Celtics Forget to Bring Defense to Orlando

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Celtics Forget to Bring Defense to Orlando
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The Celtics came out flat yet again tonight against the Orlando Magic.

Rajon Rondo did not go strong to the hole, Ray Allen couldn't hit a shot, and Paul Pierce was too worried about the ref's not making calls. All this led to a 117-95 Magic victory.

The Celtics were within nine points after three quarters but this one was never close.

The Magic did exactly what they needed to do. They stopped settling for three-pointers and worked the swing defenders off the dribble for wide open 18-foot shots. This led to the Orlando Magic shooting an astounding 60 percent from the field.

Rashard Lewis was the difference maker tonight.

He is the one player on the Magic who has a complete mismatch when on offense against the Celtics. He can take Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Brian Scalabrine off the dribble whenever he wants. He has an excellent fade away jumper and the only time he can be stopped against a KG-less Celtics team is when he settles for three-point shots.

The real problem for the Celtics tonight was Rajon Rondo. Without Kevin Garnett, the Boston offense and defense all revolved around Rondo. When Rondo settles for floaters and fade away shots, the Celtics offense sputters.

Rondo is at his best when he is driving to the lane and finishing strong, or drawing the opponents big man away to find a wide open teammate.

Tonight, it was Rondo's defense that was the real problem. He was letting Magic guard, Anthony Johnson, get into the lane at will in the first half which set up easy baskets for the entire Magic team.

Rondo—who is arguably the best defending point guard in the NBA—consistenty let the slower Johnson do whatever he wanted to do; which forced Kendrick Perkins to provide help on defense, and subsequently let Dwight Howard do what he does best—dunk the basketball.

Anthony Johnson—who started in place of the suspended Raefer Alston—was excellent in the first half. He was able to finish around the basket and really controlled the tempo of the game for the Magic.

At the end of the third quarter, however, he got in a screaming match with Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy, and needed to be separated by teammates. He never entered the game again.

Yet Anthony's presence was not needed in the fourth quarter, as the late run at the end of the third quarter by the Celtics was quickly erased by the continued hot shooting of Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

The other two of Boston's "Big Three" didn't fare much better against Orlando's defense.

Although Pierce had 27 points, he was a non-factor shooting 6-of-15 and getting 14-points from free throws.

Allen struggled again in game three, shooting only 3-of-13 from the floor and 0-5 three-point range, for eight points. 

Courtney Lee had a positive return to the Magic lineup after missing the last three post season games due to a sinus fracture, scoring 11 points in 32 minutes.

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