- Unlike the initial game when Orlando played Bryant straight up, the Magic mixed up their coverage on Kobe Bryant much more frequently in Game Two. Whenever Courtney Lee was isolated on Bryant the Magic would send an automatic double team to coax the ball out of Bryant’s hands. Most of the time, Kobe would spin away from the double into Lee and simply rise and fire over him.
- Mickael Pietrus couldn’t defend Bryant without fouling, or in the case of a particular fourth-quarter whistle, without appearing to foul.
- Surprisingly, J.J. Redick was effective in his denial defense of Bryant on the post, and Hedo Turkoglu made a number of winning defensive plays against Bryant over the final stanza.
- Dwight Howard did a terrific job of showing on high screens and trapping Bryant on wing screens. In fact, the defensive maturation Howard has undergone in the past week is astounding.
- Orlando’s interior rotations on Kobe’s drives were much more precise.
- For the most part though, the Magic dared Kobe to make the same kind of incredible one-on-one shots he made in Game One. And for the most part, the tactic worked.
- With Orlando’s offense continuing to play in disarray, Rashard Lewis extended a lifeline. He played in the post early in the second quarter, even getting some time as a small forward. On Lewis’ first venture to the post, he discarded Luke Walton, missed a layup, but retrieved the ball and laid it in. His next time down low drew a non-shooting foul on Lamar Odom.
- It’s no secret that if a player is struggling with his jump shot, getting layups at the basket will give that player confidence in seeing the ball go through the hoop. This is why after Lewis made that post layup, he went bananas with 16 points on four three-pointers, and he scored 18 of Orlando’s 20 points in the second quarter.
- Hedo Turkoglu went away from a screen to get a layup at the basket early in the third quarter, reinvigorated his hibernating confidence. After a six-quarter slumber, Turkoglu became much more intent at attacking and penetrating deeper off of screen/rolls, and with his confidence soaring, he too found his long-lost three-point jump shot.
- Dwight Howard put a ton of pressure on Andrew Bynum by attacking the middle of the paint quickly, or by driving middle, showing the ball, and then countering hard to the baseline. He was also very patient reading double teams—whether on the catch or the move—and kicking the ball to the top of the offense for open jump shots.
- However, Howard still had trouble catching and dribbling cleanly, and was totally flummoxed whenever the Lakers doubled from the baseline. When the Lakers doubled from the baseline Howard had a layup blocked by Pau Gasol, found Pietrus open to drive and shoot, had a shot blocked by Odom, and threw the ball straight to Trevor Ariza after panicking.
- The Magic played with much more confidence, energy, and poise, especially after halftime.
However, while Howard played reasonably well offensively, and while Lewis and Turkoglu found their mojo, the Magic supporting cast was a disaster.
After spending the Game One postgame talking about how he was out of rhythm because of Jameer Nelson’s extended run in the opener, Rafer Alston proved he’s a world-class loser by shooting 1-9 from the field, including an airball and several other wide open attempts that landed nowhere close. On several possessions, the Lakers made no attempt to rotate out to Alston.
Plus, on Kobe Bryant’s spectacular drive and dish to Gasol that essentially put the game away in overtime, Alston was late dropping down from the corner to pick up Gasol.
Lee missed two layups over the final 11 seconds of regulation, including a lob at the buzzer that would’ve won the game.
Nelson—1-3 FG, 2-4 FT—lurches forward on his jump shot as a result of losing his stroke with so much time off.
Aside from a gutsy three late in the fourth, Redick was too passive with his drives and fired blanks from extrapointville—2-9 FG, 1-6 3FG. Plus, Redick made an awful decision late in overtime to force a pass to a cutting Howard with traffic in between and Fisher rotating along the baseline.
Fisher intercepted the pass, was fouled, converted the free throws, and the Magic were in panic mode.
Marcin Gortat missed a layup and was abused by Odom.
Tony Battie couldn’t fight through screens and subsequently ate Odom’s lunch.
Outside of the starting frontcourt, Orlando shot 8-31 from the field, and 1-12 on threes, unacceptable numbers.
In short, the Magic lost because nary a single role player stepped up to punish the Lakers for ignoring them. Perhaps they don’t deserve the Lakers attention?
Meanwhile, the Lakers got key contributions from their role players to augment their three stars.
Kobe Bryant did as Kobe Bryant does—10-22 FG, 8 AST, 7 TO, 29 PTS, Gasol abused Rashard Lewis in the post, plugged his jumpers, and converted his flippers—7-14 FG, 10-11 FT, 10 REB, 24 PTS, and Lamar Odom was a whirling derby—8-9 FG, 8 REB, 3 BLK, 19 PTS.
But the key player for the Lakers was Derek Fisher who tortured Howard by dropping down from the baseline and digging ceaselessly at his dribble, who gambled and picked Turkoglu’s dribble coming around a screen, who rotated perfectly to pick off Redick’s ill-advised pass late in the game, and who knocked down two of his four triples.
While Fisher doesn’t, and never did have all-NBA speed or athleticism, he’s still tougher, more savvy, and smarter in the clutch than the average fan will give him credit for.
So with Alston imploding for Orlando, Fisher continues to display how he’s earned three championship rings and how he’s second all-time in three-point shooting percentage in the Finals.
If Trevor Ariza didn’t shoot well—3-13 FG—he did an outstanding job of maintaining contact with Turkoglu around screens and of playing the passing lanes.
Jordan Farmar didn’t play long, but hit a pair of baskets against Nelson early in the second quarter.
For the Magic to get back in the series
- Turkoglu and Lewis must play with confidence right from the get-go.
- Howard must be prepared for the inevitable baseline-side double teams he’ll encounter.
- Stan Van Gundy must do a better job defending baseline out of bounds plays. A layup for Gasol marked the third time the Lakers have gotten open bunnies off of out of bounds plays.
- Lewis and Gortat must post Odom more; one, to get him in possible foul trouble; two, to take advantage of their size and post skills; three, to get more shots at the basket; and four, to make Odom expend energy defensively so he’s more worn down offensively.
- Add more pass fakes and backdoor cuts to counteract the Lakers’ aggressive closeouts and ball-hawking.
- Turkoglu and Redick must drive to score more, instead of driving strictly to pass.
- Make shots, make shots, make shots!
- Getting the same beneficial love from the refs—at least six blown calls in the game went against the Lakers, as opposed to two against the Magic (not surprisingly both favorable to Kobe Bryant).
Most importantly the Magic supporting actors must play less wooden in their roles or the Lakers A-listers will steal the show.
Perhaps the Magic role players will play better in Disneyland. Or perhaps their magic has disappeared.