Hedo Does it: Turkoglu Nails Game Winning Three Pointer Versus CelticsHedo Turkoglu's three pointer as time expired gave Orlando a 96-93 win over Boston, enabling the Magic to join the Washington Wizards as the only teams to beat the Celtics twice this season. Turkoglu finished with a game-high 27 points. Dwight Howard controlled the paint, producing 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots. His task was made much easier due to the absence of Kevin Garnett, who missed the game due to a strained abdominal muscle. Paul Pierce had 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists but the key player for Boston--and the one who nearly led the Celtics to victory--was Rajon Rondo, who scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished off five assists and racked up six steals. His plus/minus score of +11 led the Celtics. When Rondo sprained his ankle early in the third quarter, Boston led 48-43. By the time he had his ankle taped and returned to action a little over three minutes later, Orlando led 54-49. As usual, ABC commentator Hubie Brown nailed it as soon as Rondo got hurt, declaring, "This is a major loss because he can control the tempo of the game for you in the half court set to relieve the pressure off of Paul Pierce, who is your other distributor." Sure enough, with Rondo out of action the Celtics' offense ground to a halt. The Celtics obviously missed Garnett's offensive, defensive and rebounding contributions but if Rondo had not gotten injured it looks like they might have won anyway. Boston did manage to briefly retake the lead in the fourth quarter with Rondo making several key plays offensively and defensively but after that 11-1 Orlando run with him out it was an uphill struggle for the Celtics. The simple, easy to write headline for this game is that the Celtics lost because Garnett missed a game for the first time this season but the reality is a bit more complicated than that: Rondo has become an important player for the Celtics.
Garnett wanted to play, but Coach Doc Rivers and the Celtics' medical staff decided that it was too risky. Garnett was so upset that he did not even join his teammates on the bench, electing to stay in the locker room. When Rivers was asked about that, he laughingly replied, "He's pouting" before quickly adding, "That's fine. That's good. As I've said before, I'd rather have a guy you'd have to talk out of playing then a guy you have to talk into playing." I understand and respect that Garnett hates to miss games--but once that decision is made it is up to him to be a leader and set an example for the rest of the team. As an experienced, knowledgeable veteran, he could offer advice and encouragement to his teammates while sitting on the bench--and let's be honest: if Kobe Bryant refused to join his teammates on the bench it would be a covered as a major, negative story. Garnett's actions in this case may be not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it is simply fascinating to see how differently a story is portrayed depending on whether or not the media has subjectively decided that someone is a good guy or a bad guy.
Although Pierce and Rondo got the job done in Garnett's absence and James Posey (16 points, six rebounds) made a nice contribution off the bench, Ray Allen--the third member of the "Big Three"--scored 17 points on 7-18 shooting and had just one rebound and one assist. Two of his baskets were dunks, so he shot 5-16 on everything else. Allen is having the worst shooting season of his career and anyone who thinks that he belongs in the All-Star Game this season is just getting caught up in the hype over Boston's record. He has had some good moments this season but overall his play has markedly declined.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:42 AM