Before the first game was played there were a lot of predictions about what would happen in this series. Now that the first game has been played let’s look at some of those predictions and how they played out in game one.
Dwight Howard will dominate inside
What actually happened was that Howard was revealed as having a very limited inside game. When Bynum was on the court Howard was completely unable to get to the basket.
In fact Howard was completely over matched by Bynum when the young center was on the court. Howard was slightly more effective against Gasol but the swarming Laker defense limited him to one-of-six shooting.
To his credit Dwight Howard was the most effective rebounder in the game but even that is more reflective of his being the only player on his team really making an effort to rebound other than Marcin Gortat.
Rashard Lewis’ perimeter game would negate Pau Gasol’s advantage in the post
This was one of the most one-sided match ups in the game. Lewis was not only overmatched against Gasol’s inside game but Gasol was able to bother Lewis enough on the perimeter to help limit him to making only two-of-10 shots.
One of the big factors in Gasol’s favor in this matchup was the Lakers defensive rotation, even when Gasol didn’t get out to bother Lewis another Laker would show and rush him.
Lewis had an even worse time with Odom. Lamar Odom blew past him several times from the perimeter for easy scores and took advantage of Lewis’ poor rebounding technique to gather in 14 boards.
Hedo Turkoglu would take advantage of Trevor Ariza
Actually this one was true in the first quarter. Unfortunately after Ariza picked up a couple of early fouls Luke Walton came into the game and shut Turkoglu down. Walton then showed off his post up game. After the first quarter Turkoglu was a non-factor in the game.
Mickael Pietrus would have the same success against Kobe that he did against LBJ
Pietrus was the defensive darling of the Cleveland series with his play against LBJ. The whole idea was that Pietrus would force Kobe into shooting a low percentage. Unfortunately for Orlando fans Kobe is not LBJ.
Kobe displayed a variety of outside shots that LBJ could never think of making and when Pietrus tried to close out Kobe simply blew past him to take short mid range shots or easy strolls to the basket.
The Magic’s three point shooting would be a decisive edge
The Magic shot .348 (eight of 23) from three point range, not a bad three point percentage really. The big problem for the Magic was that they couldn’t get anything inside and ended up shooting only 30 percent overall from the field. The lack of any post up play or dribble penetration killed them.
The Lakers have no killer instinct, they can’t hold a lead
The Lakers outscored the Magic in every quarter but the first. Even though the Lakers started the third quarter with a ten point lead they outscored the Magic by 14 points in the third quarter.
The Magic’s approach to game one of this series was entirely based on the regular season games. Orlando counted on their perceived advantage in the post and the notion that Turkoglu, Alston and Nelson would be able to penetrate the Laker defense at will.
The Laker’s ability to shut down any Magic offense in the paint during this first game was as big a factor as Kobe’s scoring, maybe even a bigger factor.
Dwight Howard does not have the post up skills to consistently score on the Laker bigs and the Magic have no other reliable post up players. The only real option the Magic have to create penetration is screen and roll to try and create mismatches when the Lakers switch.
The Laker defense against the pick and roll is for the screen defender to show on the other side of the screen and stop the roller. I would expect to see Nelson/Alston run a lot of screen and roll situations with Turkoglu to try and get Turkoglu going to the basket covered by the Laker point guard.
The Magic should also use perimeter screens to free their three point shooters, especially in the Lewis-Gasol matchup where Lewis speed across the baseline and the difficulty Gasol will have getting through screens should create some open looks.
If anything the Lakers will improve in the post in game two. Bynum has been slowly gaining confidence ever since the end of the Denver series and game one only added to that. Howard, as the only effective inside player the Magic have is going to feel pressure to avoid fouls and pressure to be more aggressive, which will result in more fouls.
Personally I doubt there will be a Magic victory in game two, outside shooting teams tend to struggle on the road and the Magic really are reliant on perimeter shooting. I do look for a closer game purely because the Magic cannot shoot any worse than they did in game one.