Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic thought they made all the right adjustments to win Game Two of the NBA Finals.
Van Gundy tinkered with what had been a well-oiled machine and used several unusual combinations throughout the game to trick the Lakers into giving a game to the Magic.
Van Gundy desperately hoped for better contributions from his two three-point marksmen, Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, after their debacle in Game One.
Neither disappointed their coach, Turkoglu, constantly fighting off a belligerent Trevor Ariza finished with 22 points and Lewis added a game-high 34.
It sounds like the recipe for success against the Lakers, but the Lakers stole the cake, winning 101-96 to take a 2-0 lead as the series heads to Orlando for Game Three.
The Magic needed this game more than the Lakers did and after both teams came out lethargic finishing the opening period tied at 15, the Lakers seemed like they would continue their roller coaster ride in their quest for the championship by losing another playoff game at home.
The Lakers got plenty of help from their X-factor as Lamar Odom decided to be Dr. Jekyll with 19 points, going 8-for-9 from the floor.
Certainly Van Gundy is ticked off at his team’s execution that is threatening to make the nickname one of his ex-players, Shaquille O’Neal gave him, the Master of Panic, stick like a grass stain on an otherwise clean, spotless shirt.
Van Gundy can’t shoot the ball but he can meticulously create plays to free his best shooters. Turkoglu and Lewis seized the opportunity to punish the Lakers.
Van Gundy’s encouragingly yells incessantly at has players and has worked the Xs and Os to near perfection.
But it seems that Van Gundy has reached his boiling point and is frustrated with his team’s constant battle to execute at the end of close games. The Magic have lost four games in the final seconds of regulation and one game in overtime this postseason.
When asked what happened on Courtney Lee’s wide-open layup to win the game with 0.5 seconds remaining, Van Gundy lamented “Hedo made a great pas and he just missed it.”
He also put his guards on notice for their poor shooting telling reporters that he couldn’t find one that could hit a shot.
J.J. Redick, the sharpshooter from Duke who hadn’t seen significant minutes since the Magic’s second round series vs. the Celtics, played 27 minutes but only scored five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Rafer Alston, who was a bit peeved after sitting the entire second quarter in Game One, found himself back on the bench for most of the fourth quarter as Van Gundy went without a point guard for most of the quarter. Alston shot 1-for-8 and finished with four points.
Is it possible that Van Gundy alienated some players on his team by inserting Jameer Nelson and in the rotation in the Finals?
Nelson’s whose return has been trumpeted as the key to the Magic’s winning the series, only scored six points in Game One and four points in Game Two.
More importantly his insertion in the rotation may have destroyed the chemistry that the team developed during its run to the Finals.
Alston played a big part in helping his team get to this point and was certainly surprised when Van Gundy played Nelson 23 minutes. Alston scored 26 points in a Game Four win vs. the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, 21 points to help eliminate the 76ers in Game Six of the first round, and 15 points in Game Seven vs. the Celtics.
Redick’s time on the floor deprived Lee and Pietrus, who were key parts of previous victories in the playoffs, of playing time. Pietrus scored in double figures the previous nine playoff games, but managed only four points against the Lakers in Game Two.
Almost everything that went wrong for the Magic in Game One was addressed in Game Two.
After struggling on the boards in Game One, the Magic bounced back and held a 44-35 rebounding edge.
Howard was in his usual superhero form with 17 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks.
The Magic also contained Kobe Bryant in Game Two.
Bryant, the best player in the Finals, may have led both teams in scoring (29) and assists (eight) but had a mediocre game at best. He was 10-of-22, missed the last shot of the second quarter, the last shot of the third quarter, and on the Lakers last possession of regulation had his shot blocked by Hedo Turkoglu with 0.5 seconds.
Bryant was nearly the goat of the game when he allowed Courtney Lee to get free for a layup that would (to Orlando fans should) have won the game.
Don’t forget his seven turnovers. That’s probably the best you could hope for after his 40-point barrage in Game One.
However, none of the Magic role players stepped up.
Usually the Magic can expect Alston, Pietrus, or Lee to reach double figures. None did.
Thus the Magic squandered great games from Howard, Turkoglu, and Lewis.
Van Gundy understands that if his players make their shots he’s a genius.
And if they miss, he’s the Master of Panic.