Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. It's all falling apart for the Orlando Magic. They were a buzzer-beater away from a 3-1 lead Sunday, but now find themselves trailing 3-2 after blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead Tuesday in a 92-88 defeat to Boston. Coach Stan Van Gundy blamed himself for poor defensive strategy on the Glen Davis basket that beat them in Game 4, and Van Gundy drew more than just self-criticism after Game 5. Dwight Howard said after taking just 10 shots in Tuesday's game that the team must do a better job of getting the ball to him. He appears to have a point, since it's tough to win if the best player on the floor is an afterthought on offense. It's been this way for the entire series. Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis shared the ball and took 14 shots apiece in Game 4. Howard was limited to eight shots because of foul trouble in Game 3, and took one fewer shot than Lewis in Game 2. Howard took 12 shots in Game 1, fourth most on the team. Yet Howard can only blame himself for his struggles on the boards after the first quarter, when he pulled down nine of his 17 rebounds. The Celtics as a team held a 42-39 advantage on the boards, as everyone in the starting lineup for Boston, except Ray Allen, had at least seven rebounds. The Magic were done in by their inability to pull down a rebound in the final minute, allowing Boston to keep the ball for a 54-second stretch until Eddie House made two free throws for an 88-85 Boston lead. The Celtics got to the free throw line more often than the Magic, and took full advantage, sticking all 21 of their shots. Davis, in further evidence of his arrival, was the leading scorer with 22 points, outplaying the man to whom he was assigned, Rashard Lewis, the Magic's leading scorer with 18 points. Paul Pierce had a relatively quiet scoring night but nearly came away with a triple-double in a 19-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist performance. Stephon Marbury added 12 points, all of which came in the early part of the fourth quarter to keep Boston afloat. Now it's the Magic who must quickly reconcile differences and use the weapons they have to avoid being sunk.

2. The Rockets stunned the Lakers in Game 4 without Yao Ming, but continuing to get abberationally great performances from supporting players is no reliable way to win a series. That was clear Tuesday as the Lakers and their superior talent took control in a 118-78 rout that puts L.A. up 3-2 in the series. Lamar Odom played limited minutes for the Lakers after injuring his back on a hard fall in Game 4, but even so, the Lakers displayed superior athleticism and dominated every phase of the game. The outside shooting that was such an important factor for the Rockets on Sunday was absent Tuesday, when they shot 5-for-29 from behind the arc. Ron Artest's shooting woes continue, as he went 4-for-15 and 1-for-7 from three-point range to score just nine points. Aaron Brooks was once more the leading scorer for Houston, but his 14 in Game 5 was well off his career-high 34 from Game 4. The Lakers had seven scorers in double figures, led by Kobe's 26, and made the most of 18 Rocket giveaways, scoring 24 points off turnovers. The Rockets had just 10 points of 13 turnovers by L.A. The major disparity was in field goal percentage, as the Lakers shot 51 percent while the Rockets made just 32 percent of their attempts from the floor. It was a reversal, and then some, from the last time out. The Rockets, with their limited personell, will be hard-pressed to turn the series another 180 degrees in Game 6.

3. Here is the schedule for the next few days:
Wednesday, May 13
Dallas at Denver, Game 5, 9 p.m. TNT
Thursday, May 14
Boston at Orlando, Game 6, 7 p.m. ESPN
L.A. Lakers at Houston, Game 6, 9:30 p.m. ESPN
Friday, May 15
Denver at Dallas, Game 6, if necessary, TBA ESPN
Sunday, May 17
Orlando at Boston, Game 7, if necessary, TBA TNT
Houston at L.A. Lakers, Game 7, if necessary, TBA TBA
Dallas at Denver, Game 7, if necessary, TBA TBA

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