Even though the Orlando Magic won last night in a thrilling game that went to overtime and avoided getting swept, the odds are still completely in the Boston Celtics’ favor to advance to the Finals sooner or later — NBA teams trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series are 0-93 in those series.
But if the Magic want any chance to do the impossible, to win four games in a row against a former champion, they need to ride on the Jameer Nelson-Dwight Howard pick and roll until the wheels fall off. There’s more Orlando needs to do, of course, to give themselves a chance to win tomorrow but offensively, there’s no question that Nelson and Howard need to lead the charge and display the same type of aggressiveness they did in Game 4.
Usually when Nelson runs the pick and roll, it’s normally just Howard setting the screen usually at the top of the key. However, head coach Stan Van Gundy introduced a new wrinkle yesterday … throwing in staggered screens that were set by Rashard Lewis before Howard set his screen to create additional space for Nelson to create for either himself or others. The adjustment worked. Nelson and Howard combined for 55 points, with a majority of the scores coming directly or indirectly from the pick and roll.
With Nelson taking the ball under the basket, the Celtics’ defense collapsed into the paint and was turned completely around. That allowed Nelson to find both open shooters on the perimeter and Howard with mismatches back under the hoop. Five of his assists were to Howard, three of them on lobs at the rim. Nelson picked up nine assists total, two more than he had in the first three games of this series combined. He also had more than a few hockey assists, with a Magic bucket coming two passes after his penetration.
Certainly defensive wizard Tom Thibodeau will try to throw a wrench in things because that’s his forte but until he does, the Magic need to live and die with the pick and roll because it’s one of the few plays that’s been successful against the Celtics’ staunch defense.
It was a play Orlando relied on down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime period when they need a bucket. It is a play the Magic will have to rely heavily on heading into Game 5.