Game 4 in Boston expected to be a sweeping celebration for Celtics fans. The Orlando Magic had other plans. Celtic players whined to officials, pumped their chests, spewed profanities in exuberance after a foul call or no call, good or bad, while Orlando Magic players let their effort on the court do the talking. They weren’t going down without a fight.
Dwight Howard Dominated
Kevin Garnett played the villain and victim role constantly complaining about Dwight Howard’s physical play. Howard himself got hammered every time he touched the ball (much the way Shaquille O’Neal did in his prime) and instead of exchanging verbal aggression, he assaulted the rim and Boston’s defense for 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks, his best stat-line of the series. After Game 3 his leadership and ability was in question. In Game 4 Howard answered back. Stone faced and poised he dominated on both ends. After the game he remained humble and deferred credit for the win away from himself. That is leadership defined. With Game 4’s performance Dwight Howard has finally graduated to supremacy. Even if his team loses the war of this series, he still can be credited for leading his team to a battle victory.
Jameer Nelson Outshines Raja Rondo
Perhaps Jameer Nelson was sick of hearing about how great Raja Rondo is. As we have seen with Lebron James and other all-stars, NBA nation likes to embellish the greatness of a player. After last night’s performance and a closer look at the statistics, Jameer Nelson may have a valid argument for being the better player.
Last night Raja Rondo was just 3 of 10 FG for 9 points, with 8 assists, 3 steals along with 3 turnovers. For this series Raja Rondo is just 11 for 17 FT (65%) which is unacceptable for a guard of his skill level. Surprisingly he is also just a 21% career 3-point shooter and has zero attempts in this series. In these playoffs he is averaging 13.3 points per game, 10.5 assists per game, but also 3.2 turnovers per game.
Last night Jameer Nelson was 7 for 14 FG, 3 for 6 three-pointers for 50% from the floor, along with 5 rebounds 9 assists, 6 turnovers. In this series he is averaging 4 assists, 6 rebounds, 17 points and 4 turnovers. In the 2010 Playoffs Nelson is an 80% FT shooter along with 38% 3-point field goals, 48% FG (just 2% shy of Rondo).
A closer examination of game stats indicates that Jameer Nelson is the better player. However it is the intangibles that Raja Rondo brings to every game that give him the advantage, the hustle after loose balls, the quickness, the ability to penetrate and find the open teammate. Nelson seems to lack the court-vision, as pointed out repeatedly by Television analyst Jeff Van Gundy. But his two back to back three pointers in overtime of Game 4 are as significant as anything Raja Rondo has done in this series. Who is the better point guard? And who is the better player might just be two different answers.
In the end it’s not about who is more talented, or who has the better stats, or is more celebrated, it’s about who wins. The Magic should dare Rondo to shoot the long ball and defend against the dribble penetration. And put him on the free-throw line as a last resort.
Vince Carter and JJ Redick vs Paul Pierce and Ray Allen
Similar to Ron Artest electing to jack up three pointers rather than pass to the hot-hand of Derek Fisher, last night Paul Pierce went 0 for 6 from downtown including missing two point-blank open 3’s from the top of the key in the games final 30 seconds. Sharp shooter Ray Allen was on fire 5 of 7 for 22 points and had just nailed two huge 3-pointers in the previous minute of play. Pierce should have found Allen in the clutch. Pierce did have a good overall game finishing with 32 points on 11 of 25 FG shooting.
Notably absent in performance for the Orlando Magic was Vince Carter. He had just 3 points on 1 of 9 shooting. Matt Barnes and Rashard Lewis made up for Carter’s lack of production with a combined 23 points on 8 of 18 FG and 3 of 9 in three’s. JJ Redick also earned 12 points on 3 of 5 three-point shooting.
Celtics Big Men
The Celitcs trio of big men role players Perkins, Davis, and Wallace combined for just 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting. None of them could slow down Superman of the defensive end in Game 4. Add Kevin Garnett’s 14 points and the four bigs were still outplayed by Orlando’s Dwight Howard.
Game 5 Prediction
In Game 4 the Orlando Magic missed 18 three-pointers, 13 free-throws, committed 19 turnovers, and received only 3 points from their leading scorer (Vince Carter) and allowed Boston to amass 92+ points for the 4th straight time and they still won. Home cooking, new momentum and the surprise title of underdog is a fine recipe for the Orlando Magic to steal another win and keep this series alive. Game 5 Prediction: Orlando Magic win by 5.