Rashard Lewis has come up with countless number of big shots for the Magic. Even when his 3-point shot is not falling, it seems like he makes the one shot that matters.
As Orlando frantically tried to erase an 18-point deficit in the closing moments and needing a big shot the team turned to Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. But today was just not Lewis’ day.
Nelson led Orlando on a huge charge as the team knocked off any rust it had from finishing off Atlanta on Monday. But when he looked for Lewis in the corner to turn a five-point deficit to two, his 3-pointer was off the mark to finish a struggling zero for six from beyond the arc.
It was a struggle for the Magic all day even with the comeback in the final five minutes of the game and some occasionally stifling defense. The Celtics took advantage and continued to play extremely well in taking Game One (and home court in the series) with a 92-88 win at Amway Arena on Sunday.
Credit Orlando with having the guts to make the type of comeback it did. The Magic were down by 18 at one point in the third quarter, seemed to have every run answered by a big shot — whether it was Ray Allen, Paul Pierce or Glenn Davis — and did not hit a 3-pointer until Jameer Nelson opened the second half with one.
This was simply not going to be Orlando’s day.
The Magic were definitely working off some rust and you could see it in where they were missing shots. There were plenty of shots that fell short as every 3-pointer seemed to be off the mark. It took a lot of air out of the building as fans have come to expect the devastatingly lethal efficiency Orlando has had throughout this postseason.
And the team did shoot poorly from beyond the arc going 5 for 22. It was not just Lewis who could not hit the threes.
What was more troublesome was Orlando’s inability to get good looks at 3-pointers. The team took plenty of 3-pointers, but the number of good looks were few and far between (and the team missed a lot of them tonight).
Boston’s ability to play Dwight Howard one on one is going to make it difficult for Orlando to get its players extremely open looks from beyond the arc. Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter did a good job attacking the paint to get the defense to sink in, but the Celtics are a good defensive team that can rotate out to the 3-point line quickly.
But the big problem today was simply not paying attention to the details that will be necessary to win. Part of it is rust, part of it is (maybe) facing a team playing at a high level like Boston is.
Orlando was finally pushed in this game although it is unclear whether the team passed any test.
What was clear was the Magic were not looking to make the extra pass, settled for playing one-on-one or screen-and-roll basketball and were late on rotations defensively. Not anything Orlando cannot correct, but things that were evident against Boston’s pressure defense.
Orlando’s trademark throughout the first two series of the Playoffs was how quickly it moved the ball from one end of the floor to the other and from out of the post to the open shooter. The Magic have always looked to make the extra pass to find the open shooter or lane to attack.
Tonight, it simply was not doing that. The Celtics put a lot of pressure on the ball and did a good job knocking the ball away too. Orlando committed 18 turnovers — most in the first half and more than a few simply because the players were expecting each other to be somewhere else.
There was a lot of stagnation offensively as one or two players would touch the ball on a possession and dribble the ball into the ground. The Magic had just 10 assists compared to the Celtics’ 21.
At times they had to play this way as nothing else worked. Vince Carter was doing a very good job getting to the basket and scoring in multiple ways. He finished with 23 points. Jameer Nelson was doing the same in the second half on his way to 20 points.
But ultimately that style of play will get you in trouble. Especially when Dwight Howard was struggling the way he was. Howard, despite hitting seven of his 12 free throws, scored 13 points and shot just 3 of 10 from the floor. Hardly the numbers he put up against the Hawks’ inferior interior defenders. Howard did his job defensively though getting 12 rebounds and five blocks (a few of the “Did He Just Do That?” variety).
Orlando could not get anything consistent going offensively. And while it might have been OK for the offense to be a step behind, it definitely was not OK for the defense to be a step behind.
The numbers will show the Magic played pretty good defense. And by the end of the game they were. They outrebounded the Celtics 45-38 despite shooting a lower percentage. And Boston only shot 44.6 percent for the game.
But early on especially, it seemed Boston was finding seams in the defense. Ray Allen was cutting to the basket and becoming available for layups and easy jumpers as Matt Barnes looked hampered by the back spasms that have kept him from practicing. JJ Redick did a much better job, but even then Boston still found ways to cut behind a defender.
Rust is not an excuse, but it felt like the Celtics were on the same page and, until the end of the game, the Magic were not. So give Boston Game One. The team took advantage of the opportunity before it.
Now Orlando has to adjust and respond for the first time this postseason and we will see just what kind of series this will be.