The Orlando Magic told the Boston Celtics to put away their brooms last night, thanks, in large part, to two huge 3-point bombs in the overtime period from Magic point guard, Jameer Nelson. Nelson was so excited after he drilled the second one — over everybody’s favorite player of the moment, Rajon Rondo — he slapped Brandon Bass in the mouth during the celebratory high fives. Granted, the slap was accidental, but it was also symbolic of Orlando holding off the impending Celtics sweep.
After fighting to get back into the game, the Celtics had a number of opportunities to, well, score in the overtime stanza, and they failed to convert, which paved the way for Nelson’s bombing run. After banking in the first 3-pointer, Nelson came back on the next possession and drilled another one right in Rondo’s grill; which led to Bass getting smacked in the mouth.
Considering the size of those shots Nelson hit, smacking someone in the mouth to celebrate seems fitting.
The Orlando Magic are undefeated in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. They are the only team to boast such a record. For some reason, however, one of the louder responses has to do with the quality of their competition. Granted, the Charlotte Bobcats, nor the Atlanta Hawks were/are going to win the NBA Championship. Nevertheless, both of these teams had above .500 records, something not true about Cleveland’s opening-round opponent, the Chicago Bulls, who finished the season 41-41.
How much stock you put into that depends on how much stock you put into transitive properties in sports.
Whatever you think of the Magic’s chances of getting representing the of Eastern Conference in the Finals, it’s hard to deny how impressive the Magic have looked against the Atlanta Hawks — and that’s not even considering the 43-point Game 1 debacle. In Game 2, the Hawks actually competed. It didn’t matter. As indicated, the Magic unfurled a can of highlight reel-worthy basketball against the Hawks in Game 2; led, quite naturally, by their man-child Dwight Howard.
Watch the dunk by Dwight Howard in the lead video, but pay attention to the pass that allowed him to dunk it. It was a high-off-the-glass shot/pass from Jameer Nelson that paved the way for Howard to splash the ball down. The play was executed so effectively, it forced some NBA scholars to consider the possibilities, like, for instance, is that the evolution of the alley-oop play, a play made popular — at least to me, anyway — by Sherman Douglas throwing oops to Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman when they roamed the Syracuse sidelines?
Can an off-the-glass pass become a staple of NBA offenses, especially when you have a leaper like Dwight Howard on the receiving end? The awesome fellows at Free Darko expound — a great deal, in fact — on this idea:
Exceptions, not a considerable planar extension of time and space. Still, this could work, people, and the more the NBA begins to see the ‘oop as foundational, the more possible this kind of thing becomes. In effect, it becomes the new alley-oops.
Maybe we’re putting the heads ahead of the other heads. But remember, the dunk itself was once thought of as useless tomfoolery. Now, most people would agree that relatively sane dunking is the easiest way to ensure the ball goes through the hoop. The paradox of progress is that imagination is always linked to style, and yet it also provides the seed for innovation that changes the face of function. Think about the way the Suns or Warriors use to alter the dimensions of the court (scrapped book idea: using advanced physics to prove this), all through a mode of play dripping with style. Is a team like the Magic or Hornets this close to another great, sustained breakthrough?
Would Stan Van Jeremy make such a play a regular part of his offensive attack? As long as Howard can out-jump everybody else in the paint, and as long as someone like Nelson is making the pass, I don’t see why not. Consider this option as well: the play does not have to be exclusively done for Howard. If I’m not mistaken, Vince Carter is known as a leaper. Why not include him in these off-the-backboard alley-oop plans? Hell, Rashard Lewis could probably find room to work, or jump, as it were, in that kind of play as well.
Apparently, the only ESPN “expert” who learned anything from last series is Henry Abbot. Granted, it’s easy to see why the Lakers’ bandwagon is full, especially after they corrected whatever it was that bothering them enough to dispatch the Nuggets, a team many thought were better than the Lakers in the first three games of the series. Obviously, that thinking was proven to be incorrect, but doesn’t Orlando deserve a little more love for the way they man-handled Team LeBron — a series that was one crazy shot away from being a sweep? Would the Lakers have handled the Cavaliers with the same relative ease the Magic did? With that in mind, doesn’t Orlando’s dominance over Cleveland weigh in when it’s time to make series predictions?
Only if your name is Henry Abbot, apparently.
In defense of ESPN’s group, those who picked the Lakers did so in six-or-seven game series fashion, which is about as close to a toss-up as these guys will admit to, apparently. The issue seems to be around Jameer Nelson and the question marks about his availability. Nelson absolutely owned the Lakers in the two regular season games, and his absence apparently looms. Where this level of foreboding and worries about the Magic’s inability to win big games without him was against Cleveland, I’m not sure — oh wait, yes I am — but if you are wondering why the Lakers are ESPN’s choice, look no further than Jameer Nelson…
We are taking a break from the Super Bowl enjoyment to bring you this PSA: Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson play really well together. Witness the nice alley-oop in the above video. Talk about timing and knowing where you teammate is going to be. No wonder both players are going to the All Star game. Granted, Howard was a shoe-in, being the leading vote-getter and all, but Nelson has proved his All Star worth all season; something his 17 point, 6 assist, 50% shooting (45% from behind the arc) averages suggest.
Considering how well these two work together, it would be almost criminal if Howard didn’t make use of Nelson’s passing skills (or his height) in the upcoming dunk contest.
Will he be playing tonight when Detroit and Orlando go at it for Game 5 (TNT, 7pm EST)? Judging from reports, it sounds like his hamstring has been responding to treatment and that he might be giving it a go tonight; a possibility that may help deep-six Jameer Nelson’s guarantee.
“It’s feeling a lot better,” Billups said after playing a modified one-on-one game with strength coach Arnie Kander and running corner to corner to shoot 3-pointers while Kander fed him passes. “Just wait and see, but it feels better. I’m encouraged, that’s for sure. I feel a lot better than yesterday. Pushing off to my left is kind of hard, plus I’m out there by myself so there’s nobody really kind of pushing me and playing defense. But it feels good. I’m very encouraged.”
While that does sound pretty encouraging for Pistons fans, the whole “Pushing off to my left is kind of hard, plus I’m out there by myself so there’s nobody really kind of pushing me and playing defense.” statement does leave a hint of uncertainty; something that probably won’t be cleared up until game time.
However, considering how efficiently they played without him in Game 4, wouldn’t it be prudent to let Billups get all the rest he needs in case the Pistons need his services in a potential Game 6 or 7?
Who needs a Chauncey Billups when you have a perfectly healthy Lindsey Hunter? Of course, I doubt the Pistons players would agree with me but when you have Rip Hamilton dropping 30-plus points and Tayshaun Prince dropping game-winners, maybe the training staff for Detroit can take their time with the Billups hamstring and make sure it’s ready for the Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt the Pistons cause when Superman Howard only goes for 8 points and 12 rebounds. Perhaps the Magic guards should try and get him the ball a little more.
Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, Prince pretty much ended the Playoffs hopes of the Magic with this deft drive and finish; a move that secured the Pistons road win. Barring a total collapse (or more hamstring injuries), the Pistons should find themselves in yet another Eastern Conference finals and it’s moves like these that help your cause.
However, can they avoid being the Atlanta Braves of the NBA? Conference championships are nice and all, but the ring’s the thing. Would you rather have an Eastern Conference Champions banner hanging in your rafters or one that says “World Champions?” I think I know the answer to that.