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Friday, January 27, 2012

Celtics at Magic: Boston Won't Die

Boston is old. That's the popular talking point with the Celtics. They're ancient. They're prehistoric. They're Beethoven in the time of the Black Keys. So naturally when playing a top-3 Eastern conference team on the second night of a back-to-back they'd probably look fatigued and have a rough outing. Wrong. But surely when they fell behind by 21 points at the half to the same team on the road they wouldn't have the life to come back, especially without Rajon Rondo. Wrong again. Behold the Celtics.

Boston and Orlando have something in common this season. They both like to play slow. Dreadfully slow. They rank 29th and 27th in league in pace, respectively. Both clubs are in the top 10 for true shooting percentage. So basically their strategy is to limit the possessions, but use them effectively. Boston does this through a high assist rate (4th in the NBA). However, they will cough the ball up with the 4th worst turnover rate. Orlando prefers to limit second shots as, and this is no surprise with Howard on their team, they are the best defensive rebounding club. Once the Magic have eliminated any second shot for their opponents, they will probably be taking a three. They attempt 25 per game, which is the most in the league. The thing is, they bury them. The Magic can 39.6 percent of their threes with only one team being better, the Celtics at 41.1. So basically both teams seek to grind the game to a halt and then sink shots on the possessions that do happen.

Orlando looked to be in control from the start. A 12-2 run in the first led by Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson who finished the initial frame with 10 and 12 points, respectively. By the half Orlando would lead by 21 with a 28-15 advantage in rebounding with an impressive 8 steals and 17 free throw attempts. Boston meanwhile had shot 13-34 from the field and turned the ball over 10 times. However, Paul Pierce would come alive in the second half while Orlando went cold. The Magic started the 3rd 0-5 and didn't hit a field goal for over 5 minutes. Boston would cap off the 3rd with a 17-7 run. Things only got worse for the Magic as they scored only 8 fourth quarter points.

As mentioned earlier, Paul Pierce was behind the second half surge. His 24 points led all scorers and he was 8-11 from the line. Rookie guard E'Twaun Moore canned all 4 of his threes and added 16 points of his own.  All Orlando starters finished in double figures, but they left a lot of points at the line, shooting 18-31 as a team.

Boston now has taken 2 games from Orlando, one by way of embarrassing blowout, the other in a shocking comeback. Boston may be old, but they're not ready to fade away yet. For the time being they will do their best to sneak into the playoffs, a place where they have proven they know how to put it into the next gear.

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