwing down a Rondo lob with a one-handed dunk, then popping out and finishing a Ray Allen pass by knocking down and open J. He’s got 6 points and five boards. Rondo’s making it a point t get him involved offensively.
51-40 Celtics: Rajon Rondo took over the final four minutes of the second quarter, playing a hand in all of the 13 points the Celtics scored to close out the half.
He had the kickout on Ray Allen’s 3 from the left wing. He stopped and hit a free-throw line jumper. He salvaged a busted play and whipped a behind the back pass to Paul Pierce for another 3. He sliced through the lane, and made a tough layup, getting the foul and knocking down the free throw. And finally, he hooked Ray Allen up with a dish that led to a layup and gave the Celtics an 11 point lead.
He’s got 11 points and 4 assists so far, and the Celtics are shooting 48.8 percent from the floor. A more important number might be the 39.5 percent that Orlando’s shooting from the floor. The Celtics have looked better offensively in their last three games, but defensively they allowed Washington and Miami to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and New Jersey shot 44 percent.
The Magic missed 11 of their last 12 shorts to end the half. They went 5 for 20 in the second quarter.
Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat are rectifying that problem by coming out early and … chucking up shots from halfcourt.
46-36 Celtics: So when Doc Rivers said he wanted Rajon Rondo to get all the showtime stuff out of his system at the All-Star game, this was the kind of stuff he was probably talking about.
Rondo dribbled through traffic, almost lost his dribble, gathered it, surveyed the court, threw a behind the back pass to Paul Pierce in the corner and Pierce drained it to open up a 10-point Celtics lead.
Textbook? Not really. Effective? Absolutely.
38-34, Celtics: The Magic went on a 7-0 run on buckets from Howard, Carter (a 3) and Jason Williams. Carter did a little jawing with Rasheed Wallace, it didn’t appear to be anything more than two UNC guys going back and forth.
Wallace popped a long 2 from the wing opposite the Cs bench and Glen Davis spun off Ryan Anderson for a fall away jumpshot that put the Cs back up 4.
32-27, Celtics, 9:18: Marquis Daniels scored 6 of 8 points for the Celtics, abusing J.J. Redick by working the short to mid-range game. His 6 points leads a Boston bench that’s outscored Orlando 14-6 so far.
26-25, Celtics: Marquis Daniels scored his first points since December, hitting a turnaround in the lane over J.J. Redick on his first shot of the night.
24-23, Celtics, END OF FIRST: Marquis Daniels got a pretty nice welcome-back ovation, taking the floor for the first time since Dec. 4. Doc put him in for Rajon Rondo for a negligible possession with four seconds left in the first quarter. Eddie House gave a foul, then Marcin Gortat chucked up a three that hit the bottom of the backboard.
With Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Eddie House, and Rasheed Wallace, on the floor with Rajon Rondo, the Celtics made a 6-4 push to take the lead going into the second.
Orlando’s hitting its 3s (3 of 6) and also shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Boston’s getting to the free throw line (6 of 6).
19-16, Magic, 2:12: Nelson just knocked down another long J. The Celtics have missed their last seven shots from the floor.
17-16, Magic, 3:24: Jameer Nelson just knocked down a 3 after Perkins missed a turnaround, giving the Magic their first lead.
12-10, Celtics, 6:31: The Dwight Howard-Kendrick Perkins matchup is always entertaining. Howard’s missed his first two shots. He also grabbed his groin area, complaining that Perkins (who guards him pretty physically) got him below the belt.
12-8, Celtics, 7:40: Paul Pierce just scored his second bucket of the night, cutting by Vince Carter and then beating Dwight Howard with a reverse. Matt Barnes is working hard for the Magic, he’s got 6 of their 8.
PREGAME: Stan’s plan for All-Star minutes
With Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce all headed to Dallas, Doc Rivers was hoping All-Star coach Stan Van Gundy would cut his three starters some slack. Van Gundy talked a little about minutes and also about what it’s like for him to have the honor to coach the game.
“For somebody like me as opposed to Doc it may be different because I was pretty damn old before I even thought about being a part of the NBA. Doc was a player and the whole thing. I sort of walked in there. And it hit me the last time and I’m sure it’ll hit me next Sunday, basically, ‘What the hell am I doing here?'” It’s a pretty amazing thing.”
As far as minutes, Van Gundy said there’s really no reason to run the Celtics stars into the ground since this is the last time they’ll see each other in the regular season.
He’s got a better chance of me resting his guys because we don’t play them again. If we played them the week after the all star game they’d all go about 42 minutes. With us not playing them again I can’t really get much out of burying them.
Rivers said everyone’s a go tonight including Pierce and Marquis Daniels. He said he’d keep an eye on Pierce. “If he moves like yesterday, he’s not going to play a lot. But part of that might have been him trying to test it out trying to see what he could do and what he couldn’t do. I talked to him today and he said it felt good, so we’ll see.”
The issue with Daniels, obviously, is his comfort with the system. “Health-wise he’s fine,” Rivers said. “But Marquis is a little more difficult because he hasn’t played. It’s not like he’s been here for five years and he can just walk out on the floor and know the system. If we do play Marquis, then we just have to limit what we do just so we can have some continuity.”
Rivers said that even though the best-cased scenario would obviously be to a roster at full strength the entire season, having this game and Wednesday’s game in New Orleans to get Pierce and Daniels re-acclimated could be helpful for rhythm in the second half.
“It gives us a chance to come out of break in better rhythm,” Rivers said. “By those two guys playing and getting some sort of rhythm it gives us a chance to come out of all-star break at full-stride and that would be great.”
WELCOME TO THE GARDEN
It’s Super Sunday. But before Colts-Saints, you’ve got Celtics-Magic.
For the record, Doc Rivers is taking the Saints (because no one’s said a word about them besides “Who Dat” all week) and Dwight Howard has the Colts (because he’s allegedly a lifelong fan).
As for basketball, the Cs are tied with the Magic for second place in the Eastern Conference.
They’re both seven games behind Cleveland and this guy, and with the way the Cavs are playing it looks like Atlanta, Boston, Orlando are battling for second.
Boston’s won three straight, but wins over bad Washington and worse New Jersey weren’t exactly reason to celebrate. That said, Orlando just lost to Washington. So things could be worse.
“I think rebounding is a concern, but I don’t think it’s any one individual. The guys that we have are proven rebounders and they have to do a better job of rebounding. We were one of the best rebounding teams the last two years, and right now, we’re not. We’re not rebounding the ball well enough to be a championship team.’’
When the Magic and Celtics get together, you actually feel sorry for referees, what with all the caustic complaining from tip-off to final horn. Divorce attorneys ought to officiate them.
If the NBA really wanted to punish Tim Donaghy, authorities would make him work every Magic-Celtics game.
Dwight Howard’s 11 techs puts him three techs behind Rasheed Wallace.
“I can say some of the coolest things on the court and still get a tech,” Howard said, referring to his “And 1!” remark to a ref recently after making a shot and getting the foul call, plus a tech.
“A lot of this stuff I do I should get techs for, but I don’t know … Sometimes, I don’t think it’s fair. It happens. I just got to try not to let it affect my play.”