Orlando 113, Boston 92; Boston leads series, 3-2
Boston fans, understandably, will be angry with this game.
Why wouldn't they be? Two concussions, zero fouls. A few orthodox calls that didn't go their way. The first two-technical (two T's given in separate instances) first-half ejection that I can remember this year, featuring two of the most ridiculous technical fouls I've seen this season.
Game 5 was a terrible exhibition by what sometimes can be a good crew. A great crew, even. But great crews can get full of themselves, and that's what we saw in Game 5.
Switching gears, anyone on the ready with a conspiracy theory can go stuff it. For the trillionth time, the referees and their union absolutely hate the NBA's executive branch. There is no love lost. To suggest that either side of that aisle could work in cahoots, would want to work in cahoots in any way, is to be ignorant about this league.
So, stop it. There's nothing there.
And understand that, yes, it stinks that All-Stars like Kendrick Perkins(notes), Glen Davis(notes) and Marquis Daniels(notes) had to hit the locker room early. And that the Magic — the defending Eastern Conference champions who had a better record than the Boston Celtics this season — just beat the C's by 21 points. Give me your Perk, his pick-and-roll defense, his dogged determination, his beatnik facial hair, his alto saxophone and his funny cigarettes. Give it to me. Give it to the Magic. Doesn't matter. The C's just lost by 21.
Why? Because the Magic are stacked.
I'm not going to try and call the rest of the series, Orlando needs to win its second game in a row in Boston just to re-grab home-court advantage, but this sort of Game 5 outcome should be no surprise, and it shouldn't be some sign of either a Boston letdown, or the NBA gone revenue-mad. It's just a win by a very good basketball team.
The Orlando Magic can defend like the dickens (the dickens, I say!), and the team's you-know-it's-coming, pick-and-roll attack can cause enough consternation to keep even the best of defenses wondering what to do. This is a championship-level team, it's been that way all year, and a pathetic blowout in Game 3 paired with two close losses (by a total of seven points) in the first two games of this series should not have altered that thinking too much.
The C's? Yes, also championship caliber. Listening to the podcasts, I was about the only guy saying that in the third week of April. And they could easily hit the finals on Friday night in a comfortable 21-point win of their own. But I don't want to hear any hand-wringing on either end. This is the game, talking. Not some sudden movement.
Game 5, itself? Orlando hit shots. Lots of loose balls and/or offensive rebounds led to stray plays, plays that ended with the Celtics losing their men after a scramble, and the Magic spotting up in the corner. About 130 points per 100 possessions for Orlando in the game, right at what the Suns gave you on Tuesday night, and that's a result of the Magic hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
Thirteen of them, in 25 attempts. Think about that — 156 points per 100 possessions from that area; and not the point-per-possession mark that you saw from this team for too many games to start this series. This wasn't some good-luck streak in dancing school, either. The Magic moved and set down screens and made quick passes and quick decisions. They weren't scared of the formidable Celtic defense that they, truly, should be scared of. They just played the sort of game that had won them so many games in the past. Some of them over the Celtics, even.
And, yes, the fawning is correct. Dwight Howard(notes) was fantastic. Changed shots, denied shots that led to extra passes that resulted in bad shots, took away options off of penetration and/or the screen and roll, and he helped limit options in transition. For the first time in this series, the Celtics were actually wary of his presence. They were assuming that he was just a footstep away. Probably because he was.
Five blocks, two steals and 10 rebounds; eight on the defensive end. Twenty-one points and 7-12 shooting (both from the floor, and from the line) for Howard, who just kept his head down and dominated.
Everyone else hit shots. Because the Orlando offense moved quickly and didn't allow the C's a chance to bend knees and settle, the ball was moving, the execution was loose but exacting, and all those threes found a home.
Vince Carter(notes) (10 shots to score eight points) was useless once again, but everyone else hit from long range. Name 'em, and they hit. While dominating the boards by 17, and limiting the turnovers down the stretch. Five minutes into the third quarter, the Magic had turned the rock over 10 times to Boston's four miscues, but it was a six-to-three disadvantage for the C's to end it in the clutch.
Perkins' ejection? Terrible. "Reports" out of Orlando have neither of his technicals being rescinded because he dropped an f-bomb or 12 after an either-way post defense foul, but after the rightful on-air evisceration that Eddie F. Rush received following both T's, the league has no choice but to not suspend Perkins for Game 6. No choice.
If they don't rescind the technical, then Stu Jackson (already a joke and a sham as league enforcer, encouraged into a third job by David J. Stern that he doesn't deserve) needs to have an entire day of blog posts dedicated to his incompetence.
Kendrick's absence, though unfortunate, was not the difference. Rasheed Wallace(notes) only managed two rebounds in 18 minutes, but otherwise he was white hot on both ends. Boston may have been better with Sheed in Perkins' place, and only Rasheed made it so his minutes were limited.
Orlando's just that good. They're good enough to ... well, I won't say it. But you can understand it. And while you shouldn't expect it, you should be ready for it. A bit of history, darlings.
In the meantime, we should have a hellacious Game 6 on our hands in Boston. The team's arena might not sweat the way it used to, but the whistle will be hard to hear, and lay-ups will be hard to come by. It took six weeks, but the playoffs showed up. Dig.