The Orlando Magic hosted the Lakers in Game Three of the NBA Finals, and they weren't exactly gracious hosts.
The Lakers shot an exceptional 51.3 percent from the field, and cut the Magic lead to zero within the final minutes of the game.
The Magic however, shot a mind blowing NBA Finals-record 62.5 percent and held off the Lakers' run to take Game Three, 108-104, and breathe some life back into their title hopes.
The team Spider Graphs shed even more light on this opera of offense:
- Both teams' FG percentage is off the chart, meaning that both teams shot better than the highest season average. Wow.
- Most of the action is in the top half of the graph, meaning there was a lot more offense played than defense. It's true—each team had a reasonable 13 turnovers, and the high shooting percentage dramatically cut down the number of total rebounds (there were 96 in Game One, 79 in Game Two, and 56 in Game Three).
- The Lakers just got out-hustled, not winning any of the statistical categories. Seeing how well the Magic's graph swallows up the Lakers', it's amazing to think that it came down to the final minute.
So, we've had three games and seen three different results: a Lakers blowout win, a close Lakers win, and a close Magic win. What's been the difference? Who's been changing?
This is pretty cool—if we graph each team over the course of all three games, we can see who's been making the difference.
The Lakers' game graphs have a little bit of variety, but not much—one game had more rebounds, another had more steals.
Their net result is about the same on the offensive side (the top of the graph), though, with a similar showing in assists, reasonably similar shooting percentage, and almost-identical end scores (in the three games they have scored 100, 101, and 104 points, respectively).
The Magic's graph, though, is where the action is. The bottom of the graph, the defensive side, is all over the map, but look at the offensive numbers. In each game, they've bettered their previous game in shooting percentage (29.9, 41.8, 62.5), assists (10, 22, 23), and, the most important part, points (75, 96, 108).
It's unlikely they can keep going up in the rest of the games, but the trend suggests the Magic's most important contributor might never be on the floor: coach Stan Van Gundy.
While Phil Jackson has taken this series in stride, calmly guiding his team with almost laissez-faire coaching, Van Gundy has been the expert tactician.
Not everything has worked, but the charts show that things are improving dramatically overall. If the Game Two game-winner had gone in, they'd be up by one game—and that alley-oop play call was still nothing short of brilliant coaching. It just didn't go in.
Finally, let's check in (as always) with our superstar graph, comparing the performances of Kobe Bryant (who hasn't been mentioned yet in this article) and Dwight Howard (ditto):
Dwight wins this battle, hands down. Look at how his graph dwarfs Kobe's.
The big man did what he's paid the big bucks for—21 and 14 with a couple of blocks. He made five of his six field goal attempts, resulting in a literally-off-the-charts percentage, and a good chunk of his points came at the line (he made 11 of 16).
On the flip side, while coach Jackson suggested Bryant didn't have a great game in Game Two, Bryant's game lacked its normal luster even more so in Game Three. He led all scorers with 31 points, on 44 percent shooting, but he also led all players in turnovers (four) and shot an uncharacteristic 50 percent from the charity stripe.
If the Magic fluster Kobe again in Game Four, they can even the series and turn it into an effectual best-of-three.
And it helps when they can't miss.