ORLANDO, Fla. -- Taxi fare to the arena: $8.
Exorbitant tip for the cabbie: $12.
Value of Glen "Big Baby" Davis' spending $20 on Saturday to come to the gym at high noon on an optional day of practice: priceless.
Denver 3, Dallas 0
Game 4: Mon., 9:30 ET, DAL
Los Angeles 2, Houston 2
Orlando 2, Boston 2
Game 5: Tue., 8 ET, BOS
Cleveland 3, Atlanta 0
Davis was the hero for the Celtics on Sunday night, hitting the winning jumper as time expired to give Boston a 95-94 victory over the Orlando Magic that evened their series at two games apiece.
But that last shot was only part of the story, and we'll get into the details of that final shot in a moment.
First, though, the rest of the story.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers had gathered the Celtics at their team hotel Saturday morning for a film session, then told them they could have the rest of the day off. But he didn't forget to mention that the gym would be open for anyone who wanted to go over and hoist a few extra shots.
Waiting inside that gym was your occasionally dimwitted correspondent, who missed the memo that the Celtics would be speaking with the media at the hotel instead of the arena. For 30 minutes I shot baskets at one end of the court while Boston reserves Gabe Pruitt and J.R. Giddens shot at the other end. (They had taken the team bus to the arena.) When Davis popped up all by himself a half hour after Pruitt and Giddens arrived, I asked him, "Is this practice mandatory or optional?"
"Optional," Davis answered before heading to the other end of the court and then spending the next hour practicing -- what else? -- his 18-to-20-foot jump shot.
"It pays off sometimes, doesn't it?" Pruitt said.
Davis said he doesn't always make it a habit to shoot on optional practice days, but he decided to get into that taxi after his girlfriend, Jenna Gomez, encouraged him to do so.
On the final play, he was the third option -- the first being Ray Allen, who was well covered, the second being Paul Pierce, who saw two defenders coming at him after Rajon Rondo passed him the ball and Davis came up to set a high pick.
Davis rolled to his spot as the second defender came, and we'll let the players describe what happened from there:
"That was the play Doc drew up, for me to come off the top, draw the defense," Pierce said. "They covered Ray really well, and the counter was to go into the pick-and-roll with Baby, and we ran the play to perfection, really. And once I saw [Dwight] Howard step up, it was a no-brainer for me to find Baby."
The pass was perfect, and Davis turned and released as the clock ticked inside the final second. The buzzer sounded as the ball was in the air, the shot dropped through, and Davis ran down the court screaming, his emotions running wild.
"Everybody knows I'm an emotional guy. You've seen me cry earlier this year," Davis sad, referencing a time earlier this season when Kevin Garnett berated him so strongly on the bench that Davis was left in tears. "I was enjoying the moment right there, that was pure emotions right there."
As for the shot itself, it was the same type of shot Davis has been working on in drills the entire season -- a shot the Celtics' coaches emphasized he needed to add to his repertoire if he wanted to have any kind of a sustained, successful NBA career.
"Since I've been with the Celtics, I've been trying to find my niche in this system, and Doc said, 'Work on that shot and prove that you can make it, and I'm going to let you shoot it,'" Davis said.
His mindset as the ball came his way:
"You have to be focused, you have to understand the moment, the clock, and basically think without thinking and just shoot it," Davis said. "Every time I shoot, I see myself making game-winning shots. If you see it, you believe it. You shoot millions of shots like that, and every time you shoot it, you believe you're going to make it. And when I shot it, I didn't even hesitate. It was just a feel."
Davis finished with 21 points, Pierce scored 27, Rondo had 21 and Kendrick Perkins and Allen added 11 each for the Celtics. Boston got a grand total of two points from its bench, shot just 1-for-10 from 3-point range and had several key players in foul trouble all night.
Davis himself was pulled just 46 seconds into the first quarter after he picked up a foul, and Pierce did not score in the final 16 minutes after picking up his fourth foul.
Howard (23 points, 17 rebounds) and Rashard Lewis (22 points) carried the offense for the Magic. The bench contributed 31 points, but Orlando didn't attack the basket with the same vigor it had in Game 3 and launched 27 3-point shots, making only five. Starting guards Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick both shot 1-for-7, highlighting the vast difference in production each team is getting from its starting guards. Alston was benched for the entire fourth quarter and Redick played only 2 minutes, 50 seconds, with coach Stan Van Gundy placing his trust in Hedo Turkoglu to take care of most of the ballhandling and Courtney Lee to be the guard option when Orlando couldn't get the ball to its bigs in position to score.
Now, Van Gundy has to think long and hard about whether it is time to make wholesale changes to his starting backcourt. He could move Game 3 starter Anthony Johnson ahead of Alston at the point and reinsert Lee into the starting role he held until Howard elbowed him in the nose during Game 5 of the first round, fracturing Lee's sinus and knocking him out for three games.
Davis' shot was the kind that can swing a playoff series dramatically, so it was fitting that this game ended with more drama than this series had produced in its first three games combined.
"Tuesday?" Davis said. "I love our momentum going into that game."
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Sheridan, click here.
HOUSTON -- It looks as though the more All-Stars you remove, the better the Houston Rockets play.
Yao Ming, his season over after high-resolution scans showed a hairline fracture in his left foot, joined Tracy McGrady and Dikembe Mutombo in the Rockets' suit-and-tie fashion show Sunday, a combined 15 All-Star Games, two scoring championships and four defensive player of the year awards sitting on the bench.
No matter. The downsized Rockets dominated the Lakers from the beginning of Game 4, leading by 29 points at one stage of an easy, 99-87 victory that tied these Western Conference semifinals at 2.
To read the entire Adande column, click here.
ORLANDO -- In Game 3 of the Nuggets-Mavs series, Antoine Wright appeared to intentionally foul Denver's Carmelo Anthony twice when Dallas had a foul to give, and the NBA took the highly unusual action of issuing a statement after the game saying the referees had not made the correct call.
Among the Celtics' players, the lingering impression was that Wright was as much at fault as anyone because he did not commit the foul in the proper manner -- especially when he had the perfect opportunity when Anthony bobbled the ball before regaining control and sinking the winning shot.
To read the entire Sheridan story, click here.
Aaron Brooks, Rockets: Playing without Yao Ming, the Rockets never trailed and led by as many as 29 points against the Lakers thanks to the play of Brooks, who erupted for a career-high 34 points.
Derek Fisher, Lakers: It was bad enough that the opposing team's point guard went off for 34 points, but Fisher contributed just two points and zero assists to the Lakers' attack.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"The only guy who made a mistake on the last play was me."
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy after the Magic allowed Glen Davis to beat them with a jumper at the end of regulation
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
With centers Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming both sidelined with injuries, Houston turned to 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes to fill the void. Hayes finished with nine rebounds and four steals.
In Boston's 95-94 series-tying win over the Magic in Game 4, Celtics big man Glen Davis scored seven points in the fourth quarter, while the rest of the Celtics combined to score just nine.
|Davis Closes The Show|
It's not uncommon for the Rockets to perform better without their star. After losing Tracy McGrady earlier this season, they reaffirmed their commitment to stout defense and interior-driven offense with great success.
This time was different. The Rockets didn't alter their game plan or intentionally push the pace. Instead, they waited on the Lakers to make the defensive adjustments that never materialized.
With four or five players ringing the perimeter at once, Aaron Brooks did what Houston's fans have been waiting for: He ran circles around defenders and dished and scored at will. His ballhandling was phenomenal, his speed was unmatched and his vision was clear as Yao Ming and his 7-foot-6 frame rehabbed from the bench.
Clearing the paint for a player with Brooks' quickness cannot be underestimated.
Shooters were left open all afternoon, as the Lakers' defense collapsed on the penetration, then failed to rotate with the ball as it was worked around the perimeter.
Capitalizing on the Lakers' miscues and continuing the hot shooting will be just as pivotal in Game 5 as it was in Game 4.
However, should that touch disappear and the Lakers control Brooks, the Rockets will be forced to adapt yet again. Given their past experience, though, that shouldn't be a problem.
Rollins' work can be found on the TrueHoop Network's Rockets blog, Rockets Buzz.
The Rockets built an 83-54 lead after three quarters and coasted to a 99-87 victory over the Lakers. It was only the second time in Phil Jackson's 286 playoff games as an NBA head coach when his team trailed by a margin that large at the end of the third quarter. The first was the final game of last season's NBA Finals -- a 131-92 loss to the Celtics.