Lakers are lucky, charmed, and 2-0, as Orlando’s Stars show Heart, but Courtney Lee’s marshmallows go soggy, allowing L.A. to milk out a 101-96 win in Overtime
This is the way it was supposed to be. The Lakers aren’t really 25 points better than the Magic. These are actually two pretty evenly-matched teams, but Orlando relies more on outside shooting, and is therefore more inconsistent. In Game 1, the nerves of being in their first Finals in 14 years was too much to overcome on the enemy court, but in Game 2, Orlando performed as advertised.
The game was tight throughout, as neither team could get an Offensive run going. The 1st quarter ended in a 15-15 tie, which was the lowest-scoring 1st quarter in Finals History. The Lakers took a 5-point lead into halftime, despite the 2nd quarter awakening of Rashard Lewis, who scored 18 of Orlando’s 20 points in the period. Lewis ended with 34 for the night, the most ever scored by an Orlando player in the Finals. For some reason, the Lakers kept “missing desfensive assignments,” according to Kobe, leaving Lewis wide, wide open.
But Lewis wasn’t the only Magic player to show up. Hedo Turkoglu finally was able to use some screens to shed Trevor Ariza, enabling Hedo to tally 22 points, and Dwight Howard was a huge all-around contributor, with 17 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. He also had SEVEN turnovers, but, so did Kobe.
So the Magic’s 3 big stars all played big, but they needed just a little help from Rookie Courtney Lee. But with the score tied at 88 with 10 seconds left, Lee missed a lay-up. The Lakers got the board, but Kobe’s attempted game-winner was blocked from behind by Turkoglu. So the Magic had one more chance to win it, but with only .6 left on the clock.
Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy sent his team out with a great play, but he put all the marbles on a guy who just choked another potentially game-winning, easy shot. The play was perfect: Lewis set a screen that shut Kobe off, and the wide open Lee got the ball all the way at the hoop, before Pau Gasol could get there to help out. But Lee just shot the ball too hard, which is what happens sometimes when a guy is tight, and especially when that guy is a Rookie who just blew a game-changing lay-up.
After falling behind by 1 in the O.T., the Lakers took over. Even though Kobe led the team with 29 points (23 after intermission), and Lamar Odom was the other star during regulation, it was Pau Gasol’s 7 Overtime points that sealed the deal. Gasol ended up with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Odom supplied 19 and 8 off the bench. With those 19 bench points, Odom single-handedly produced more than Orlando’s entire bench.
Derek Fisher didn’t shoot well, but he contributed in every other way. For some reason, he played 41 minutes, but he made playing him a lot look like a good decision. He dished out 3 assists, grabbed 3 steals, and made several other good defensive plays reliant on hustle and guts. Sadly, Fisher’s prowess, cost Jordan Farmar, who, despite hitting a couple of early shots, got to play only 6 minutes, all early.
The Lakers’ other Bruin, Trevor Ariza, scored the Lakers’ first three points, and ended with 8 points, but uncharacteristically, he missed 10 of his 13 shots. Despite the poor shooting night, Trevor was still a huge factor in the win. His 3 steals and all-around tenacious Defense was repeatedly drawing compliments from the announcers. Ariza, known as the Lakers’ best Defender (give or take Kobe), continually frustrated Magic ballhandlers looking for passing lanes.
Ariza also got a little TV recognition — with a special interest piece at Halftime — for overcoming the tragic death of his little brother, who fell out of the window of a high rise. The article also mentioned Ariza’s leaving college early, against all conventional wisdom. The cool thing, is that they showed clips of Ariza playing… IN HIS GLORIOUS UCLA UNIFORM. Good publicity like that, during the NBA Finals, is very, very good for the school. [And I don’t mean to detract, or, take anything away, from the emotion of the story about his brother]
As far as the Finals are concerned, Phil Jackson — and the Lakers as a Franchise — never lose the Finals after leading 2-0. In fact, the overall NBA percentage is about 94% in favor of the team leading 2-0. However, the team that is down 0-2 HAS come back to win the Finals THREE times, including Shaq’s Miami Heat, just a few years ago.
The Magic just needs to sweep the three games in Orlando, then eke out a split of the final two games in L.A. And after seeing them JUST MISS in L.A. in Game 2, there is no reason to think that they can’t get a split next week. So from the Lakers’ point of view, they just need to win one of three on the road, then get the split at home. Of course they are thinking “Sweep,” but a desperate Orlando SHOULD be able to take Game 3 behind the overwhelming emotion of a Finals-starved city. Especially if they give the ball to ONE OF THEIR STARS at the buzzer, instead of to their Rookie.
And now, just for your Monday Morning Amusement, here are a few more photos from the Sea Life Aquarium next to Legoland.