Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic: Reaction and Grades for Christmas Day Showdown
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic certainly gave us all a nice present on Christmas Day 2010 with an exciting contest that featured plenty of momentum swings.
Orlando started out the game on fire, jumping out to a quick 13-0 lead early in the first quarter, but was outscored 46-23 throughout the rest of the first half.
Boston entered the break with a 46-36 advantage and it looked as though they may run away with the game. Orlando was having trouble knocking down open shots and for the first 24 minutes could not stop the Celtics.
After halftime however, the Magic took back all the energy in the game and the Celtics would score only 32 points in the second half while Orlando would total 50, going on to win, 86-78.
The key for Orlando in the final 24 minutes was hitting their open shots. Through the early parts of the third quarter, the Magic were in the low 30s in field-goal percentage, but finished the day at 39 percent.
Orlando also had a rebounding advantage of 45-39 and got to the free-throw line eight more times than the C's.
Boston clearly missed Rajon Rondo. Nate Robinson is a nice player, but he's much better coming off the bench than running the show. The Celtics tried to have Paul Pierce play a bit more as a point guard would, and he ended up leading the team in assists with five.
Pierce also had five turnovers, though, so that offsets the assist total a bit.
The loss ended Boston's 14-game winning streak. Orlando has now won consecutive games over the Celtics and San Antonio—two of the NBA's best teams.
Now that this quick recap of the action is out of the way, let's move on to what decided the game, the MVP and grades for the biggest players on each team.
Missed Opportunites Were the Difference in the Game
Whoever lost this game was going to be kicking themselves for blowing some chances.
The Magic came out on top, but had they been unable to they would have looked at the number of open shots they missed, their 10 missed free throws and their 17 turnovers as the reason they lost.
Orlando is certainly an entertaining team to watch. Their volume approach to three-point shooting could come back to bite them at some point, though. They were able to fight out of it today, but they dug themselves quite a hole by missing so many long shots early in the game.
Even though they finished the day at 38 percent from three, they missed 18 three-point attempts. Long shots lead to long rebounds and ignite fast breaks. They were fortunate that Boston was without Rajon Rondo, who would have been more able to push the ball quickly up the court and find a high percentage shot than either Paul Pierce or Nate Robinson.
For Boston, they missed a number of layups in this one. Every sport is about taking advantage of your opportunities and the Celtics did not do that.
When you get an open look at the basket you must put it through. Had they been able to do that, they likely would have won this game.
The Celtics also hit just 4-of-17 three-point shots including a Ray Allen air ball late in the game. As a whole, they were at 35 percent shooting from the field.
They will feel they should have won this game, and they would have had they converted more of their chances.
Game MVP: Brandon Bass
Bass was Orlando's leading scorer with 21 points. He was 8-of-15 from the floor, 5-for-6 from the free-throw line and grabbed nine rebounds. He added in an assist, a steal and a block.
Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson struggled for much of the game. If not for the Bass' contribution, there is absolutely no way that Orlando wins this game.
The forward is averaging 11 PPG and 5.3 RPG on the season. After the Magic's recent trade, his role will likely be increased. If he can consistently produce like he has over the past two games (he had 17 points and six rebounds against San Antonio) he'll be a big part of whatever type of success this team has.
Now onto the grades, where I'll be looking at how the top players from each team impacted the game, starting with Boston.
Just so we're clear, Brandon Bass is getting an A.
Paul Pierce: B
Pierce took up a good amount of the responsibility for running Boston's offense. As I said before, it was a bit of a mixed bag as he had five assists, but also had five turnovers.
The assists number could have been higher had his teammates not blown some open looks close to the basket.
He also had eight rebounds and scored 18 points, but he was just 6-of-14 from the field.
Taking it all into account, Pierce gets a solid B.
Kevin Garnett: B+
Garnett led the Celtics in scoring with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. As usual, he also played solid defense, even getting four steals, but he gets knocked down some for grabbing just five rebounds.
Given that his team lost, I can't bump him into the A-range. He gets a B+ on this, but is very close to an A-.
Ray Allen: F
Does it feel like Allen is beginning to enter dangerous territory in terms of missing shots in big games?
After his historic performance in Game 2 of the Finals last summer when he hit 8-of-11 thee-pointers, he went 4-for-28 for the rest of the series.
In this year's Christmas matchup with Orlando, he was 3-of-13 from the field and just 1-for-5 on threes, finishing the game with all of nine points.
This game was nowhere near as big as the games in the Finals last season, but this bears watching going forward.
Nate Robinson: D-
Robinson had four assists and six rebounds, so he is not a complete failure.
However, he scored only seven points and hit just two of his 15 shot attempts, while also going 1-of-7 on threes.
Obviously, Robinson is nowhere near Rajon Rondo's level, and the Celtics cannot wait for the latter to get healthy.
Let's now take a look at Orlando's top players and how they did.
Dwight Howard: B-
It's not completely Howard's fault, but he put up just four shot attempts in the game. He had trouble hitting his foul shots (4-for-10), scored a mighty six points and had four turnovers.
He did his best to make up for this with his defense and rebounding, grabbing 11 boards and blocking five shots.
The Magic still won, but if he plays like this against Boston in the playoffs, there is no way on earth that Orlando wins the series.
Jameer Nelson: C+
Nelson scored 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting and had a grand total of three assists while committing six turnovers.
He did, however, make some big shots at the end of the game, bringing up his grade. The fact that the Magic won helps him out, too.
Hedo Turkoglu: A
Turkoglu is clearly more comfortable in Orlando's system than he ever was in Toronto or Phoenix.
He scored 16 points, hit 60 percent of his total shots, went 50 percent on his threes, grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists. He also had zero turnovers and was at plus-30 in point differential.
He had a great game.
Jason Richardson: D
Richardson scored five points and went 2-of-8 from the field. He didn't get to the free-throw line a single time and had a very minimal impact on the game.
If Orlando had lost he would have been saddled with an F, but the fact that they won helps his cause.
Gilbert Arenas: D-
Arenas was even worse than Jason Richardson.
He hit two of his nine shots, just one of this three attempts from downtown and missed both of his free-throw attempts.
The Magic decided to blow up the ship and go "all in" with their recent trades. For this strategy to pay off, they need Arenas and Richardson to show up much bigger than this.
If not, they'll be watching the Finals from home again.