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Orlando Magic News & Notes: Creating a Pressure Shift


The Orlando Magic will take on the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night at Amway Arena in Orlando.

Orlando’s captains, Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, were excellent in Orlando’s Game 4 victory – the duo led by example.

"It’s taken somewhat of a fight to slingshot the Magic back into a series they looked to be hopelessly out of as recently as Sunday. Orlando was beaten in consecutive games at home by Boston — a first all season — and the Celtics then proceeded to embarrass the Magic in a 94-71 in a Game 3 debacle.Those trying times put the leadership skills of Nelson and Howard to the test in the 48 hours between Games 3 and 4. And their styles of motivating work in complementary fashion because they are so different.Howard is often the good cop, sparking his teammates with his energy and bubbly charisma. And Nelson isn’t afraid to be the bad cop by poking and prodding teammates to get the maximum out of their potential. It’s a role that Nelson has been cajoled into by Otis Smith, who usually has daily “skull sessions’’ with his gutsy point guard."

John Denton of has that story here.

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel wonders if Nelson can repeat his performance.

"Nelson was more concerned about conducting the Magic’s ball movement in the first three games, incorporating his teammates. Clearly, he’s more effective when he’s on the attack. And in Game 4 he had to be, given Vince Carter scored just three points on 1-of-9 shooting.“I think I was worried about swinging the ball and getting everybody involved,” he said. “But my thing is if I get in the paint and be aggressive, that’s how I get everybody involved instead of me maintaining and coming off the screen.”Nelson is used to being overlooked. This series has been no different, given the accolades heaped on Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo."

You can read that story here.

Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe also heaps praise on Nelson.

"For the first time in these playoffs, it was the other guys who had the dynamic point guard who imposed his will on the game and made crucial plays to quarterback his team to victory. There was no YouTube-worthy, Dave Cowens-channeling dive from Nelson, just a pick and roll clinic and clutch shots.Orlando’s adjustment to using staggered picks to free up Nelson left the Celtics staggered and relegated Rajon Rondo (muscle spasms) to an aching afterthought."

You can read that story here.

The Magic relied heavily on the pick-and-roll in Game 4 will continue to do so.

"Obviously, the Magic would like to score efficiently against any team, but especially against Boston, which boasts the personnel to play Howard straight-up, thus limiting the Magic’s open three-pointers. The Celtics have indeed stymied Howard with his back to the basket. He’s 14-of-36 from the floor in post-ups this series, including a woeful 5-of-16 from the left block, his preferred spot. And in Games 1 and 3, Orlando’s worst losses, 29 of Howard’s 40 possessions were post-ups. Clearly, delivering Howard the ball in the post plays right into the Celtics’ hands, and it’s not working. The Magic have to continue running pick-and-rolls with Howard, and use other off-ball action on the weak side to free him for cuts."

Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post has that story here.

John Krolik of Pro Basketball Talk also touches on the subject.

"It’s easy to say that the Magic need to run more pick-and-rolls, because they do. But give Boston a lot of credit — they rotate as well as any team in the league, and a big reason the Magic have run so few pick-and-rolls is that the Magic have seen it coming and gotten in between the ballhandler and Howard to prevent the Magic from completing the play. Also, teams playing from behind tend to go to their failsafe sets, which generally means putting the ball in the hands of their best player as quickly as possible. For the Cavaliers, that failsafe set was giving the ball to LeBron at the top of the key and letting him go to work, which the Celtics were ready to stop. For the Magic, the failsafe is dumping the ball to Howard, which the Celtics are shutting down with ease. Advanced sets and plays run for role players tend to shut down when teams are nervous and playing from behind, especially in a big playoff series like this one. Running more pick-and-roll is one thing the Magic need to do to pull off a miracle against the Celtics, but it’s far from the only thing."

You can read that story here.

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel says Vince Carter’s reputation is on the line.

"But Smith and Carter now get a reprieve in Game 5 tonight at Amway Arena. If the Magic lose, the season is obviously over. Worse yet — and I don’t think I’m overstating this — if the Magic lose, Carter will be doomed to an eternal fate as one of the most underachieving players in NBA history.This is your time, Vince. This is your town. You grew up as a kid in Central Florida wanting to lead the Orlando Magic to a championship Well, this is your chance to help orchestrate the most historic comeback in the history of the NBA. Your team needs you now, Vince, in the worst way."

You can read that story here.

The Magic can put a lot of pressure on the Celtics with a Game 5 victory.

"“At some point,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, “somebody is going to come from 3-0 down and win a series.”Here’s Orlando’s chance to take another step toward history.The Magic have Game 5 and — if necessary — Game 7 on their home floor, meaning if they can shift things back to Boston, a series that was seemingly over would suddenly have new life — and a ton of pressure on the Celtics.Orlando’s overtime win in Game 4 showed the grit of a team that had played all year wanting to redeem its NBA finals loss to the Lakers. The debacle that put them in an 0-3 hole, getting blown out with little resistance, did not."

Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press has that story here.

Rajon Rondo looked like he might be hurting during Game 4.

"The Boston Celtics are an AARP version of a basketball team, but it was their youngest starter who struggled with physical problems in Game 4.PG Rajon Rondo was slowed by muscle spasms in Monday night’s overtime loss to the Magic, although it wasn’t clear exactly which part of his body was hurting.“I knew early he was fatigued,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “When I came in at halftime, he said he was good. I don’t really ask. If a trainer comes to you, then you know it’s something serious. If he doesn’t, then you let it go.”Rondo, also bothered by foul trouble, still played 43 minutes. But he hit just 3-of-10 shots and finished with nine points, going scoreless in overtime."

You can read that story here.

Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Globe wonder if Rondo, who was the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, can break the jinx.

"Rajon, who raised hell in post-season series with the Heat, Cavs and in three games with the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, didn’t bring his A-game to Game 4. He got into foul trouble and shot an anemic 3-for-10, scoring just nine points and eight assists.Of course, Rajon was playing with a bum middle finger, which he jammed in Game 3, (Curse!) and suffered a muscle spasm (Double Curse!), which led him to leave the game for some locker room therapy with conditioning coach Bryan Doo."

You can read that story here.

Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook takes a look back at the final play of regulation in Game 4 here.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports thinks the Magic are nothing but a tease and decided to pile on Vince Carter.

"“At some point, somebody is going to come from 3-0 down and win a series,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.Well, it won’t be with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis(notes) on the floor. It won’t be these Orlando Magic. They’re the reason why the Magic can never come back and win this series, why Dwight Howard(notes) and Jameer Nelson(notes) aren’t enough to make a historic comeback. From those knee-shaking free throws in Game 2, to a complete no-show in Game 3, Carter has played scared, scattered and soulless. Lewis hasn’t been much better.Nelson is a winner and Howard is trying hard to figure out the way. Still, Nelson was never handed anything in his career, never anointed, and those are the players whom you can always count on when times are toughest. He’s had adversity in his life. Carter has had nothing but big talent, big contracts and big disappointments. Lewis has a $118 million contract, and his best game of the series finally comes with 4-for-10 shooting and 13 points."

You can read that story here.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and on Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).