“Black Magic” makes Celts vanish; Yao goes warrior-style in L.A.

05.05.09 10 years ago 66 Comments

Everybody who had the Lakers coasting to the Finals and playing the winner of Cavs/Celtics has something to think about now. Yesterday we saw both underdog road teams, Orlando over Boston and Houston over L.A., take homecourt for the time being with a pair of well-executed W’s … You figured Boston would have trouble early on after their grueling first-round series, and the Magic took advantage. Falling behind by 18 at halftime, the Celtics couldn’t figure out what to do with Rashard Lewis (18 pts, 7 rebs, 3 stls). Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby each got turns, as did Brian Scalabrine. If you’re Rashard, you’re making more than $100 million worth of contract and a team is actually having Brian Scalabrine check you in a playoff game, you should be going to the rack or dropping threes on him every possession just on general principle … Orlando stretched the lead to 28 in the third quarter when Big Baby got clobbered going to the basket and while Doc Rivers ignored what was happening on the court to scream at the refs, J.J. Redick hit a three to cap an 11-0 run. Reggie Miller admonished Big Baby for not getting back on D, not seeing that he was busy holding his head after taking a hard shot … Two minutes into the fourth quarter, though, Boston cut the lead to 10 after Eddie House hit a three and Rajon Rondo (14 pts, 10 rebs, 8 asts, 3 stls, 7 turnovers) got a steal and a dunk. What exactly was KG doing when the camera cut to him after the dunk and he was making a “walking” motion with his fingers and flashing an evil grin? It looked like he was talking sh*t to somebody on the Magic, but we all know KG isn’t like that. After an Orlando timeout, Rondo forced Rafer Alston into an over-and-back when he did the cagey vet move of using his knee against the back of Rafer’s knee to knock the ball away … Boston was down nine late in the fourth when Rondo almost committed a stupid turnover by letting the ball roll itself up the court. After Rafer dove on it (and failed to call “FIRST!”), Rondo snatched it back and fired a pass from his knees to Scal, who hit a three. Paul Pierce (23 pts) hit a three right after that to cut the lead to six with under three minutes to go, then Big Baby converted an up-and-under layup that was just like Michael Jordan‘s special move on Bulls vs. Blazers. With a chance to make it a one possession game, the C’s came up empty twice in the final minute when Ray Allen (9 pts, 2-12 FG) lost the ball off his knee, then had a three hit 18 parts of the rim before popping out. Hedo gave it right back on an inexcusable (albeit close) eight-second violation, but Pierce missed a tough runner and it was Redick making free throws after that … Dwight Howard (16 pts, 22 rebs, 3 blks) was not happy with how his team almost blew the game, as he mentioned to David Aldrige several times during the Longest On-Court Post-Game Interview Ever. Dwight only smiled when he revealed his newest nickname: “Black Magic.” And of course he got on Twitter later Monday night and asked the fans what the Magic need to work on (and asked that they don’t respond with negativity) …

Give the Boston crowd some credit: They never think their team is out of it, and their energy only helped the Celtics during their second-half comeback. If that were the Lakers or Miami about to get 30-pieced in the third quarter, half of the fans would be back in their homes before the game was over … Funny moment when Rondo airballed a free throw and Reggie Miller was utterly stunned. Reggie probably never aired a FT in his life. He probably still at least gets rim every time he tosses balled-up paper into the trash can … Somebody get ahold of Marv Albert and tell him he can’t say, “Oh what a move by Rondo!” anymore from here on out. That goes for every other player, too. “Oh what a move by” should be reserved for #23 … Charles Barkley on Perkins: “Not in his wildest damn dreams can he guard Dwight Howard.” To his credit, though, Perk (16 rebs, 3 blks) did get Dwight a couple times, blocking that right-hand hook that Dwight likes … Give Scalabrine his due for playing the game of his life (10 pts), but why does he get treated like the “special” kid in school? Whenever Veal does something that any player with common sense would do, he gets praised for making the “smart” play. Deciding not to challenge Dwight Howard under the basket and passing to somebody else? “Smart play by Scalabrine.” Calling a timeout when he’s trapped in a corner and picks up his dribble? “Smart play by Scalabrine.” These are plays that anybody from Andray Blatche to Tony Allen would make. (Well, maybe not Tony Allen) … A lot was made about Kobe being sick — although surprisingly not very many swine flu jokes — for the last couple days, and he arrived at the Staples Center for Game 1 of Lakers/Rockets wearing what looked like one of Shaq‘s old sweaters and a pair of Mom jeans. That’s not against the dress code? … The Rockets then went about making Kobe’s night even rougher, throwing everything they had plus the kitchen sink and the bathroom mirror at Mamba on defense. Rick Adelman‘s strategy was to clog the lane and force Kobe to kick the ball out — which he had to do when he’d drive with Shane Battier on his hip, Yao Ming at the rim, and Ron Artest and Luis Scola coming in with hands swarming in a wall of red … Kobe finished with 32 points (14-31 FG), but his kick-out options weren’t delivering. Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujacic went a combined 0-for-10 beyond the arc, and Kobe himself was 1-for-7 from three. The Lakers’ offense struggled all night, and Houston led for most of the game …

With five minutes left, the Rockets were up by eight when Kobe drove and banged knees with Yao (28 pts, 10 rebs). Seeing Yao on the ground yelling and grabbing his knee probably caused a pandemic of puking across Texas and China, but Yao only went to the tunnel for a minute, stretched out the knee, gritted his teeth and came right back in after missing a few seconds of gametime. Who says Yao isn’t a warrior? Right after getting back out there, Yao hit a long jumper to stretch the lead to six, and down the stretch was money from the free throw line to help seal the win … Battier took an elbow to the face from Vujacic and ended up with more blood on his face than Flipper from “Daisy of Love.” It was nasty, but at least Battier wasn’t dumb enough to start spitting it on people … If Artest (21 pts, 7 rebs, 7-15 FG) is this efficient on offense throughout the series, L.A. is gonna have a problem on their hands. Ron-Ron got a lefty driving dunk amongst the trees in the first quarter, and in the fourth hit a tough fadeaway in the lane over Ariza … Jay-Z was in the building with Diddy. And apparently Jigga only trusts his barber in New York, ’cause it looks like Hov hasn’t had a cut in a good month and a half … LeBron was officially crowned MVP yesterday, and by a wider margin than we expected. ‘Bron got 109 of the 121 first-place votes; D-Wade got seven, Kobe and Chris Paul each got two, and Dwight got one. In the total scoring, though, Kobe finished second ahead of Wade. Dwight was fourth and CP was fifth, followed in order by Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Brandon Roy, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and Yao. Does Tommy Heinsohn have a ballot? That’s about the only way we could see Pierce getting a third-place vote. Other than that, the only real weird result was Wade getting FOUR fifth-place votes, and Kobe getting two fifth-place votes … We’re out like Black Magic …

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