Matt Moore, FanHouse: "After the Finals, the Magic saw a golden opportunity. "Let's take a player who played well for us, Hedo Turkoglu(notes), and whose contract is expiring, and let's upgrade to an even better player at a similar, though not identical position!" And so, Vince Carter(notes) was brought in, and Courtney Lee(notes) and Hedo Turkoglu sacrificed. The plan seemed ingenious. After all, Carter is a better player than Turkoglu, and with all the extra size Orlando brought in with Brandon Bass(notes) and Marcin Gortat(notes), many said the Magic were the best roster Nos. 1-10 in the league. They certainly looked like it through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
But things change when the defenses intensify, when the style becomes more grinding, more physical, when the separation is a matter of inches and not feet. And what the Magic did not count on was that Carter's height and athleticism would not translate to a good pick and roll partner. Instead of adapting the remaining abilities he has left in the tank, they attempted to slot him in, assuming he could do the same work as Turkoglu. But the pick and roll normally takes a lot of feel to run, knowing teammate tendencies and positioning. It also takes a solid passing ability, a skill where Carter has never been tremendously strong. Against the Celtics, it takes poise, composure, and a willingness to be physical. Not really Carter strong suits, especially not at 33 years old.
The playoffs have been somewhat of an exercise in confirming long-held beliefs. Defense wins championships. Experience matters. The Lakers and Celtics are good. Vince Carter's failures in tough, important situations is just another in a long line of arguments we would like to add some nuance to dispel, but find ourselves accepting like death, taxes, and the salary cap."
Eric Freeman, The Baseline: "Both teams looked ugly on their way to an almost-unwatchable overtime period in which neither one seemed to have much interest in winning the game. In the end, the Magic made enough shots to get by, with Jameer Nelson(notes) hitting two key 3s to put it away.
The Magic needed Dwight Howard(notes) to come up big in this game, and their star certainly responded, with 32 points (13-of-19 shooting), 16 rebounds (five offensive), and four blocks. Howard and Nelson (23 points, nine assists) worked the pick-and-roll very well.
Overall, Orlando's offense wasn't fantastic -- it shot 44.6 percent from the floor and committed 15 of its 19 turnovers in the second half -- but it was functional in a way it hadn't previously been in this series. Save a horrific game by Vince Carter (three points on 1-of-9 shooting in 31 minutes), the team got contributions from J.J. Redick(notes) (12 points, 3-of-5 from deep) and Rashard Lewis(notes), whose 13 points were just two shy of his total for the first three games of the series.
If the Magic play this way on offense for the rest of the series, they'll almost certainly lose. But it was at least a step in the right direction after three rough losses."
Rob Mahoney, ProBasketballTalk: "It may seem like Stan Van Gundy's system is under fire, but SVG's offensive adjustments in Game 4 showed why he's still one of the best in the business.
With an understanding that guard penetration would be the key to unlocking the offense and that limiting Rajon Rondo's(notes) effectiveness on the other end would ease his team's defensive burden, Van Gundy devised an approach that could tackle both problems simultaneously. Whenever Jameer Nelson had the ball on the perimeter, he had the option of using two staggered screens to brush off Rondo. Rajon's length and quickness had bothered Jameer throughout the series, and having not one, but two big bodies running interference freed up Nelson enough to pull-up from behind the arc or get all the way to the rim.
Plus, no one should discount how much running through screens can take out of a defender. Just ask any player who's had the displeasure of defending Reggie Miller, Ray Allen(notes), or Rip Hamilton about how exhausting it can be to chase shooters through screens all night. It's not exactly the way that any player wants to spend their time on the defensive end. With Rondo asked to fight through several screens on pretty much every possession down the floor (another essential component of the plan was putting the ball in Nelson's hands more often, which worked beautifully) while also running the Celtics offense, the burden of those dual responsibilities undoubtedly took a physical toll on him.
Running Rondo ragged, playing J.J. Redick major minutes, sitting the ice-cold Vince Carter during crucial moments in the fourth quarter -- these are the reasons why Stan Van Gundy would have a job even if the Eastern Conference Finals had ended in a sweep. Among the most logical reasons to fire a coach is a distrust in them to make the right adjustments. That has never and will never be the case with Van Gundy. He makes mistakes -- with sets, with the rotation, with certain play calls -- but he's a perfectionist that works tirelessly to correct those mistakes. He's always tinkering, and his willingness to adjust is what makes him so valuable as a head coach."
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: "It's not something we see a lot of in the NBA. Having just collected a rebound off a miss by Jameer Nelson, the Celtics opt against calling timeout in a tie game with about 16 seconds to play and a chance to close out the Eastern Conference Finals.
Instead, Paul Pierce(notes) takes charge when Rajon Rondo hands off the ball at the 9-second mark. Orlando's defense does a nice job of getting set on the possession, and the Celtics never get a shot off -- but probably could have:
Greg Payne, Celticsblog: "Pierce will probably take a fair amount of heat for the final play in regulation, when the C's couldn't even muster a shot at the rim, along with his two missed three-pointers in the waning seconds of overtime, with his team down four points. Should the Celtics have called timeout at the end of regulation? They seemed to run the play they wanted regardless (a pick-and-roll for Pierce and Ray Allen, with Ray fading to the left wing), and while Ray might have seemed open off his flare to the left side, Pierce was still heading right, and basically got too far along on the right wing to hurl a cross-court pass which would have had to sail over both a recovering Vince Carter (who stumbled through a screen set by Kevin Garnett(notes)), and Dwight Howard, who, stationed higher up in the paint off of Garnett, was in a decent position to try and pick off the pass. Disaster really struck with about three seconds left, when Pierce tried to cut back left with a between-the-legs dribble, lost the handle, and then had to deal with Jameer Nelson going for the loose ball. Had he maintained his dribble, he might have been able to force what would have been a fading three-pointer - not exactly a high percentage shot, to say the least."
Ben Q. Rock, Orlando Pinstriped Post: "The Magic's offense, which has struggled mightily in this series, finally got on track tonight thanks to a worthwhile adjustment from coach Stan Van Gundy. As his brother Jeff, an ESPN analyst, pointed out during the telecast, Orlando sent staggered screens Nelson's way, which added another dimension to its offense. An initial screen from power forward Rashard Lewis on the wing would start the play, and then Howard would come over to set another screen for Nelson between the wing and the baseline. The small forward, either Carter, Mickael Pietrus(notes), or Matt Barnes(notes), would slide along the baseline from the strong side to the weak side to take away a help defender. Nelson could drive to the basket for a layup or dump the ball to Howard on the roll. Another option, one which worked well tonight, was to keep the dribble alive and pull the ball back out to the initial weak side. If Boston's defense blinked for even a second, Howard was open for a delayed lob. It's a gorgeous set that worked well against Boston's elite defense. Rest assured that Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and defensive assistant Tom Thibodeau, will watch plenty of film of those plays to figure ways to adjust, while Van Gundy can add another wrinkle or two.
Another change Van Gundy made? Playing Brandon Bass. Dissatisfied with the combination of Howard and Marcin Gortat at the power positions, which he's used in this series, he gave the energetic Bass some meaningful minutes for the first time this postseason. In 11 minutes, Bass scored 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting, grabbed 2 rebounds, and blocked a shot which the official scorekeeper did not tally. As usual, there's no faulting Bass' energy. Tonight, he impressed me with some solid work on defense, especially with a hard contest of a Kevin Garnett fadeaway jumper which Garnett drained anyway. I expect Bass to pick up a few more minutes in Game 5, and for my email box to fill up with more questions as to why Bass hardly plays."
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub: "Rasheed Wallace played his worst game of the post-season so far, especially considering the circumstances (a berth in the Finals on the line). The Celtics opened the 4th quarter by knocking the ball away from Howard and getting out in semi-transition. As the Magic rushed back on defense, Rondo pulled the ball up, waiting for a trailer. And he waited. And he waited some more. At this point, I thought maybe Wallace had been injured on the other end of the court.
Nope. He was just being lazy. By the time he appeared at the top of the arc and received the pass from Rajon, the Magic was set to at least contest the shot a bit, whereas if Sheed had been hustling, he would have time to set his feet and take a wide open three.
Awful. Then Sheed committed a dumb technical (the Magic made the free throw, and the game went to overtime-Thanks Sheed!), got whistled for an illegal screen and bricked another rushed three-pointer.
Doc pulled him, and Sheed never saw the floor again. Deservedly so."
Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: "Even though the Orlando Magic won last night and avoided getting swept, the odds are still completely in the Boston Celtics' favor to advance to the Finals sooner or later - NBA teams trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series are 0-93 in those series.
But if the Magic want any chance to do the impossible, to win four games in a row against a former champion, they need to ride on the Jameer Nelson-Dwight Howard pick and roll until the wheels fall off. There's more Orlando needs to do, of course, to give themselves a chance to win tomorrow but offensively, there's no question that Nelson and Howard need to lead the charge and display the same type of aggressiveness they did in Game 4.
Usually when Nelson runs the pick and roll, it's normally just Howard setting the screen usually at the top of the key. However, head coach Stan Van Gundy introduced a new wrinkle yesterday ... throwing in staggered screens that were set by Rashard Lewis before Howard set his screen to create additional space for Nelson to create for either himself or others. The adjustment worked. Nelson and Howard combined for 55 points, with a majority of the scores coming directly or indirectly from the pick and roll."
- Vince Carter
- Stan Van Gundy
- Jameer Nelson