Defense, long ball key Magic win

If you didn’t watch Game 7 of the Boston/Orlando series last night, you might look at the score (101-82) and assume that the Magic controlled the whole game. Not so. Orlando held a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 run by the Magic at the start of the period pushed the lead to 13, and they went on to a 35-point quarter and a series victory.

In the first six games of the series, Orlando’s recipe for a win was pretty simple — defense. In their wins (Game 1, Game 3 and Game 6), the Magic held the Celtics to less than 44% shooting from the field. In their losses (Game 2, Game 4 and Game 5), the Celtics shot better than 44%. In Game 6, the Magic held the C’s to just 39% shooting.

The other major factor was the the Magic’s accuracy from long range. Early in the series, Orlando had the touch from three-point land, shooting a combined 26 of 64 (41%) in the first three games. In Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6, the Magic shot just 17 of 77 (22%) from deep. In Game 7, the Magic hit a stellar 13 of 21 (62%) of their threes, and it’s tough to beat a team when they are that hot from long range.

What was the difference? Boston’s perimeter defense is pretty good, but Orlando did an outstanding job of moving the ball crisply and cleanly, and the C’s just couldn’t chase down all of the Magic’s shooters.

Hedo Turkoglu was the star of the game, posting 25 points, 12 assists and five rebounds, while hitting 4 of 5 from long range. Four other Orlando players — Rashard Lewis (19), Mickael Pietrus (17), Rafer Alston (15) and Dwight Howard (12) — scored in double figures to provide a balanced offensive attack.

With the loss, the Celtics go home for the summer. They face another offseason where they may lose one or more of their key contributors. Last year, it was James Posey (signed with the Hornets) and P.J. Brown (retirement) who left, while this summer both Glen Davis and Leon Powe are free agents. Boston’s payroll is quite high ($73.7 million), so whether or not these players come back depends on how far over the luxury tax the Celtics’ ownership is willing to go. The luxury tax for next season probably won’t change from its level this year ($71.1 million), so any contract that Davis or Powe signs with the C’s will have to be matched dollar-for-dollar in luxury tax. For example, if they sign Davis to a four-year deal worth $16 million, that contract is going to cost the C’s an additional $4 million per season as long as they are over the luxury tax threshold.

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