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2009-2010 ECF – Game 1 : What Happened?

Written By Bobby Oster

In the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Orlando Magic experienced their first proverbial punch to the gut. Up to now, the competition that they had faced hadn’t been able to fully test the team; even before the playoffs began, they hadn’t experienced a loss since the beginning of April. The good news, for Magic fans, is that the team was able to come back from a 20 point deficit and play an inspired 4th quarter to make the game seem like it was competitive in the end. The bad news is that the Celtics never trailed in the game and were incredibly effective at shutting down the Orlando offense.

“I didn’t think that we played with either great energy or very good focus…”

-Stan Van Gundy

The Celtics put on the pressure from the outset quickly earning a 9-5 advantage in the first three minutes of the game. By the end of the first period, the lead had ballooned to eight and it was beginning to look like the Magic were going to let the game get out of hand. After Rasheed Wallace drained a three at 9:44 in the second quarter, Stan Van Gundy called a timeout to stop the bleeding and refocus his team. The pep talk seemed to work as the Magic went on to rally back to within a three point deficit, bringing the score to 43-40.

At this point, Doc Rivers, sensing that his team was about to let the strong road lead they’d built up slip away, called a timeout to attempt to right the ship. Whatever he said to his team inspired them immediately; as if a switch had been flipped, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce drained three straight perimeter shots to push the Celtics lead back to eight. In the next series of plays, the Magic watched all the gains they’d made disappear: Pierce three made freethrows, Rondo made bank jumper, Allen made three, Timeout Magic.

“We’re not giving ourselves a chance to win with 18 turnovers.”

-Stan Van Gundy

Despite the fact that the Magic had eighteen turnovers in the game, it was their lack of offense that contributed most to their loss. The Celtics relied on team offense to get easy looks putting up a 21-10 assist advantage. Three point shooting had been a staple for the Magic this post season accounting for 33.04% of their total points – more than any other team. However, when facing the Celtics defense, the Magic were only able to make 22.73% of their threes, well below their 38.36% post season average. Dwight Howard had an especially rough game, struggling to establish a post presence (3-10 FG, 58.33 FT%) and scoring only one field goal in the first half.

“Nothing will come easy in this series.”

-Stan Van Gundy

In order to get back into the series, the Magic are going to need to exhibit significantly more energy and effort than they showed in the first game. For the Celtics, who’ve already taken away home court advantage, a win tonight would put the Magic into a spot they probably couldn’t recover from. With their post season aspirations likely on the line, will the Magic be able to bounce back and even the series?

2009-2010 Mid Post Season Awards

Written By Bobby Oster

We’ve reached the point in the post season where the contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders and players have made a name for themselves through persistent performance. The playoffs are a time for the greatest athletes to further establish themselves as dominate over their peers and earn a place in NBA history. With the four remaining conference finalists decided, I present the Mid Post Season Awards:

The Sharpshooter

Winner :: Rashard Lewis

Total 294:56.3 47-87 15-22 7-11 24-52 13-15 131
Per Game 36:52.0 5.9-10.9 1.9-2.8 0.9-1.4 3-6.5 1.6-1.9 16.38
54.02% 68.18% 63.64% 46.15% 86.67%

When the playoffs start, a shooter knows that they have only one job: make baskets. Contracts can live or die by the results of an athlete when it matters most, on the biggest stage of all. To this point, Lewis has exemplified everything you could want from a shooter this post season. Not only is he scoring 16.38 ppg and shooting 54.02% from the field, he also leads active post season jump shooters at 68.18% on 2.75 attempts a game. What’s more impressive is that the only stat bringing down his shooting percentage is his 46.15% three percentage, good for third amongst the top 20 players in three shot attempts. Just for good measure, he is shooting a stellar 86.67% free throw percentage on 13 of 15 attempts, rounding out an efficient first half of the post season.

Honorable Mention:

Per Game Min FG% JP% LY% 3P% FT% PTS
Jason Richardson 33:01.0 50.99% 28.95% 64.86% 51.52% 77.5% 21.9
Jameer Nelson 33:19.3 51.85% 54.55% 66.67% 40.43% 80.49% 20.5
Ray Allen 37:04.1 46.85% 46.51% 53.85% 42.47% 81.25% 17.36
Dirk Nowitzki 38:50.5 54.72% 51.19% 73.33% 57.14% 95.24% 26.67

The Bruiser

Winner :: Dwight Howard

Total 254:49.5 31 22 68 90 38 28 123
Per Game 31:51.2 3.88 2.75 8.5 11.25 4.75 3.5 15.38

Have you ever been playing a pickup game, and you’re standing below the basket with great position, and all of a sudden this hefty, hustle guy pushes his way in, steals your position and grabs your rebound? With either overwhelming size or strength, the big men on this list have made a name for themselves with their aggressive play this post season. Despite being limited to around 32 minutes per game due to foul trouble, Howard has been a dominating force in the paint with a league leading 31 blocks in only eight games. How does that compare to the competition? The next blocker on the list, Andrew Bynum, has only 20 blocks on an additional 24 minutes of play. Howard is also collecting 11.25 boards a game, 2nd amongst active players, and leads all starters with 14.13 rebounds per 40 minutes. He isn’t limited to only being a defensive enforcer either, he also ranks third in dunk points at 3.5 a game and first in scoring for all Centers.

Honorable Mention:

Joakim Noah 37:37.8 1.4 4 9 13 4 2.4 14.8
Josh Smith 35:38.7 1.73 3.36 5.64 9 2.73 2.36 14.09
Pau Gasol 37:36.8 1.9 4.2 8.9 13.1 2.3 1.6 20.2
Andrew Bynum 27:48.5 2 2.7 6.2 8.9 2.3 3.8 10.3

The Sixth Man

Winner :: Lamar Odom

Total 269:08.9 32-72 81 18 14 4 9 85
Per Game 26:54.9 3.2-7.2 8.1 1.8 1.4 0.4 0.9 8.5
44.44% 2 AST:TO | 1.1806 PTS:FGA

Coming off the bench can be a difficult proposition for a player, it usually means you’re an up-and-comer or have already seen the best time in your career. It takes a special type of player to be able to check their ego and take on the responsibility of leading the second unit. This can become even harder in the playoffs when rotations shorten and bench players are asked to step up and prove their value. Odom has been the most productive bench player this post season, giving a starter caliber contribution when he takes the court. His 8.5 PPG places him third for active bench players, but it’s his impact in other categories that show his true value. He leads all active bench players in rebounding and blocks, while at the same time dishing the ball as a point forward for 2 assists per turnover and coming in 7th in bench assists overall.

Honorable Mention:

Tony Allen 18:25.2 53.45% 2.36 0.73 0.64 1.45 1 7.45
Kyle Korver 21:01.3 52.46% 1.1 1.3 0 0.5 2.2 8.3
Goran Dragic 14:17.2 43.55% 1.6 2 0.1 0.2 1.1 7.7
Mickael Pietrus 22:03.9 46.3% 1.88 1 0.5 0.63 1.88 10.25

The Most Dominant Team

Winner :: Orlando Magic

W-L Time w/ Lead Time Trailed* REB +/- PTS +/- PTS
Total 8-0 312:26.2 59:15.8 41 138 808
Per Game 39:03.3 7:24.5 5.125 17.25 101
* Time Trailed = Opposing Team (Time w/ Lead – Time Tied w/ Lead)

This award is a no-brainer. There is no other team that even comes close to matching the dominance of the Magic this post season. Their undefeated record doesn’t tell the whole tale of how they’ve cruised through the playoffs so far. Their starters have yet to take the floor and lose a point, with all five putting up positive PTS +/- in every game this post season. The 17.25 point margin of victory is nearly double the next team. They have two wire-to-wire victories in their last two games, both away. They also lead all teams in REB +/-, proving that they have the heart to gain the edge. The Magic are on a mission and they’ve shown that up to this point, no one can match their intensity and drive.

Honorable Mention:

Phoenix Suns

W-L Time w/ Lead Time Trailed* REB +/- PTS +/- PTS
Total 8-2 302:57.1 152:08.8 28 99 1058
Per Game 30:17.7 15:12.9 2.8 9.9 105.8
* Time Trailed = Opposing Team (Time w/ Lead – Time Tied w/ Lead)

The Most Valuable Player

Winner :: Rajon Rondo

Total 460:53.8 74-151 29-68 34-62 6-15 44-62 122 69 23 1 79 198
Per Game 41:54.0 6.7-13.7 2.6-6.2 3.1-5.6 0.5-1.4 4-5.6 11.09 6.27 2.09 0.09 7.18 18
49.01% 42.65% 54.84% 40% 70.97% 3.2973 AST:TO | 1.3113 PTS:FGA

Nothing speaks louder than the game 4 performance Rondo had against the Cavaliers. When faced with the prospect of going down 3-1 and meeting certain defeat, Rondo put up the best performance of his brief playoff career: 29 PTS, 18 REB, 13 AST, 2 STL, 4 TO. Mike Brown promised to not let him have his way with the team again; someone forget to tell Rondo when he was shooting 58.33% in game 5, quarterbacking the Celtics to the lead for nearly 31 minutes. He leads all players in assists with 11.09 a game and is third in steals with 2.09. However, it isn’t just Rondo’s raw statistics that make him the most valuable, it’s his ability to step up to the occasion in the big games. To paraphrase Kevin Garnett in his post game interview at the end of game 6 “At some point in the series we had to adjust to Rondo taking over the team…”. Rondo has taken control and become the leader of the Celtics this post season, earning his spot as the MVP of the first half of the playoffs.

Honorable Mention:

Per Game Min FG% JP% LY% 3P% FT% AST REB STL BLK PTS +/- PTS
Jameer Nelson 33:19.3 51.85% 54.55% 66.67% 40.43% 80.49% 5.25 2.63 1.63 0 14.75 20.5
Pau Gasol 37:36.8 56.39% 49.15% 56.52% 0% 80% 3.3 13.1 0.3 1.9 4.7 20.2
Steve Nash 34:02.5 51.24% 44.12% 75% 46.43% 89.13% 9 3.1 0.3 0 9.2 17.8

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