Boston Shuts Down Orlando's Long-Range Attack Yet Again
And it won't be the last.
The team that has lived by the three -- banked its hopes of an NBA title on it -- just might fall with the three.
The Magic set an NBA record this season by making 841 3-point shots, but they struggled badly Sunday from long range, leaving them with a look of impotency in their offense.
It wasn't a matter of missing easy shots. It was a matter of not getting the good, clean looks they normally see when defenses collapse on center Dwight Howard.
The Magic missed all nine of their 3-point attempts in the first half. It was the first time since February of 2008 they went an entire half without making a 3-point shot. They finished Sunday by making just five of 22. Some teams are equipped to win when they make five in a game. The Magic are not.
"[The Celtics] did a great job of challenging the 3-point shot. They were few and far between,'' said Magic guard Vince Carter. "They are stingy with what they give up. We just have to take what's there.''
The Celtics are one of the few teams that play mostly one-on-one defense against Howard, allowing their defenders to stay closer to the Magic shooters. And the Magic shooters are not accustomed to hands in their faces on 3-point shots.
It showed on Sunday. Forward Rashard Lewis missed all six of his attempts, mostly with Kevin Garnett in his face. Jameer Nelson hit only 2 of 7. Mickael Pietrus, who made 21 of his 41 3-pointers in the first two series combined, made only 1 of 4 Sunday. Carter missed his only one.
"We'll hit them,'' he said. "We've proven that all year.''
The Celtics have proven all year that they are the team most capable of taking away the shot. Although center Kendrick Perkins is often overlooked when it comes to Celtics accolades, his ability to handle Howard by himself is a huge factor in their success against the 3-point shot.
By moving Howard out of his comfort zone like he does, Perkins limits his effectiveness, which trickles down to the 3-point shooters. Howard had just 13 points Sunday, five below his season average. In four games against the Celtics this season, Howard averaged only 12 points.
And in two of the four games with the Celtics this season, the Magic struggled from long range. They were just five of 26 in the Christmas Day loss in Orlando. They were just six of 20 in a two-point victory in Orlando.
The Magic averaged 10.2 3-pointers this season, but they averaged just eight against the Celtics. Getting five like they did Sunday won't work.
"We did a pretty good job [limiting the 3's], just like we did against Cleveland,'' said Boston guard Rajon Rondo. "We had the same defensive mind set and wanted to run those guys off of the three. I don't think [Howard] has had a a great game against our bigs so far. We did a good job of taking those other guys out of the game.''