In Game Three, the Magic beat the Celtics 117-96. One thing that really sticks out about that score is the Magic couldn't stop scoring and the Celtics weren't able to keep up.
Even without a respectable point guard with Rafer Alston suspended, the Magic were able to compensate by adjusting their offense in the way they had to before Jameer Nelson found his groove.
Throughout the regular season, the Magic played in an offense where they didn't have to find a shot immediately. They'd thrive off of either openings on the perimeter with Dwight Howard double-teams or too much perimeter defense, leaving Howard open.
Last night, the Magic ran a fast break offense where they were able to find open shots quickly. The Celtics' transition defense was weak and the Magic were able to get their men back before the Celtics could set up on defense.
Anthony Johnson, the Magic point guard, was able to thrive in this offense. Johnson focused solely on getting to the offensive end after the shot, with Rondo generally close to the basket. Johnson was able to score 13 point off these fast break opportunities.
Rajon Rondo was not able to get into his groove with Howard keeping him a safe distance away from the hoop. Rondo scored 15, shot 7 for 17 and only had six assists with the Celtics shooters unable to adjust quickly on offense.
Another bad matchup for the Celtics was Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu. The 6'10" Turkoglu was able to get his shots over Pierce, scoring 24 and shooting 8 for 12. Pierce was unable to get his shots over Turkoglu, but didn't become a ballhandler until the second half. Pierce only made three shots in the first half, but scored 27.
The problem with this matchup is that Turkoglu has a four inch height advantage on Pierce, which interferes with Pierce's shot, limiting him to the dribble. When Pierce is on defense, Turkoglu can easily get his shot over Pierce for the same reason.
The key match up of the series has been Howard vs. Kendrick Perkins. Due to foul trouble, Perkins only played 29 minutes. Howard was efficient, scoring 17 and shooting 7 for 8.
With 14 rebounds, 12 on the defensive side, Howard was the key to the fast break. Compared to the Celtics' 29 rebounds, Howard was dependable on the defensive boards, allowing for his other teammates to transition on offense.
Eddie House extended his hot streak, scoring 15 in 21 minutes. House has given the Celtics a stable sixth man this series and has taken advantage of the Magic's lack of backcourt depth in the series. House brought the energy that the Celtics didn't have for most of the game.
Why the Celtics played such a slow style of basketball really puzzles me. They're best suited for the offense that the Magic played yesterday.
The Celtics don't have a lot of good improvisers on offense. When Rondo and Ray Allen aren't getting scoring opportunities, they just slump and keep doing what isn't working. The only really good improviser is Pierce.
To make up for this, the Celtics must get back on offense and defense quickly. They need to take less time to set up their plays. They need to find their shots more quickly. This is not to say that Doc Rivers should take after the Nuggets' George Karl, but the Celtics need to exceed the intensity of their opponent to win.
Offense doesn't win championships. Defense doesn't win championships. The transition game and control of the tempo wins championships. The Celtics lacked the competitive drive of a champion last night and they need to step up their game the way they did in last year's finals to survive in the playoffs.
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