The Orlando Magic skipped past the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three, and ended any future comparison to the 1995 Magic team that failed to win a NBA Finals game.
The best part of this game was the performance of an emerging star not named Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, or Hedo Turkoglu.
Nope, Tuesday's star was none other than Rafer Alston.
You know Rafer Alston...Skip to My Lou...former streetball legend from New York...the guy who has played for six teams over the span of his NBA career.
Rafer Alston, the point guard from the Houston Rockets that Orlando traded for back in February to replace injured all-star Jameer Nelson.
OK, maybe you are or you aren't familiar with him, but you should be. More importantly, Stan Van Gundy better be. See, Van Gundy got intoxicated with the idea of getting former starting point guard Jameer Nelson back for the NBA Finals.
Sure, Nelson was key to the Magic's sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers during the regular season, averaging 27.5 ppg in two games, but frankly, Alston is the key to Orlando's championship aspirations.
Jameer Nelson has not played since February, and Alston has been the Magic's floor leader for their impressive run through the 2009 NBA Playoffs.
Van Gundy needs to realize—and I think he finally did last night—that Alston needs to be the point guard on the floor in the fourth quarter of games to ensure the offense continues to execute.
There were times in the fourth quarter of Game Two when JJ Redick was playing point guard for Orlando, and that was when Jameer Nelson wasn't. Alston was stuck on the bench during crunch time of that heartbreaking loss.
After the Game Three victory, Alston told the media, "I just wanted to come in and be aggressive tonight and set the tone."
And set the tone, he did.
It was obvious from the opening quarter that Alston was heeding the advice of fellow New York basketball legend Mark Jackson, who was a member of the commentating crew for ABC's NBA coverage.
Jackson commented that he advised Alston to go back to his roots and play his style of game. Jackson even shouted after a highlight spinmove and acrobatic layup by Alston that, "He's playing like Skip to My Lou!"
Instead of pouting about sharing point guard duties with Nelson, as was evident in Game Two, Alston decided to play his game—a game that is frowned upon by mainstream basketball followers.
However disliked, Alston's game last night was effective and successful. Just ask Derek Fisher and, even, Kobe Bryant. Rafer blew by almost every Laker that challenged the blacktop magician.
I, personally enjoyed watching Alston's show in Game Three because it reminded me, and hopefully others, that basketball is basketball. Even if the style is unorthodox or "street," it is basketball and gets the same result of scoring baskets—just with some more ohs and ahs.
Thanks, Skip, for the memories of the days and nights spent on the blacktop, you proved "our" game is just as good as theirs—even if it was for one game.
Hopefully for Orlando's title shot, it lasts for three more—wins.
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