You still gotta play the game. Boston head coach Doc Rivers pounded that into the heads of his players after they went up 3-0 on the Orlando Magic. All the numbers, stats and unblemished records of teams in that situation don’t mean anything until you finish it.
Some numbers that do actually mean something: 7 and 0. 7 is Rashard Lewis‘ points per game average, despite his “breakout” performance in Game 4. And 0 is the amount of heart/balls/fortitude/any type of emotion whatsoever that Vince Carter has shown all series. The Magic won’t survive another night if those two don’t eat their Wheaties. Here are three more keys for the Magic to extend it back to Boston.
Key #1: Attack the rim
Jeff Van Gundy must have said it a dozen times on Monday night. He begged Jameer Nelson to turn the corner on every screen-roll and pleaded for VC to resort to anything besides a weak fallaway. When the Magic did go at the hoop, it often resulted in layups, corner threes off kickouts or lobs to Dwight Howard. Compare that to the first three games when the Celtics’ defensive walls pushed everyone to the perimeter.
It’s really not even about the free-throw line – the Magic were 20-33 from there in Game 4 – but more about spacing the floor. You can’t shoot threes if defenders are overplaying 25 feet from the hoop. Atlanta yielded to Orlando on every possession. The Celtics are snatching the right a way. That attack mentality is a Magic must.
Key #2: Limit the Truth’s free-throw attempts
Paul Pierce shot double digit free throws in three of the series’ first four games, and is averaging over 24 points a game. His consistency has offset any offensive droughts Boston is known for. They blew a number of double digit fourth quarter leads this year, including Game 1 against Cleveland, because their offense often grows stagnant. But, Pierce’s top of the key isolations are murdering Orlando.
That’s funny because Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus should be enough to contain him. Instead, he’s bulldozing right through them. If the Truth gets it going again tonight, he’ll provide all the points Boston will need.
Key #3: Finish in the 4th Quarter
Boston’s defense is so good they will be in the game during the closing minutes no matter how well Orlando plays. The Magic has yet to shoot even 45% in a game during this series so don’t expect them to open any distance tonight.
It’ll be a bad omen if Carter’s effort is so ugly that J.J. Redick is in the game at the finish. Not that the Dukie has been bad so far, but Carter’s ability to make key shots may decide the game. Nelson and Howard received no help at the end of Game 4, yet won it for the Magic anyway with 23 and 32 points respectively. It will be near impossible for them to repeat that without some playmaking from Carter and timely shooting from Lewis.
What do you think? Will the Magic win Game 5?
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