Commentary

Celtics able to get under Magic's skin

Updated: February 6, 2011, 9:33 PM ET
By Peter May | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Quentin Richardson got a lot of feedback last spring, most of it positive, he said, when he called out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for being good "actresses" during the Boston Celtics' first-round series with the Miami Heat during last season's playoffs.

Richardson has moved upstate to Orlando, but while he has changed addresses, he hasn't changed his view on the two Celtics. On Sunday, after the Magic fell 91-80 in a game that qualified as eye pollution most of the time, Richardson revisited his comments from last spring. Well, sort of.

[+] EnlargeStan Van Gundy
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaMagic coach Stan Van Gundy says his team needs to play through the distractions created by the Celtics, something Orlando couldn't do Sunday.

"I'm not going there again," he said, when asked about the "actresses" comment. "But a lot of people called me and liked it. Everyone knows how they [the Celtics] play, some of the stuff they do. You've got eyes. You saw it. It's not always good."

There were distractions aplenty in Sunday's game, ranging from the serious (Marquis Daniels' spinal cord injury) to the benign (Glen Davis bumping his noggin on the floor, the first time I've ever heard anyone diagnosed with a bruised head). But those incidents came out of the flow of the game, or they would have come out of the flow if there ever was one.

What had the Magic in high dudgeon was the after-the-whistle things, the shoving and the trash-talking. Pierce and Richardson had a little shove-in in front of Boston's bench. Garnett took a couple of tumbles that would have had the old East German judges nodding with approval. The Celtics do a lot of barking, which is not exactly a trade secret, Garnett being the William Jennings Bryan of trash talk.

Asked if that was something the Celtics do more than other teams, Dwight Howard said, "Yeah. But they get away with it." Jameer Nelson said, "I'm not allowed to comment. I already lost money today." He had one of the three Orlando technical fouls.

This "extracurricular B.S." in the words of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had a lot to do with his team's implosion after a fairly promising start. It didn't help that the Magic missed 21 of 24 3-pointers, or that a Stepford Hedo Turkoglu showed up wearing No. 15 (1-of-10) for Orlando. Said Van Gundy of Turkoglu, "I don't like the way he is playing at all. I don't like his decision-making. I don't like his energy. … I'm sort of saying: What the hell is he doing?" Gee Stan, can you tell us how you really feel about the guy?

The Orlando perimeter players were awful. Turkoglu, Nelson, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas were a combined 13-of-50 with Arenas going scoreless in 15 minutes. Arenas couldn't remember the last time that had happened to him, adding, "I guess there's a first for everything." He also said he has trouble with afternoon games because they prevent him from having breakfast. We are not making this up.

The Magic are a fragile bunch, and the Celtics exposed that Sunday as only they can. Kendrick Perkins played 33 minutes and missed all five of his shots. But he got 13 rebounds, the same number as Howard had in 12 fewer minutes. Perkins blocked two shots, two more than Howard, who is fifth in the league in rejections. And he somehow got the officials to call Howard for a technical (the 18th Howard has gotten, four of which have been rescinded) after wrapping Howard in a bear hug.

"It shouldn't have even been a foul," Howard said. "It makes me look like a bully, which is not the case." The Magic were not happy with the refereeing trio of Dick Bavetta, Jason Phillips and Olandis Poole, whose calls gave the Celtics a 34-16 advantage in free throws. That was part of it as well.

Van Gundy said the Celtics "create" a lot of the distractions, but said it was paramount his team play through them. They didn't. They couldn't. And after losing twice to the Celtics in the past month, and to Miami last Thursday, Van Gundy said Orlando is not even close to either team.

"Not even in the same ballpark," he said. "We can be, but we're not right now. I think that showed today."

It did, indeed. Orlando is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and third in the tough Southeast Division. They have a 10-15 record against teams with winning records, 21-5 against teams with losing records. They have long been seen as a team lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, although Howard said that one of the things the team needs to work on is its "mental toughness."

He's right. They do. But the way Orlando became discombobulated Sunday makes you wonder if they can or will acquire the necessary mindset so that Garnett's woofing and Pierce's acting will merely amuse them instead of causing them to come unglued. Van Gundy said he was disappointed to see that basically only Howard and Ryan Anderson showed up for a nationally televised game against the defending conference champion.

"If you're going to come in and play the Boston Celtics on the road, you're going to need a lot of guys playing at a high level," he said. "We did not have a single perimeter guy play at a high level. And you're not going to win like that."

The Celtics can't cross off the Magic just yet, but Orlando needs a personality transplant if it is to be taken seriously once the playoffs arrive. Orlando doesn't appear to be any better after its big December trade. It certainly isn't tougher or better defensively. The Celtics won the season series, 2-1, something that comes into play if the two teams finish with the same record. Orlando already has eight more defeats, so that ain't gonna happen.

"Boston and Miami are rolling now," Howard said. "We haven't played as well as we can. We're going to be OK."

The Magic have been to the conference finals the past two seasons. But "OK" will not be enough to make it three in a row. Not this season.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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