Raptors fans probably won’t believe this, but Hedo Turkgolu was the reason the Magic made the NBA Finals last season.
Without Turkgolu’s ability to create off the pick and roll, the Magic are proving to be an easy cover for the Celtics, who took a 2-0 series lead with a 95-92 win in Orlando Tuesday night.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo put on an offensive clinic, with Pierce scoring 28 and Rondo finishing with 25 points and eight assists, including several big buckets late in the game.
Meanwhile, the Magic spent much of the game searching for answers. Dwight Howard finally got going in the second half, but Orlando’s perimeter shooters kept firing blanks. Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, and Rashard Lewis shot a combined 11-of-33. Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick shot 5-of-18.
After the game, an angry Stan Van Gundy ripped his team’s play, including poor shot selection and J.J. Redick’s decision to advance the ball in the closing seconds before calling timeout, forcing the Magic to inbound the ball from outside of half court on the final possession.
It starts and ends with Vince, who many analysts considered to be an upgrade from goofy Turkgolu.
Carter is more talented, athletic, and flashy than Turkgolu. But he is not a smart player, not a team player, and most importantly, not a clutch player. Just ask those same Raptors fans.
He took several ill-advised shots in the fourth quarter, then stepped to the line with 31 seconds left in the game and clanked two free throws, missing one to the right and one to the left.
His final stat line: 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting, one rebound, one assist, three steals, and three turnovers in 25 minutes.
Van Gundy shelved Mickael Pietrus, another key player in last year’s Magic run, in favor of Redick, who logged 35 minutes off the bench. Until his gaffe in the closing seconds, Redick played smart and was willing and able to make entry passes to the post, something his teammates struggle to do.
The wheels are coming off in Orlando–Boston is about to roll into the NBA Finals.