The Celtics took a huge 20-point lead in the third quarter and led by 16, 74-58, heading into the fourth. They let Orlando get back in it which they did at Cleveland twice, but they prevailed, and look to me, to be the best team in the NBA. Ray Allen had 25 and Paul Pierce added 22. Ray was seven-of-seven from the free throw line including two with six seconds left to ice the game after Orlando had scored on a Jameer Nelson put back of a missed free throw to cut the lead to 90-88. Pierce was eight-of-10 from the line including two with 12 seconds left to put the Celts up 90-85. Kevin Garnett had eight and 11 rebounds and Rondo had eight and eight assists. Kendrick Perkins is the unsung hero for the Celts. He went against Shaq in the second round and held him in check most of the time and got banged up in the process. He held Dwight Howard to 3-of-10 from the field yesterday. He is their blue-collar guy who makes the Celtics tick on defense.
They just do what it takes to win. I know Coach Doc Rivers is concerned with his team's closing ability in the fourth quarter, but he's got to be happy with the win at Orlando in game one. The competition has been tough. Sure Orlando, and Cleveland before them, are going to make runs at home. The Celtics sink the shots, hit the boards and sink the free throws, when they need them.
Vince Carter led the Magic with 23 points and Nelson added 20. Dwight Howard had 12 points and 13 boards. The Magic, which had been shooting 38 percent from three-point range in their first two series against Charlotte and Atlanta respectively, averaging 11 a game, were 5-22 from trifecta (22.7%). If they can't shoot their threes and Howard can't get more done in the paint, the Celtics should either sweep or win in five.
Game two is Tuesday at Orlando at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Game one of Phoenix at LA is tonight at 8 on TNT. I've gone out on a limb and picked Phoenix. I'm just going with the New Orleans Saints' theory. The Saints were the hot team, but everyone picked Indy to win the Super Bowl. I was for the Saints but picked Indy thinking I was going with my head. You know what happened there. Phoenix is such a hot team and beat a tough San Antonio team in a sweep. Steve Nash is on a mission and he's got a great supporting cast with seven-footer Robin Lopez back in the lineup after missing the first two playoff series. He, Amar'e (6'10") and Channing Frye (6'11") will try to stop Gasol and Bynum in the paint. Bynum is struggling with a knee injury. Should be interesting. I like the Suns in six.
(KG, Ray and Paul Pierce pictured above left to right)