The Celtics finally dispatched their first round opponent Chicago in yet another Game 7 win in the Jungle by the score of 108-98. The worn and battle tested Celtics showed up for Game 1 of the 2nd Round of the NBA Playoffs to face a tough opponent in the Orlando Magic. They split the season series 2-2 and the key matchup problem for the Celtics is at the center position. Whereas the Orlando Magic boast one of the most dominant centers and the reigning NBA Defensive Player Of The Year in Dwight "Superman" Howard, the Celtics have Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins in the middle for them. Hulk is currently 2nd in rebounding (12.1 rpg) and 1st in blocks (3.0 bpg) amongst all players in the NBA Playoffs and scoring 12.4 ppg while shooting 59% from the field so he's shown up to play so far.
Dwight Howard is the leading rebounder and 2nd in blocks during the NBA playoffs so far. Also keep in mind that Perkins and Howard used to battle each other all the time back at Adidas ABCD Camp and in the 5 Star Tourney as well as AAU matchups all the time during their younger years. Back then, Hulk was the leading center prospect in HS basketball and he dominated the younger and much less physical Howard. That was before he beefed up about 25 pounds and added muscle to his frame. At the same time Perkins lost about 30 pounds and added muscle to his frame. Howard was always more polished offensively but Perkins had the mindset and drive to be a defensive presence first and foremost. Now many years later the face off in the NBA trying to reach the brighest stage in Summer sports.
Rajon Rondo was the story of the opening series against the Bulls and he almost averaged a triple double (18.8 ppg 9.4 rpg 11.1 apg 3.0 spg) despite having a subpar 6th and 7th game of the series . Rondo is the barometer for the team, if he doesn't push the tempo, attack the basket and find open players in transition the team suffers. Whenever the Celtics play halfcourt offense, walk the ball up and hold it they are a mediocre team. When they push the ball, use motion and move the ball around to the open player effectively they're almost unstoppable. Rajon Rondo had a horrible first game of the game and so did the Boston Celtics.
Boston played lethargically and let the Orlando Magic dictate the pace of the game. They became stuck in the same quagmire that affected them in Game 1 of the last series. They didn't show up to play on their own home court...again. The Magic got open look after open look as the disjointed C's struggled on defense and had trouble sustaining a run due to the fact they couldn't buy a bucket. Orlando went Super Saiyan in the 2nd quarter and eventually pushed the lead all the way up to 28. They had trouble pulling away due to complacency and the Celtics managed to make it an 18 point lead by the half. The Celtics knew they had to suck it up and play with pride the next half.
That they did, Rajon Rondo stepped up his intensity as well as his agressiveness level. He began getting to the hole to make up for his atrocious performance from the field (2-12 from the field) and knocking down free throws. Paul Pierce (23 pts 5 rebs 2 asts 2 stls) was the lone stalwart who was able to consistently put the ball in the hole besides Glen "Big Baby" Davis (12 points on 6-10 shooting 5 rebs 1 blk 1 stl). Ray Allen had yet another nightmare outing to open a series with only 9 points on the night (2-12 from the field and 1 for 7 from deep) while Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins did in admirable job in the paint he couldn't put the ball in the net either (6 pts (3-9 from the field) 16 rebs 3 ast 3 blk). The Celtics played slightly better than even in the 3rd but really come on in the 4th quarter.
The Celtics staged a furious comeback but couldn't climb the mountain due to terrible shooting (30-78 39% FG) and sloppy ball handling from the NBA Playoffs overall leader in assists Rajon Rondo (14 pts 10 rebs 8 ast 7 TO's 3 stl) the lead never got lower than 4 although a Ray Allen three was 3/4ths of the way down before it rattled out and that would've made it a 1 opint game. The Celtics turned the ball over repeatedly, missed free throws, shot 38% for the entire game, played shitty perimeter defense leading to wide open threes, played like zombies for 24 minutes out of 48 allowing them to go down by 28 in a game where Dwight Howard absolutely dominated (16 pts 22 rebs 4 blks) and they only lost by 5 points. These are ALL bad signs....for the Orlando Magic.
The Celtics dominated in the paint, dominated the boards (47-40), the benches played even (both scored 26 points), the Celtics had 23 assists on 30 made baskets so they even moved the ball better (ORL had 20 assists on 35 made field goals (ORL shot 35-81 for 43% FG). The Celtics also tightened up their 2nd half defense and outscored ORL 54-41 in the final 24 minutes including a whopping 28-17 in the 4th quarter alone. The Magic panicked late in the game and the Celtics inability to knock down a shot (Rondo/Allen went 4-24 combined) late led to the loss. The Celtics frontcourt could have a huge series and Perkins proved he can hold his own provided he can stay on the court. All they have to do is win Game 2 then take it one game at a time from there. Just win, baby © Al Davis