Everything that happened last night should have occurred Saturday. For those who have been watching the Orlando Magic play basketball this season, you know Game Three was just an aberration. A truly strange and listless performance from one of the better, more competitive teams in professional basketball. Last night we saw a closer imitation to the team that went 8-0 through the first two rounds, although they’re unlikely to duplicate that sort of dominance anytime soon.
A combination of several factors allowed Orlando to take Game Four and extend their season. Here are three:
1) Something was wrong with Rajon Rondo. Possibly a spasm or a cramp. When Nate Robinson comes in to close out the half of a tightly contested elimination game, the only explanation is an injury to the person in front of him. Nate showed an inability to stay in front of both Jason Williams and Jameer Nelson, costing the Celtics a few crucial points while on the court. With Rondo out Boston hung tough, but wasn’t able to execute any sort of offense apart from Paul Pierce doing what he does best in set isolation plays. That’ll keep you close, but it won’t win you ball games consistently.
2) Dwight Howard (32, 16, 4) and Nelson (23, 9) both had huge games. They stepped up collectively in a way I truly wasn’t expecting. They were aggressive, in control (mostly) and played with passion for the first time in a couple weeks.
3) Orlando hit their three pointers. 10 of them to be exact. J.J. Redick, who finished with a game-best plus/minus of +14, knocked down three huge ones every time it looked like the Celtics were poised to make a run. None of them were contested which was extremely rare in the first three games. Rashard Lewis and Matt Barnes hit two a piece and Nelson had two lucky ones in overtime that reminded me of David Tyree and Doug Flutie, respectively.
It’s one game. There’s no need to agonize or be anxious. No need to think about Boston’s hockey team and what happened to them. This series will either end on Wednesday or, Heaven forbid, back in Boston in Game Six.