It’s not just Van Gundy, his entire team seems to panic. Sunday they blew an 8-point fourth quarter lead and lost to the Celtics by one at home. Tuesday night they dominated the first 39 minutes of the game, leading by 14 in the fourth quarter on the road. And they gave that one back too, lost 92-88 and now train the Celtics 3-2. They should be preparing for Cleveland, not preping for a must-win game.
Orlando’s coach and players get to share the blame for this loss, and the 13-0 run Boston went on to end the game and get the win.
The Magic started the quarter with All-world center Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu on the floor with three bench players: Mickael Pietrus, Tony Battie and Anthony Johnson. That group pushed the lead to 14 and controlled the first half of the quarter. So, deciding to mess with a good thing, Van Gundy subbed in starters Rashard Lewis and Rafer Alston.
And that is when the Celtics run started. Orlando started playing to protect its lead an not to lose and stopped attacking, running a slower offense that ended in jumpers. They stopped getting the ball inside. They turned the ball over. They suddenly became sloppy
After the game, Dwight Howard was ticked at his coach for making the player changes, and that he wasn’t getting the ball in crunch time.
“Our coach has to recognize when he has a certain group out there and they are getting the job done you have to leave those guys on the floor,” Howard said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but the thing is you have to go with what works, I have to get the ball. I don’t think you’re going to win a lot of games when your post player, the guy you look to in the post only gets 10 shots.”
Howard might get more touches when it matters if he could be trusted to hit a free throw — he shot 59% from the free thow line for the season and is up to 62% in the playoffs. Plus, if he doesn’t demand the ball in the first three quarters, he can’t expect to see the ball late.
Orlando has more talent right now than the Celtics, but they play afraid late in the game, trying not to lose rather than to win. They can learn that lesson from the Celtics, never to give up and to have confidence in what you do.
Otherwise, teams just panic and fall apart.