With the NBA Finals Series between the Lakers and the Magic heading to Orlando for Game Three, the Magic turned in a good performance during Game Two. They should still be hopeful that three consecutive games at home will give them the opportunity to even the series and solve a few major issues that have been problematic in their two losses.
Here are a few of my humble observations and suggestions for the Magic:
1. Players other than Orlando’s Big Three Must Make Shots. Orlando’s Turkoglu, Howard and Lewis combined for 73 of the team’s points in Game Two. But more importantly, almost every single positive play ran either through one of these three players or was initiated by one of them.
While it’s nice to finally see Rashard Lewis play like the franchise player his contract says he is, nobody can possibly expect him to in 34 points, 7 assists, and hit 6 three point shots at a 50 percent clip every game.
While Howard is doing his fair share of work down low, battling with L.A.’s legion of long limbed defenders, Pietrus, Alston, Lee, and the recently returned Nelson need to make their shots. It’s just that simple.
2. Dwight Howard needs to take care of the rock. Seven turnovers in Game Two is just too much in these crucial games. Now, interestingly Bryant also rang up seven turnovers, but he also handles the ball twice as much as Howard and distributed eight assists while Howard only accounted for four assists.
But despite the turnovers, I still think that Orlando needs to find Howard more in the paint. And then provide him with clear cut passing options out of the double team. Howard seemed very comfortable making accurate passes out of the double team and L.A. had no clear answer to this scenario yet.
3. Courtney Lee can’t handle Kobe Bryant. It’s painfully clear during the past two games that Bryant is physically and mentally abusing this poor rookie whenever he tries to defend number 24.
To be honest, I’m not sure why Pietrus hasn’t been a starter all along but obviously Van Gundy is more comfortable having Pietrus lead his second unit off the bench. Then again, Pietrus tends to get more minutes than some starters anyway sort of like Ginobili does with the Spurs.
I would just go ahead and allow Lee to continue being a starter for psychological stability, but quickly turn to Peitrus as he offers the best chance guarding Kobe. Pietrus did a great job on LeBron James.
He is a physical player with great length and speed. If Pietrus can stay out of foul trouble while containing Kobe, and contribute a few clutch three point shots, he may be Orlando’s x-factor.
4. Orlando’s Front Court is shockingly slim. This is more an observation than anything else, but I’m still shocked how Orlando made it this far with such a slim front court. When you consider that other than Dwight Howard, Orlando’s next real big man off the bench is either Gortat or Battie. One has to respect Howard even more for the load he’s been carrying on his shoulders all season.
What good is Gortat? I’m sure that somewhere along the way he made some good plays to earn Van Gundy’s trust but at this point it couldn’t hurt to dust off Tony Battie to see if the old battle horse has any juice left in him for one last run at the Championship. I’m sure Battie wouldn’t do any worse than Gortat’s four points, three boards, and two turnovers in 15 minutes of play.
5.Orlando’s point guards must outplay the L.A.’s point guards. Derek Fisher is going to be Phil Jackson’s main man. Farmer may get a few minutes but not many as Jackson apparently prefers Fisher’s firmer handle on both offense and defense.
But Fisher isn’t as dynamic as Jameer Nelson can be nor as quick footed as Alston is. With a series in the balance, Orlando needs to take favorable mismatches anywhere they can get them.
Both Orlando’s guards need to really take it to Fisher, using their quickness and legs to pressure Fisher’s ball handling to take L.A. out of its offensive rhythm.
On offense, both Alston and Nelson show they can blow past Fisher at any time. If the three ball isn’t falling (as in Game Two) Orlando’s point guards need to start penetrating the paint where more opportunities can open up.