What to like and what not to like in Game 1


Please, I hope no one used the “It was a tale of two halves” or “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” leads to start off their Game 1 stories. All cliches aside, there was a lot to like and a lot not to like in Game 1. It was Stan Van Gundy’s dream game: a win where his team played well as a whole, but enough of a let-down in the second half to give him something to complain about. It was perfect. Because of the inconsistencies of the two halves, we’re left with a lot more questions than answers after the series’ first game. Which Magic team are we going to see the rest of this series? The first-half squad that looked NBA Finals worthy, or the team that nearly squandered a 28-point lead in the second half? And what about the Celtics? Was it simply a lack of focus that allowed the Magic to jump out to such a commanding lead? What to like: The offense looked good again. The Magic recognized that throwing the ball into Dwight Howard on the block isn’t always in the best interest of the team, especially against the Celtics’ Kendrick Perkins. Instead, the Magic ran a lot of isolation sets for Rashard Lewis – who was a constant mismatch with either Glen Davis or Brian Scalabrine – and more pick-and-rolls than we’re used to seeing. We saw some impressive ball movement that led to some open looks from the guys who the Celtics are least paying attention to: Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick. The first-half defense. The Magic played absolutely phenomenal defense in the first two quarters, holding the Celtics to 36 points while allowing ZERO free throws. Yes, a team with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got to the line zero times in the first half. The Magic were playing pressure defense and allowing no easy jumpers – every shooter had a defender running at him challenging the hand. Hustle. Come on, how can you not love Rafer Alston’s dive on the ball when Rajon Rondo was trying to walk the ball up the court without touching it? It was a veteran, hard-nosed (and risky) play. It led to a Celtics’ 3-pointer, but so what? It showed a lot of savvy and trust in the teammates behind him, and it almost led to an easy bucket for the Magic. What not to like: Second-half focus. It wasn’t a matter of effort or intensity, which was the problem when the Magic gave up several big leads against the Sixers. Instead, it was all focus. The Magic were making silly turnovers (think: Hedo Turkoglu getting called for 8 seconds in the final minute), getting beat to the ball and allowing the pesky Celtics to get their hands on all kinds of passes. The Magic didn’t enter “blowout mode” or anything like that, but they definitely weren’t as focused as in the first half. Rajon Rondo. The young point guard had seven turnovers, but his energy led the Celtics to their second-half surge. The kid is a future superstar, and exactly the type of player you don’t want to play against. He makes all those little plays that get under your skin – he’ll rip you when you’re not looking, he pushes the ball for occasional easy buckets, and he just always seems to be where he needs to be. Whether it’s for an offensive rebound or a ricocheted pass, he’s always there. And Anthony Johnson is going to have some major problems handling the ball opposite Rondo. Ray Allen will get going. Sometimes shooters have off nights – even Reggie Miller. Ray Allen was a complete non-factor, making only two field goals and scoring nine points. But before we give Redick and (primarily) Pietrus all the credit – and they deserve a lot of respect for playing good defense – we should note that Allen’s shot was off. We saw it when he missed a wide-open 3-point attempt at the end of the game that would’ve cut the lead to one. The fact that Allen played one of his worst games in recent memory, yet the Celtics only lost by five, doesn’t exactly exude confidence going forward.