Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Out to prove that Game 3 was an aberration in terms of playing with a lack of effort and energy, the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics in an overtime thriller by the score of 96-92 in Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. From the opening tip, it was clear that the Magic were going to give everything they had to make sure they didn’t get swept, as well as let their previous loss define their season. Instead, Orlando played with pride and came away with a victory on the road. The Magic were led Jameer Nelson, who had 23 points, nine assists, five rebounds but six turnovers, and Dwight Howard, who had 32 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks. Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
This game could be analyzed, critiqued, and summarized in a number of ways, depending on the viewpoints. But it’s rather easy attempting to figure out why Orlando won … they wanted it more. The Celtics wanted it, too, especially in front of their home crowd but for the first time in the series, the Magic did the little things they needed to do to win a game.
On offense, it was the Nelson and Howard show the entire night. From the start of the first quarter until the end of overtime, Nelson and Howard ran 1/5 pick and rolls against Boston and they had success doing so. When Nelson is at his best, he’s dribble penetrating into the lane and forcing defenses to collapse. That’s exactly what Nelson did in the pick and roll against the Celtics. Not only was Nelson aggressive looking for his own shot but he was actively looking for teammates around the perimeter, like Redick, and finding Howard in the paint for alley-oop lobs. Sometimes Nelson was too aggressive and out of control, which explained the six turnovers, but his ability to set the table for others is the main reason he finished the game with nine assists.
Howard got some of his offense in 4-out/1-in offensive sets, making a couple righty hooks on the low block against Kevin Garnett, but he got the majority of his points either from the aforementioned pick and rolls or off offensive rebounds.
Some of the defining plays that involved Nelson and Howard came late in the fourth quarter and throughout overtime. Time and again, Nelson was able to step up huge and make clutch shots in the 1/5 pick and roll. And when Nelson wasn’t the one doing the damage in pick and rolls, Howard was there to throw down some monstrous dunks or make put-back layups. Throughout the playoffs, Nelson and Howard have been the two best players for the Magic and they proved why against the Celtics in an elimination game.
It’s safe to say that Redick is a player that Orlando can rely on under duress, despite his mental gaffe at the end of Game 2. Redick’s stat-line wasn’t otherworldly, but he wanted the basketball and made some crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter when the Magic needed a bucket or two. Once again, it was Redick’s steady play that allowed head coach Stan Van Gundy to keep him on the floor with the game on the line. Plus, when push came to shove and Vince Carter struggled throughout the evening on both ends of the court, Van Gundy made the choice to keep Redick in and take Carter out with the period winding down. It was a solid performance from Redick and even though people want him to start in Game 5, he’s been given starters minutes throughout the series (excluding Game 1). Yes, there is the possibility of Orlando starting out poorly in the first quarter of the game but other than that, Redick has been playing more than enough.
As for Carter, he played poorly. Carter did some good things here and there on defense but overall, there’s only so many different ways of saying he was bad. Yes, Carter was bad. In 31 minutes of playing time, three points on 1-of-9 shooting, three turnovers, two assists, two rebounds, and one steal for Carter is a clear-cut sign he wasn’t getting the job done. Carter was fine in the previous games, more or less, but his performance was inexcusable with the Magic’s season on the line. Carter wasn’t alone, either. Aside from Redick and some relatively minor contributions from Brandon Bass, Orlando’s bench didn’t do a darn thing. For the Magic, it’s a shame because Jason Williams, Mickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat have proven their playoff mettle in the past. Williams, Pietrus, and Gortat just didn’t have it in Game 4. Given their postseason history, that shouldn’t be a concern but feel free to raise the red flag on Carter.
The Magic will have the benefit of playing at the Amway Arena for, probably, the final time on Wednesday. It hasn’t meant much, given the fact that Boston has already won twice in the building, but Orlando needs to play with the same focus and energy as they did in Game 4. If they do, the Magic will be okay — win or lose.