Scouting Update: Magic-Celtics, Game 5
The Celtics found their identity once again in Game 4 with their best defensive effort of the series, holding Orlando to 40 percent shooting and outrebounding the Magic to even the series at 2-2. They have also found Kevin Garnett's replacement to be one of the most valuable pieces of their offense. With home court back in hand, the left-for-dead Celtics are now back in the driver's seat.
• Coach Stan Van Gundy and his staff will look at Boston's 52.8 percent field goal shooting in Game 4, see that the Magic's defense had numerous breakdowns and have areas of improvement for Game 5.
Orlando has to come to grips with the fact that Glen Davis is a legitimate scoring threat, as he hit the Celtics' last two shots in Game 4. Davis is averaging 16.4 points per game and shooting 49 percent in 11 playoff games.
If Davis is the ball screener, as he was on the final play of Game 4, the Magic must predetermine how they will defend it. They can switch, which could possibly create a mismatch on the ball handler. Or, they can "push up" on Davis, with his defender, usually Rashard Lewis, getting up into him and actually mirroring his position on the floor, allowing the ball handler's defender to go under the screen and get back to the ball on a straighter path. Either way, Orlando must take Davis' midrange jump shot out of Boston's attack in Game 5.
In fact, the Magic were abysmal at guarding the screener all night long in Game 4, allowing layups for Davis and Kendrick Perkins on pin-downs when Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat jumped out on the cutter, leaving the screeners alone 3 feet from the basket. With no pressure on the ball, especially on Rajon Rondo, that was an easy assist for the layup.
• The Magic must also get better discipline from their on-ball defenders in Game 5 -- mainly Hedo Turkoglu and Rafer Alston. They cannot reach and get out of position as they did in Game 4, allowing Paul Pierce and Stephon Marbury easy drives into the lane. Alston and Anthony Johnson were also late on rotations a number of times, so Van Gundy may look to play Turkoglu more at the point, with Mickael Pietrus and Courtney Lee on the floor for better defensive coverage.
This will not only help on switching situations, but should help Orlando in its second and third rotations to the ball, which were often late or nonexistent in Game 4 with Boston's improved ball movement.
• Orlando must also have a better team attack for Pierce in isolations and drives. The Magic do not have one single defender who can lock up Pierce, and they can't just show the help with a reach or step in when he drives middle. In Game 5, look for Orlando to make the full commitment to force him to the baseline side, or run at him hard and double if he drives middle.
When moving left to right across the top, Pierce likes to use his hesitation and step-back moves to his right. When isolated on the right side, his tendency is to start right, and cross over back to the middle. Orlando must anticipate these tendencies and be prepared to take them away or rotate extra defenders to the action.
• Offensively, the Magic continue to miss Howard on rolls to the basket and in late transition situations. He simply must get more touches when he can attack Perkins on the move.
In the post, Howard must vary his speed and delivery of his moves. Perkins has him timed up, and is forcing him toward the elbow and making him drift on his left-hand hook when he drives middle from the right side. On his attacks from the left side, Perkins is anticipating the spin back to the baseline and cutting Howard off. In Game 5, Howard can't just use his typical two-dribble power attack. From the right side, he must use his quickness with an immediate sweep move to the baseline off the catch. He has shown he can beat Perkins to the other side of the rim.
From the left side, Howard must face up, add jabs and pass fakes, and force Perkins to fully commit to the middle drive. Howard must take the front of the rim, not just show a move in that direction. With Perkins anticipating the spin, Howard can fake that and be in position for the jump hook right at the rim. Howard seems to have lost confidence in his short jump shot off the glass that he was developing during the season.
• Lewis continues to face more resistance to his post-up attempts on the left side of the floor. He is having more success popping out to the right side on ball reversal and attacking Davis and Brian Scalabrine in a face-up, jab, dribble attack scheme. Look for more of this in Game 5.
• The Magic's 3-point looks are good ones, coming mostly from inside-out action and ball reversal. Those are shots they will continue to take in Game 5, and Boston can't expect the Magic to have another 5-for-27 night from the 3-point line. With the Celtics focused on clogging the lane to prevent dribble penetration, those shots will be there in Game 5.
• Although Rondo did not pile up the assists in Game 4 as he had in previous games, he orchestrated Boston's half-court attack in a very methodical way, and picked his spots to drive and create. All five starters scored in double figures and shot 57 percent from the floor combined. With increased attention to Pierce in Game 5, Rondo's opportunities to force the action may increase.
The Magic are giving Rondo the 16-18 foot shot at the top of the floor, backing off him on the perimeter. Rondo can expect to see more of those opportunities in Game 5.
• Coach Doc Rivers put Pierce in more isolation and dribble penetration situations in Game 4, and the Celtics continue to feel that Orlando cannot consistently guard Pierce off the dribble. Rather than catching in the pinch post or post extended, Pierce is attacking from the wing and top of the floor against the taller Magic defenders. Expect to see more of this in Game 5, especially if Ray Allen continues to struggle from the field.
• Boston continues to run Allen off almost every screen imaginable, and the Magic are locking on to him and crowding him on the catch. Allen can find some easier baskets in transition on cuts to the rim, as he did in Game 4. He must then be more crafty and creative in moving toward the screening action, stopping and starting and changing speeds to disrupt the trailing defender.
• The Celtics' team defense was outstanding in Game 4, with green shirts jamming the lane and defenders rotating in unison, resulting in fewer of the uncontested drives that Orlando got in Game 3. Look for continued emphasis on limiting dribble penetration. The Celtics will give up some 3s and live with that result, at least initially.
• Rondo also brought more ball pressure at the point, and Pierce and Scalabrine made things difficult for Turkoglu and Lewis to catch in their favorite areas. That will continue to be a point of emphasis in Game 5.
• Perkins used his strength in Game 4 to force Howard away from the front of the rim, and pre-empted Howard's countermove to the baseline by jumping that move on the second dribble of Howard's attack. Perkins can't do anything about the dunks at the rim when Howard roams free, but as of now, he is getting the best of the low post, one-on-one battle. Perkins and the Celtics' coaching staff have also schooled Davis to defend Howard in the same way.
Perkins and the Celtics should anticipate Orlando going to more ball screen action in Game 5, which puts Perkins on the move getting back to Howard after he screens.
• After averaging 15.2 points per game in the first round against Philadelphia, Alston is averaging only 6.7 points on 24 percent shooting in this series. The Magic need more production from him in Game 5.
• Who would have thought the Celtics could win Game 4 without Allen or Eddie House making a 3-point shot? They will need both to have a hotter hand in Game 5.
Orlando lost its opportunity to take control of this series, and Boston now comes home feeling more like the defending champions. The Magic have to win another game in Boston, and this is the one they have to get. With the stakes now higher, expect nothing less than the best, most physical game of this series.
Celtics Win Game 5
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.