Lakers-Magic: Los Angeles Falls for Orlando's Magic Tricks

Gabriel TaylorAnalyst IJune 10, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  Rafer Alston #1 of the Orlando Magic reacts in the third quarter in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Do you know the Magic Man?

He just made 14 years of Orlando Magic NBA Finals futility vanish into thin air.

He craftily turned a playground legend into NBA hardcourt hero, at least for a night.

He can cunningly make Superman look mediocre or superb on a game-to-game basis.

But his best act of deceptionfooling the masses into thinking he’s overmatcheddoesn’t fail to amaze his audience no matter how many times he performs the stunt.

Stan Van Gundy’s wily ways resulted in a 108-104 Magic victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the NBA Finals.

Changing his lineup yet again, Van Gundy showed that the maneuvering and adjusting made by a NBA head coach still has more value than plunging stock in a bear market.

With the win, Van Gundy vanquished all the ghosts of Magic Finals past, erasing what had been a 0-6 Finals record and starting a new chapter of triumph for his underestimated squad.

Van Gundy made a myriad of decisions that led to a crucial victory and rescued the team’s season from the depths of a potential sweep.

As the world drooled over Jameer Nelson as the X-factor or key to the series, Van Gundy wisely went to a trusted accessory to execute a brilliant scheme.

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Who needs an All-Star when you have an Al-ston?

Rafer Alston scored 20 points after being benched in critical situations earlier in the series. He began the game shooting 5-of-5 and finished with a 67 percent field goal percentage, outstanding for a guard.

Alston must feel like part of the Van Gundy’s act, if not his family, playing for both Stan and his brother Jeff in his nomadic NBA career, while sharing New York origins and the guard position with the coaching siblings.

When Van Gundy played Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick for major minutes at the point guard spot in Games One and Two, the thought was that Alston was in his coach’s doghouse and would remain there for the rest of the series.

But Van Gundy always has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Some labeled Alston a shoot-first, playground player who couldn’t win in the NBA. The Van Gundys knew better—Alston has played for Van Gundy playoff teams in Miami, Houston, and now Orlando.

Although Alston had some tricks of his own, taking the ball behind his back on a drive to the basket, he controlled the flow of the game and pushed the ball the way the Magic coach had been begging much faster team to do all series.

The Magic Man also made sure Superman made an appearance for his Game Three routine.

Van Gundy had been accused of astonishingly handcuffing the Man of Steel earlier in the postseason.

Following a close loss against Boston in the conference semifinals, Dwight Howard had lots of vitriol for his head coach, complaining about a lack of touches and lamenting that, “You’ve got a dominant player, let him be dominant.”

Howard took the gloves off by saying, “Our coach has to recognize that when he has a certain group out there and they are getting the job done, we have to leave those guys on the floor.”

Van Gundy ensured Dwight Howard had a great game by giving the Magic center plenty of touches in the post.

Howard’s workman-like 21 points and 14 rebounds were predictable but much-needed for a team with its back against the wall.  

In Game Three, Van Gundy made Redick disappear and went back to the reliable Mickael Pietrus, who tallied 18 points, including a pair of free-throws and some big defensive plays against Kobe Bryant in the final quarter.

Unless the Magic shoot 62.5 percent every game like they did in Game Three, polarizing fans will identify Van Gundy as the foundation of the Magic’s problems.

The Magic Man has shown that he can put his players in position to win. It’s up to them to implement his methods on the court.

Van Gundy’s magical technique has helped the Magic steadily improve throughout the Finals.

After losing Game One by 25, Game Two by five in overtime, and winning Game Three by four, is Van Gundy’s next trick tying the series at two games apiece?

We’ll find out tomorrow night, but a magician’s most marvelous skill is getting the audience on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what will happen next.

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