Top 10 Possessions of the Conference Finals

Another good video from BasketballBreakdowns:

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ECF Game 6: Celtics close out the Magic

Paul Pierce led the way with 31-13-5 and four other Celtics scored in double figures — including a timely 13-point second quarter from Nate Robinson while Rajon Rondo was sidelined with a bad back — as Boston closed out Orlando, 96-84.

I wrote earlier about how the Magic needed to get to the line (30+ times) and shoot reasonably well from long range (8+ threes) and they failed in both areas tonight. They shot just 27 free throws and hit just 6-of-22 threes.

Vince Carter 17-7-3 was more aggressive than in the last two games, but he shot just 6-of-15 from the field and shot just 37% in the series. I think it’s safe to say that the trade backfired on the Magic.

Is pace the difference in the Magic/Celtics series?

After Orlando came back to win the last two games in the Eastern Conference Finals, I’ve been hearing/reading a lot about how Orlando’s insistence in pushing the ball is giving the Magic the advantage in the series.

I wasn’t able to find actual pace statistics game by game, so I came up with a somewhat crude method to estimate the tempo for a team in any given game.

Tempo = FGA + FTA/2 – OR + TO

FTA/2 assumes that every time a player makes a trip to the line that he shoots two free throws. This is obviously not true for three-point plays, but those are the exception and not the rule. (Remember, I said this was somewhat crude.) I subtract offensive rebounds because those are additional possessions that show up later as additional field goals, free throws or turnovers, and have nothing to do with how quickly the team is pushing the ball up court. Finally, I add turnovers because those are possessions where the team fails to get a shot at the basket or a trip to the free throw line.

So, for the first five games, here is how Orlando’s “tempo” has looked:

G1: 93
G2: 94
G3: 88
G4: 89 (pre-overtime)
G5: 89.5

If anything, Orlando has slowed the pace a bit since Game 1 and Game 2. While I agree that the Magic should try to run, the tempo of the game hasn’t had anything to do with whether or not Orlando has won the game.

In the two wins, Orlando has shot at least 30 free throws (in regulation) and made at least eight three pointers. In the three losses, they failed to reach this benchmark in one or both of these categories. During the season the Magic were 17-5 in games where they shot 30+ free throws and made at least eight three pointers. In the postseason, they are 6-0 when those two criteria are met.

Tonight, I’m looking for the Magic to feature Dwight Howard early and often. With Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace banged up, the Celtics are suddenly very thin on the front line. Ideally, when Kendrick Perkins is in the game, the Magic need to run action that gets Howard the ball deep inside the lane. Perkins does a nice job keeping Howard at bay when he catches the ball on the block or the extended block. If they can get Howard the ball deep, it will put Perkins in a bad position and he’s more likely to get into foul trouble. If that happens, and Perkins is forced to the bench, Howard can pretty much have his way inside.

Other than that, the Magic just need to hit some threes. That means crisp passing and good shot selection.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Were the Celtics’ technicals justified?

There has been much discussion about the three technicals called on Kendrick Perkins (2) and Rajon Rondo (1) in Game 5 of the Magic/Celtics series. Here are my thoughts on each one:

1. Perkins elbows Gortat.
It looked to me like Gortat was checking on Pierce who took a hard fall and Perkins felt the need to throw a little elbow into Gortat’s chest. Gortat also deserved a technical for knocking the ball out of Perkins’ hand after the elbow. There’s no need for any after-the-whistle shenanigans, and Perkins lost some credibility with the officials when he said that he “didn’t do anything.” Yeah, right. Verdict: Justified

2. Perkins upset after a foul call. (1:10 mark)
I thought the foul call was iffy, and Eddie Rush compounded the problem by overreacting to Perkins’ overreaction. I think officials should give a little more leeway to a player after a close call like the one in question. That said, Perkins wouldn’t have been called for a “T” had he handled the call better. Verdict: Unjustified

3. Rondo called for a technical. (3:00 mark)
First of all, Rondo was dead wrong on the call. Jameer Nelson’s feet were outside of the restricted area, though the video doesn’t show it. He continued to complain through the timeout and tried to get the attention of the official who made the call. An always emotional Joey Crawford stepped in and told Rondo to go to his bench and gave him a warning. Rondo said something — we don’t know what — and that’s what led to the technical. Since we don’t know what he said, we don’t know for sure if the technical was justified, but Rondo needs to understand his audience. Joey Crawford once tossed Tim Duncan out for laughing on the sidelines, so everyone knows he has a short fuse. Don’t mess with him by continuing to talk to him after he’s already given you a warning to go to your bench. If Rondo hadn’t said anything over his shoulder, he wouldn’t have gotten the technical. Verdict: Justified

Note: I don’t really care who wins this series, so I consider myself an objective observer. I do feel that there is too much complaining to officials during NBA games and it needs to be curtailed. As for Crawford and Rush “having it in” for the Celtics, I don’t buy it. Two technicals were called on Orlando as well (Gortat, Matt Barnes).

Kendrick Perkins will play in Game 6

The Boston Celtics are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief, as Kendrick Perkins will be eligible to play in Game 6. One of the two technicals he received in Game 5 was rescinded, so the seventh-year center will be in the C’s starting lineup as usual. NBC Sports comments:

We have no idea how the league decided which technical to rescind, as both appeared to be pretty bad calls. This is obviously great news for the Celtics, who are still going to have to deal with injuries to Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, as well as worry about Perkins picking up another tech or two in Game 6.

If Perkins does pick up another technical and it’s not rescinded, then he will be suspended for the following game, so he has to be careful.

This is a symptom of a bigger problem in the NBA — the constant complaining. Some players spend more time barking at the refs than they do focusing on the game, and every time a call doesn’t go their way, they react like a petulant two-year old.

Getting all pissed off and complaining about a call doesn’t do anyone any good. The official isn’t going to change his call and an emotional response is only going to end badly. Basketball is an emotional game and the amount of pressure is immense, but players have to learn to keep their composure. If they have a problem with a call, they need to go over to the ref in a calm manner (after he’s spoken with the scorer’s table) and ask him what he saw. Most officials will explain the call when addressed in this way.

Officials are human too, and they don’t need their calls constantly questioned. And they certainly don’t need to be shown up by grown men throwing temper tantrums every time a call doesn’t go their way.

That said, Perkins did walk away on his second technical, and he should be allowed to vent some frustration as long as it’s not directed at the official in question.

From a series standpoint, this news is big for the Celtics, who desperately need Perkins to defend Dwight Howard down low. He’s strong enough to keep Howard out of the lane and often forces Orlando’s superstar into long, contested shots from the post.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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