Updated: May 17, 2010, 2:45 PM ET

1. Boston's Defense Sets Tone In Opener

By Chris Sheridan

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Technically, it was just a foul. And since we're talking about Rasheed Wallace, we should be quick to note it was not a technical foul.

Instead, the foul in question was akin to something straight out of a martial arts movie, a haymaker of a hack across the arms of Dwight Howard on Orlando's first possession of the fourth quarter.

No matter that Howard subsequently went to the line and made both shots. The foul was one of several strong messages sent Orlando's way on an afternoon when the main message -- that defense is going to be the most important component of this series -- was delivered again and again and again.

This opponent isn't just going to give its fouls or use its fouls. The Boston Celtics are going to give those fouls with zest, with gusto.

And if the Orlando Magic can't take it, well, the Boston Celtics will take that.

"You've got to be physical. He plays physical," Wallace said after the Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic 92-88 Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. "That's the one thing we looked at and seen over the last few series. Guys just let him do whatever he wanted to do. We're definitely going to fight him, we have a lot of fouls. I have my six, so do Baby [Glen Davis], Perk [Kendrick Perkins], Shelden [Williams], Kevin [Garnett]."

But the Celtics didn't merely play a dirty brand of defense. They stayed home on Orlando's shooters and defended the 3-point line so well, the Magic went 0-for-9 in the first half. They were active with their hands, poking balls away, getting their mitts on loose balls, stepping into passing lanes and coming up with eight steals.

Through three quarters, as Boston was building a 20-point lead, the Magic were making less than 38 percent of their shots. Yes, they recovered and made a late run at the end as the Celtics went more than five minutes without scoring a single point, but it was a quintessential case of having too little, too late.

"It was a defensive game, and we like those. That was fine with us," said Boston coach Doc Rivers, whose team clearly benefited from going up against an opponent that hadn't played a game in a week and hadn't played a tough team in more than a month.

And these Celtics were tough, frustrating Howard not only with their fouls, but also with their ability to push him away from the basket and take him away from his low-post comfort zone.

Kendrick Perkins was able to do it a year ago when the Celtics (without Kevin Garnett) took the Magic to seven games, and Wallace had done it in the past, when Orlando could never get past the Detroit Pistons back when Wallace was one of their defensive anchors.

"They're going to try to frustrate me and get into my head and play head games, and I have to do my best to maintain my focus," said Howard, whose 13 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks were discounted by his seven turnovers. "I got into a little wresting match with all their guys, and that's to their advantage. That takes me off my game."

There was no singular offensive star for the Celtics, who got 25 points from Ray Allen, 22 from Pierce (but only two in the fourth quarter) and 13 from Wallace. Kevin Garnett and Rashard Lewis basically played to a draw, Jameer Nelson had 20 points to Rajon Rondo's eight but lost the assists battle 8-2, and the bench contributions were basically a wash.

Where the difference came in this game was in which team took the fight to the other from the get-go, and the Celtics were that feistier team.

"That's who we are, we're a defensive team. We can get up on their shooters and not let them open their 3-point game," Pierce said.

Still, Rivers told the team at halftime that the Magic had attempted seven 3-pointers in the second quarter after taking only two in the first 12 minutes. And he warned them that eventually those 3s were going to start dropping unless Boston continued to defend at the arc.

And indeed, Orlando did hit five 3s in the second half while pulling as close as two (with 8.4 seconds left), but Allen iced the game by making a pair from the line with 6.1 seconds remaining.

With Boston coming off the emotional high of their victory over Cleveland after muddling through the final two-thirds of the season, Rivers had some explaining to do afterward.

How, for instance, could a team that had looked so lethargic so often turn things around so dramatically in the past couple of weeks?

"We're old, so I think a lot of our guys in the regular season when they were out with injuries, it's tough to work on defense when you don't practice, or you only have eight guys for practice," Rivers said. "But everyone is healthy, everyone's listening, and everyone's buying into our defensive schemes."

Those schemes limited the Magic to just 14 points in the first quarter and 18 in the second. The Magic then allowed a 20-3 run midway through the third quarter as the Celtics went up 65-45, with Howard and Wallace getting double technical fouls toward the end of the run for getting a little too personal as they untangled their locked arms.

"That was a wake-up call we really needed, in my opinion," said Carter, who was Orlando's most aggressive player, attacking the paint and trying to create offense. "They're relentless, they're aggressive, they do a great job of contesting, especially in the paint, and it took us a while to figure it out, but when we did we played a lot better."

Wallace told Rivers back in the preseason that he'd end up being judged on his body of work in the playoffs, not the regular season.

So far, so good.

ESPN Insider Chris Sheridan is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

Dimes past: April 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | May 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6| 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 13

2. Magic Start Slowly In Game 1 Loss

By John Hollinger

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Was it rust? Or did it signify deeper problems?

We won't know the answer to that question until the rest of the series plays out, but let's start with the facts we do know: The Orlando Magic barely showed up on offense until midway through the third quarter, amassing a deficit so large that not even the Celtics could blow it, and that was the key to the Magic's 92-88 Game 1 defeat to Boston.

Of particular note was the first 16 minutes, when Boston frustrated Orlando at every turn by getting hands on balls, running shooters off the 3-point line and denying Dwight Howard quality looks on the block. With eight to go in the second quarter, the Magic had amassed the pathetic total of 14 points and already were down 15 points; essentially, they built themselves a hill too great to climb.

"I don't think we were prepared for the level they were ready to play," said Vince Carter, who was just about the only Magic player to show up in the first quarter and a half and finished with a team-high 23 points. "They were ready to go from the jump, and we weren't on their level from the beginning."

"We were anxious," said Howard, who struggled to a 3-for-10 night and was responsible for seven of the Magic's 18 turnovers. "I don't think we moved the ball like we needed to get them off our bodies. That's what we have to do to beat this team."

From the middle of the second quarter on, the Magic looked more like the Orlando Magic team that had contested the previous 90 games, but so great was their deficit that they couldn't come back despite exploding for 41 points in the final 14 minutes -- including an incredible intentional free-throw miss and layup connection by Carter and Jameer Nelson.

"We fought like heck to get back in the game," said Carter. "Unfortunately, when you're down that many points -- when they defend like they do, it's going to be tough."

To read the entire column, click here

3. Celtics Getting Physical With Howard

By Chris Forsberg

ORLANDO, Fla. -- You can almost picture the scene: The Celtics bunkered down for film study at their practice facility, coming off an intense six-game series with the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, and watching tape of the Orlando Magic essentially waltz through the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA playoffs.

But what stands out most is how the opposition offers little in the way of resistance against Dwight Howard, allowing Orlando's uberathletic center to get to the rim uncontested and convert an array of dunks and layups.

The Celtics are half appalled, half salivating. It won't come that easy against them, they promise each other.

And for all 39 minutes he was on the court in Sunday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, absolutely nothing came easy for Howard as the Celtics took turns hacking away at him en route to a 92-88 triumph at Amway Arena.

Howard finished 3-of-10 from the field for a pedestrian 13 points and a condemning minus-9 in the plus/minus category.

But that's not the most impressive nine on the stat sheet. That would be the nine fouls the Celtics committed on Howard, whacking him four times in the first quarter alone and letting him know that he'll have to earn every point he accrues this series.

To read the entire column, click here

4. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Sunday's game -- all in Daily Dime Live.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?