Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
As seen on ESPN’s Daily Dime.
The Orlando Magic relinquished home-court advantage with a loss to the Boston Celtics by the score of 92-88 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, but not before rallying back in the game after being down by as much as 20 points in the second half. After Ray Allen made a 3-pointer to increase the Celtics’ lead to 13 points with 5:33 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Magic went on a 13-4 run after being thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the game.
One of the spark plugs for Orlando during the comeback was J.J. Redick, who saw minutes at shooting guard as Vince Carter slid over to the small forward position. It was a calculated choice by head coach Stan Van Gundy, given that Matt Barnes was struggling on the floor and having some trouble defending Ray Allen. Perhaps Barnes’ troubles running around could be attributed to the fact that he’s been suffering from back spasms lately. In any case, Redick was able to provide a jolt of energy the Magic needed on both ends of the court — especially on offense, where Redick was able to influence better ball movement and floor spacing for Orlando.
The Magic defense did much to help the cause against the Celtics, too. Many times during the game, Orlando would go on a scoring spurt and cut into the deficit, but almost every time, Boston would respond with a bucket or two. However, in the final period, the Magic were able to string together stops defensively. Dwight Howard, who struggled on offense, was able to make a few key blocks to keep the Celtics from scoring. Redick did an effective job of chasing Allen around screens and running him off the 3-point line whenever possible. There are more examples of Orlando’s defensive efforts but these are some of the sequences that stood out the most.
Fast-forward to the end of the game: the Magic were able to trail by as little as two points with eight seconds left after Carter purposely missed his second free throw attempt and Jameer Nelson, somehow, maneuvered his way into the lane to make a layup off the miss. However, Allen was able to make his free throws and that was essentially the ball game. It was an excellent effort by Orlando, to not give up after trailing by double-digits for the majority of the game, but it wasn’t enough.