Dwight's Demise: Celtics-Magic Game One Diary

Matt GelfandCorrespondent IMay 17, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 16:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts against the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 16, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Rajon Rondo was too fancy for his own good, at times. I counted at least three behind the back passes in the first half alone. A member of The Harlem Globetrotters, he is not. At times, he was also too aggressive, trying to overpower Jameer Nelson but instead, simply running over him. Despite giving Rondo about four inches, Nelson held his own, and played some very inspired defense.  

Rondo's driving floater is absolutely deadly. Because he's smart enough to release the shot a split second earlier than most big men expect him to, kissing it off the glass perfectly, and cleverly positioning the ball out of reach from befuddled big men. 

Kevin Garnett's mid-range jumper was on. KG has been partying like it was 1999 for the past month or so. A finally healthy KG can do wonders for a team's championship aspirations. 

Jameer Nelson's dribbling skills are AND 1 -worthy. He simply abused Rondo on multiple occasions, doing some serious ankle breaking in the process.  

Despite a valiant offensive performance, Vince Carter needs to quit looking like a confused child who fell and scraped his knee and needs mommy to kiss the boo-boo after every single call that doesn't go his way.  

Late in the third quarter, Carter showed some surprising ups and ripped down an errant Nelson three, went up, missed, went back up, and converted a tough layup.  

First, the mere sight of Carter banging down low was enough to make me take notice. It was inspirational.  

But what he did afterwards—visibly pumping his fist Tiger Woods-style and flamboyantly boasting instead of getting back on defense, thus allowing an open layup attempt for Rasheed Wallace, was classic Vince. Another sign that Orlando shouldn't feel confident in the fact that they're most dangerous offensive weapon has the mental maturity of a 12-year-old.

Speaking of 'Sheed, has he ever had an inside game? Yes, he drained some key shots on Sunday, but has there even been a smaller 6'10" power forward in league history?  He seems petrified to even attempt any sort of offense in the paint. If his shot is off (which typically isn't a far fetched assumption), he's nothing but a burden.  

Although his defense on Howard was absolutely Rodman-esque, clearly getting inside Howard's head and forcing him into some regrettable decisions.  

By the way, if I'm the Magic, the last person I want handling the ball during crunch time is Dwight Howard. "Barreling through the lane with a head of steam without looking up at where you're going" does not qualify as sound offense. Yet, that seemed to be Superman's go-to move on Sunday afternoon. He was more Clark Kent, less Superman if you ask me.  

More on Howard: His post game (or lack thereof) was brutally exposed on Sunday against both 'Sheed and Kendrick Perkins. Quite simply, get Howard rattled and he starts to turn the ball over and doesn't know how to tone down his game.  

He also can't finish three-point plays. If you're a Magic fan, you've already got to be weary of the old song-and-dance from Howard. Dominant defender, a game changer, but lacking a clean, polished offensive game. There's been no noticeable improvement from last year to this year. Also, he makes Shaq look like Jose Calderon from the free throw line. 

Michael Pietrus is so hit-or-miss.  Stan Van Gundy must've been telling him to keep being aggressive, because his shot was markedly off in the first half, yet he kept hoisting it up. His aggressiveness and ability to keep his confidence level up came back to burn Boston in the second half.  

I've never seen a more one-dimensional NBA player than J.J Redick.  Whenever he tries to do anything outside of catch and shoot a three, he looks like an under-developed high school freshman trying to assert himself in a sea of fully-matured seniors. He's a solid complementary piece, but nothing more.   

Despite swapping Hedo Turkoglu for Carter, the Magic are still a much younger team than the Celtics, and certainly more dangerous in a run-and-gun style of play.  

For 85 percent of the game, Orlando's offense wasn't clicking. It was anemic. It looked preseason-esque. But they proved during the final 15 percent in the fourth quarter that if their shots are falling (like in the first two rounds) it's understandable why they're so hard to beat.  

Then again, the Celtics have the advantage of having two of the smartest players of any playoff team, if not the league, in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Pierce plays the game almost in slow motion, constantly using his body to find angles and block out defenders. He uses screens and draws fouls in ways nobody else does and then snipes away with his silky smooth jumper. Did you see the look on Nelson's face after he harmlessly fouled Pierce beyond the three point line? But then Pierce sneakily acted as if he was in the act of shooting, and got three free throws out of it.

Allen's game hasn't changed much since he entered the league. Yet, the team still can't seem to figure him out, and when all systems are clicking, he's near unstoppable. Coming off screens, very much like how the Pacers used Reggie Miller, because all he really needs is that modicum of separation to release his shot. He's also got an under-appreciated penetration game, using a slick behind-the-back dribble down the center of the lane to open himself up for an easy finger roll.  

Experience and basketball IQ might win out in this series. 


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