Denton's Dish: Magic at Celtics (1/23/12)
By John Denton
January 23, 2012
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were without two all-star starters and three other reserves on Monday. They were in a funk at home, losing five of the past six games at the TD Garden. And they entered having not yet beaten a team with a winning record this season.
And not one single shred of it mattered against an Orlando Magic team that couldn’t make a shot and suffered an offensive meltdown of historic proportions.
The Magic set all-time lows for points in a game (56), points in a half (20), field goals made (16) and field goal percentage (24.6 percent) in a downright unsightly 87-56 loss to the undermanned Celtics that defied all logic.
``They outplayed us, they played harder and tougher than we did,’’ said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson after Orlando broke the previous franchise low of 57 points in 1996 against Cleveland. ``We couldn’t execute and we didn’t help each other. It was a selfish game by us. For whatever reason, we didn’t stay together.’’
The Magic (11-5) came into the game well-rested, having not played since Friday’s home defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers, while the aging Celtics (7-9) were playing their second game in as many nights.
But nothing made sense on this gloomy, cold night in Boston. Over a 24-minute of the second and third quarters, the Magic made just seven of 31 shots and scored only 26 points. Shockingly, the Magic had just 45 points through three quarters and scored only 20 second-half points.
``It didn’t start well and it got worse as the game went on,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``That’s the most dominating defensive performance I have ever had against me. There’s no singling anyone out. It’s the first game in my career I’ve been through where not one guy played well. That was an absolute beatdown and in most senses it was much worse than the score indicated.’’
The Magic don’t have long to get over the poor offensive showing. They play in Indiana Tuesday night against an 11-4 Pacers team that is unbeaten on its home court.
Boston was without starters Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo and reserves Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus and Chris Wilcox because of injuries. Boston head coach Doc Rivers said he hopes that Allen, Rondo and Dooling will be able to return by Thursday when the Celtics face the Magic in Orlando.
Here is a closer look at some of the key moments from Monday’s game:
The Magic made just 16 of 65 shots for a 24.6 percent shooting night. That eclipsed the previous franchise low of 25 percent against New York in 2003. And the Magic made just 16 field goals all night (five in the second half), eclipsing the previous low of 21 field goals set previously three times.
Dwight Howard had 18 points, but he missed 11 of 15 shots. Orlando’s other four starters – Hedo Turkoglu (seven points), Ryan Anderson (zero points), Jason Richardson (five points) and Nelson (five points) combined to shoot just five of 22 shots. Two of the Magic’s best offensive players – J.J. Redick (0 of 2) and Anderson (0 of 8) – failed to score.
``It just kind of snowballed on us. With 6 minutes to go in the second quarter it was a one-point game and after that we literally got two good shots the rest of the game,’’ Redick said. ``It’s embarrassing. Nights like this happen … but this is just not good enough against a team like this.’’
Davis, who had six points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, emerged from the Magic’s huddle and walked to the middle of the court where he waved to the crowd, which gave him a short, but warm ovation. Rivers said before the game that Davis should get cheers from the Boston crowd for his contributions to the Celtics’ 2008 championship team.
Said Davis: ``I looked really big, like really fat (on the video). I was like, `Wow, chubby!’ I look a little leaner now. But it was good. It’s always good to see things like that, good memories. I can never forget. The fans showed love and I appreciate that.’’
The Celtics used much the same strategy they have used through the years: Single-cover Howard and attempt to frustrate him by taking whacks and don’t leave the Magic 3-point shooters. As a result, Howard has his worst shooting night of the season and the Magic made just four of 16 tries from beyond the arc. Kevin Garnett, Jermain O’Neal and Greg Stiemama took turns guarding Howard and frustrating him.
``We just allowed them to get into our heads. They won the mental battle,’’ Howard said. ``They’ve been doing it for a couple of years. They get in our heads and we have to learn to play through that.
``We can’t a team beat us mentally, and that’s what they did,’’ Howard continued. ``We’ve got to stay together. That’s one thing we didn’t do which is not characteristic of us as a team. We started pointing fingers and blaming each other. I have to do a better job of policing that, me being the captain of the team. We’ll get better.’’
Orlando made just 11 of 38 shots in the first half, a dismal 28.9 percent. Five Magic players and two Magic starters (Turkoglu and Anderson) who played in the first half failed to make a shot.
The Magic were a mind-boggling five of 20 shooting from the floor in the second quarter. Little did they know it would get worse in the third quarter when they were two of 11 with nine turnovers.
``We didn’t play Magic basketball. We have a team out there that’s capable of winning games and we didn’t play to the level that we needed to play. They played harder and hungrier than we did,’’ Davis said. ``Their game plan was on point and we didn’t have anything to adjust to. We didn’t change anything and just kept doing the same things. As a team, we have to do a better job adjusting.’’
O’Neal, who has battled with Howard several times through the years, then went at Howard, pointing at him and yapping. Howard pushed O’Neal had away, but otherwise backed away from the argument. However, both players were assessed technical fouls – a fourth already this season for Howard, the NBA’s leader in that category last season.
The NBA league office will review the play on Tuesday, and the Magic will undoubtedly be pushing for Howard’s technical foul to be rescinded. They should have a strong case since it seems that O’Neal was the instigator and furthered the incident with the finger to the face.
``I asked (the referee) a man-to-man question and said, `If a guy puts his finger in your face should you let it stay there or move it?’ He actually said he would move it and that’s what I did,’’ Howard said. ``That’s stupid to fight on the court. I wasn’t about to get into it or go back into it with him. That’s crossing the line with someone, putting your hand in their face. I just pushed his hand out of my face and I didn’t run up on him because it’s basketball. We’re not MMA fighters. I don’t know what I have to take, but I’m cool with it.’’
Bass made eight of 12 shots and scored 19 points in 34 minutes. He also grabbed eight rebounds and played a big role in frustrating Anderson and Howard.
``It felt good to get the win and play great,’’ Bass said.
Garnett regularly worked for early positioning, pushed Howard out of his comfort zones and made him take mostly contested hook shots. Howard started four of six in the first quarter, but missed his last nine shots.
``Even myself, there’s no way that K.G. should be beating me up and down the floor,’’ Howard said. ``He beat me up and down the floor. He’s 40 and I’m 26. I just can’t allow that to happen and I have to step up and be a leader for this team. When they seeing me doing things out of character, everybody else follows. I have to do a better job.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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