Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: BOSTON GETS ORLANDO AGAINThe same old problems, the ones that the trade was supposed to remedy, are rearing their heads for the Magic again. Dwight Howard did his part scoring 28 points against the Celtics, but against a superior defensive squad, Orlando just didn't have scoring options in the second half.
Howard had 20 of his 28 in the first half and after the Celtics adjusted to double him in the post, the Magic's role players didn't step up. Some games they certainly do. But in this one, Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson combined for just 14 points. Arenas was 0-7 from the field in 15 minutes, Turkoglu 1-10 and Richardson 4-11. The pieces that were expected to get the team over the edge just didn't show up for them.
But I think that's more of a credit to the Celtics than anything else. I mean, wow, does that team guard. Nothing is ever easy. The help and rotations are always on point, but more than that, they understand the simple principles of contesting everything and just defending the man in front of you.
And what the Magic lack in extra, reliable options to step up, the Celtics have plenty of. Paul Pierce struggled a bit going 4-11 from the field and Ray Allen had just 11 points, but Sunday it was Rajon Rondo with 26 points on 9-15 shooting. Kevin Garnett added 16 on 5-8 from the field, but it just showed how dangerous and difficult the Celtics are. They have weapons all over the floor. And they're reliable. When one of their stars slips a bit, there's three others waiting to elevate his game. It's quite a luxury.
In the three meetings between the teams, we've seen a lot of the same things. After the Magic took the first meeting, the Celtics have come back with two straight, albeit both being in Boston. But in terms of a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup, it certainly looks like the Celtics have a distinct edge right now. And I don't see that changing unless there's some big stepping up in Orlando.
A LITTLE HELP GOES A LONG WAY IN MIAMILeBron James had only 12 points on 6-15 shooting against the Clippers Sunday. And the Heat beat Los Angeles 18 anyway.
That right there just showcases how much of a different world it is for LeBron this season. That happens last year and the Cavaliers are most definitely losing. That happens with LeBron's current team and the Heat are waltzing to an easy 18-point victory.
Amazing what having Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on your team can do.
On top of that though, it's amazing what having one of the best defensive units in basketball can do. The Clippers labored to 79 poinys, shot 32.5 percent from the field and turned it over 19 times. Miami can get away with poor games from its stars offensively because they are so darn excellent on the other end.
Other than Blake Griffin though, the Clippers were just overwhelmed by the veteran playmaking and talent of the Heat. Griffin had 21 points and 16, but the rest of the team combined to make only 18 baskets. Again, that's a credit to the Miami defense, but also shows how the young Clippers have a few steps yet in truly getting over the top.
GO-GO-GADGET LINESAmar'e Stoudemire: 41 points for the Knicks forward on 17-21 shooting in New York's win over Philadelphia. Wow.
Dwyane Wade: 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds in Miami's win over the Clippers.
Rajon Rondo: 26 points on 9-15 shooting plus seven assists.
Blake Griffin: 21 points and 16 rebounds against Miami.