First off, an apology to you, the reader. I was unable to provide notes after Game 2 due to pressing real life issues. I swear it was not simply me ducking the Lakers win, as I made sure to post after Game 1. Please forgive me for not posting after Game 2, but I really truly did not have the time. As for Game 3…
Wow. I did NOT see that coming.
Kobe Bryant clangs free throws, and then gets the ball stolen in the final possessions of the game? Really?
Will someone call Hell and ask if it’s a deep freeze, or just a dusting?
Tonight was one of those nights where I sound like a moron. In the liveblogs, I noted that Rafer Alston would likely come out and burn the Magic with bad decisions. Yeah, he kind of pwned the Lakers.
Then I mentioned how I didn’t like the Lee-on-Kobe matchup. Then the kid goes out and plays fantastic defense on him. Lee’s boxscore was quiet. His impact was not. He managed to do the impossible. He frustrated Bryant. Okay, maybe not impossible, but really really difficult.
Oh, hey Mikael Pietrus, didn’t notice you standing there. What’s that? You just got here? Oh, good to know. Sure, make yourself at home.
The best thing the Magic did tonight was to create different looks for getting Howard the ball. Instead of just posting him on the left block time after time after time like a broken record, they set pick and roll situations and delivered fast, hard passes inside to him. The Lakers adjusted late in the game, but by then, they were going to their other weapons enough. Howard was getting prime positioning inside.
The Lakers held firm to the No Dunks Allowed policy, but with that kind of position, Howard got to the line which hurt the Lakers. And with Lamar Odom floating around his usual home of outer space again until the 4th quarter, that was enough for the Magic to win.
How do you feel confident after shooting 63%, winning the rebounding battle, evening the turnover ratio, shooting 15% better from the stripe, and only winning by four?
By “It’s the freaking Finals and a win is a win.” That’s how. Because otherwise, there’s not much to celebrate.
And in my opinion, there’s not. For either side. There’s probably too much of a lax “Eh, they can have this one” from Lakers fans, but then, their team has been dominant all year, they’ve earned it. Both sides have held serve through three games. The Magic pushed the Lakers in Game 2, but couldn’t get it done. The Lakers pushed the Magic in Game 3 but fell apart. I’d say game 4 is pivotal, but come on. It’s the Finals. Every single game swings the momentum, according to the media. In reality, we’ll just have to see how the buckets fall.
I actually thought the Lakers did a much better job of valuing possessions tonight. As a team. One person, on the other hand, elected to take tough shots with time left on the shot clock and forced the issue too much.
But we won’t talk about him.
I liked what Hedo Turkoglu did tonight. Got the step back jumper going, which sucked out the defense, which opened up the lane, which opened up the passing lanes. Hedo played very strong tonight and attacked the rim instead of opting for perimeter shots.
As a whole, the Magic seemed to focus on that approach, pump faking and then taking confident pull-up jumpers. In Games 1 and 2, they seemed unsure. As if when they pulled up they were wondering if they should be driving and when driving wondering if they should have pulled up. Passing was crisper, and the Magic refound their stroke. It had to happen eventually. This team was not going to shoot below 30% for seven games.
On the one hand, the Orlando crowd seemed into it from the very beginning, was loud, was together, and was intense. On the other, they needed help from the PA and one of those host guys, and did the wave. So not a flawless crowd performance. But, their identity isn’t based on famous people who haven’t watched a game all season, so they get the win.
If you ask me who is more likely to win the series, I say Lakers, because of how well they’ve played up until tonight in the second half. But if you ask me what’s more likely, the Magic sweeping at home or the Lakers giving up one of their last two games, I think LA is slightly more likely to crumble. But that’s because they check out often mentally, and you can never predict it.
Everyone likes to focus on how Rashard Lewis needs to go inside more. He’s big, athletic, talented, why not attack the basket? Then late in the game he drives and gets erased by Odom. Then later, he nails a step back, in your face three to seal it for the Magic. I’m just saying. I’m not going to ask Death Cab for Cutie to write an Industrial Goth Hate Anthem. I’m sure they might be able to make a pretty good one. But let’s stick with what we’re good at.
Still waiting on Andrew Bynum to become the next great NBA center. Stiiiiiiiiil waiting.
There was a lot of frustration for the Lakers defensively, which is kind of their MO. Good defensive things do the little things that help get you a win. The Lakers do those things. Great defensive teams also make adjustments and are able to communicate with one another to cover those adaptations. The Lakers are a good, not great defensive team. Which is fine, because they are a simply awesome offensive team.
Mark Jackson was criticizing the Magic for their defense on Kobe Bryant in the first quarter. “You’ve got to guard him better than that.” My question? HOW?! You stay with him, keep position, don’t foul, and get a hand in his face. If he drills it? What else are you going to do?
Courtney Lee (CLeeFree) is a balls-out man.
Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.