Congratulations first and foremost to "Crazy Stan" Van Gundy for finally making a game-winning coaching adjustment in this series — he benched himself.
With the USS Magic heading for the rocks due to Captain Panic's never-ending series of seat-of-the-pants substitutions in Games 1 and 2, wackery which sapped the self-assurance and ability of both his starting Point Guard and his rookie Shooting Guard, good ol' SVG pulled out the manual and remembered how to sail the thing. Instead of continuing to go all Buster Bluth in the bright lights of the NBA Finals, Crazy Stan figured out that the blue part was indeed the water.
Skip to My Lou repaid his Kooky Koach's vote of confidence in spades, leading the Magic to a first half for the ages. At the close of the 2nd Quarter, Orlando had etched their names into the NBA record book for shooting 75% from the field. The Magic did everything flawlessly except for shooting their trademark 3-ball, the slinging of which was merely "superior."
Moreover, Orlando maintained an edge in rebounds at the halftime break, had tamed their turnover bugaboo, and was playing inspired defense. It was simply a blowout for the home team, right?
On this night, the real magicians were the Lakers. Somehow through smoke and mirrors and a red-hot Kobe Bryant (8/11 for 20), Team Purple managed to keep it manageable, down only 5 at the break instead of the 25 points which we might expect. It was reminiscent of an episode of "The A-Team," in which both sides laid down 24 uninterrupted minutes of withering automatic weapons fire — yet miraculously no one was hit or killed.
Lots of muzzle flash, no gore... Fun stuff to watch for the whole family...
(Hey, I'm not finished yet. Click through for more timbotalk and some swell linkety links after the jump...)
All right, parishioners, please open your POPCORN MACHINE LINK found on the pew in front of you and join with me in a group reading of the gameflow...
For me (and I commented on this in the game thread as it was happening), the decisive moment came midway through the third period, when the Lakers' 10-4 start suddenly went flat. The Lakers were down just 3 points and had the ball, but you could feel it...
Simply put: Orlando stepped up their defensive pressure, getting more active and playing one step closer to their opponents. Instead of beating the over-committed Magic to the hole with quick first steps and passes to cutters, the Lakers blundered in their response — hoisting contested jumpers instead. It was not one person, it was a team failure — and a decisive one.
Orlando pulled down the defensive boards without much trouble and responded with a mini-run of their own. The Magic opened up a comparatively comfortable cushion that the Lakers challenged twice but never quite overcame.
Orlando was brilliantly balanced in this game, as the NBA.com BOXSCORE illustrates. Lewis, Howard, and Alston all broke the 20 point mark, while Hedo and Pietrus added 18. Rookie SG Courtney Lee didn't do much during his 20 minutes of burn, but Orlando doesn't need him to do much when the big dogs are pulling the sled like that. The front line starters combined for 25 rebounds — which would have topped the entire Laker team up to the wild last 28 seconds of game action.
Well, there's not too much else to be said. You live by the jumpshot, you die by the jumpshot — the fickle rims made Kobe look like St. Peter in the first half and Satan in the second. Same coin, two different sides — and it doesn't matter what color your jersey is or how intense you are.
That said, Kobe did not lose this game, the team did.
Truth be told, the Lakers had no business being in it on a night when the Orlando Magic set a new NBA Finals record for shooting percentage, 62.5%. That they managed to get things to a nerve-wracking coin toss at the end is fabulous testimony to their intensity and perseverance in a game which would have been very easy to surrender.
The Lakers played like World Champions.
On a night like this, you just try to get it to a big shot or two at the end and you live with the result.
In Game 3, the rims simply said no.
Before we get to our review of the Orlandovian celebration, please join me in viewing The Greatest Thing in the World, THE BASKETBALL JONES, Episode 453.
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
Couldn't blame them if they spilled confetti on the floor a little too early.
After all, the Orlando Magic waited all of their 20 years for their first NBA Finals victory.
Even though a few more milliseconds were put back on the clock and players were kicking up the shiny ticker-tape, the Magic were not about to be denied Tuesday night.
The Magic held off the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104 in front of a frenzied sell-out crowd at Amway Arena.
They not only slowed the Lakers' parade planners and made Kobe Bryant look mortal, but the Magic jumped back into the best-of-seven series, trimming L.A.'s lead to 2-1.
The Magic at last won a game in the NBA Finals after seven tries, and this one meant more to the present than the past.
They not only found their shooting touch after going cold in L.A. — 29.9 percent in Game 1 and 41.8 in Game 2 — the Magic set an NBA Finals record 62.5 percent (40-of-84).
They also held off a Lakers' charge after building a nine-point fourth-period lead.
"I've said it throughout the season and throughout these playoffs," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The one thing that you can't question about our team is their resilience in situations like that, whether it's from game to game, minute to minute our team will keep playing." * * *
by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel
* * *
It's good to savor the victory and think of the possibilities in the next two games. Stan Van Gundy's infatuation with Jameer Nelson seems to be over, greatly impacted by the sizzling performance from Rafer Alston. He was back in "Skip to My Lou" form Tuesday night, scoring 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
This team is a keeper, but forever and ever is tenuous in the NBA.
We're talking salary-cap restrictions. We could very well be seeing the last of Hedo Turkoglu or Marcin Gortat in a Magic uniform. Maybe both of them.
Turkoglu is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after Orlando's run in the Finals. That would mark the end of his six-year, $39-million deal with the Magic.
He'd be foolish to play out his final season and settle for $7.3 million. I know. It's all Monopoly money to me, too, but it's the market value, people. Don't you wish you were taller?
Hedo has certainly come up big for the Magic, despite the predictable moment in every game when he'll bounce a pass off somebody's head in Section 108. It's part of the Hedo Vibe, mostly groovy with moments of temporary insanity.
But Hedo's got enough leverage to earn himself a bigger paycheck elsewhere. He can shoot, dribble, drive, score, pass. He has played every position except center in his career. He had another strong game Tuesday night, with 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists. That's a lot of leverage.
At 30, it's also Hedo's best shot at a lucrative, long-term contract. * * *
by Kyle Hightower, Orlando Sentinel
It wouldn't have been surprising to see a "Help Wanted" sign hanging outside the Orlando Magic locker room before Game 3 Tuesday night.
After providing a nice lift at key points in each of their first three playoff series, the Magic's reserves had stalled in the first two games in the Finals.
Entering Game 3 Orlando had just played the Los Angeles reserves to a tie: 46-46.
It remained even Tuesday night 24-24 but the biggest bench performance belonged to the Magic.
Pietrus tossed in a huge 18 points off the bench to lead the Magic reserves Tuesday, knocking down 7-of-11 shots and all four of his free-throws.
But his biggest contribution was defensive.
With the Magic clinging to a 104-102 lead with under a minute to play, Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant lost the handle in the half court on their ensuing possession. In the scramble, Pau Gasol fell on it, but Pietrus picked his pass attempt from the floor.
Pietrus was fouled as he broke away down the court and made both of his free-throws to put Orlando up 106-102 and help seal the win.
"We got him a couple of good traps on [Bryant]," Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "You have to keep your hands back on all of his traps because you don't want to touch him. He just lost the ball. Mickael made both free-throws it was very big." * * *
by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
ou could feel it when you approached the arena and the fans were drinking and tailgating, scalpers were shoving wads of money in their pockets and a kid begged me to get him into the game with my press pass.
And a rock and roll band played a Billy Joel song: "Only the Good Die Young." * * *
Everybody was singing. Dancing. Smiling.
You could feel it, all right.
You could feel it in the thundering applause when the Magic walked off the court with a series-saving 108-104 victory over the Lakers.
You could feel when the deliriously deafening crowd chanted , "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A!" after Mickael Pietrus stole the ball from Kobe with 28 seconds left to help secure the first Finals victory in franchise history.
You could feel it every time Rafer Alston shaked and baked his way to the rim (who was that dummy who wrote the Magic should start Jameer Nelson at point guard?).
You could feel it when Dwight Howard bulled his way inside and Rashard Lewis let it rain from the outside and the Magic fired away from everywhere en route to shooting an NBA record 62.5 percent from the floor.
After 14 dim, dank years of dwelling in pro sports darkness, you could feel the hot, hysterical glow when the bright lights finally came on in Orlando Tuesday night. After decade of dysfunction and disappointment, there was magic in downtown .
Orlando Magic. * * *
by Michael White, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog
Fine. The Orlando Magic won a game. In the Finals. I am proud. Trust me, that win, even if the vast majority of the folks celebrating on Orange Ave. do not realize it, means something. For the come-lately fans, it is one more reason to get drunk on Thursday.
For those of thus who have been living and dying with this team for decades, from losing Shaq, T-Mac and Grant Hill's feet, it means far more than that. It is a middle finger to the pezzonovantes in the national media who never gave this team a chance. We paid attention when they could not be bothered to flip their remotes to TNT.
Whatever happens from here on forward, this Magic team, more than any other, has shown grit, heart and resiliency. Anfernee Hardaway and Shaq possessed gifts Dwight and Rashard will never know. But this current regime has shown something those superior athletes never even hinted at. That is, accountability in the face of superior adversity. Calm in the fist of a humiliating tsunami, something Shaq and Penny couldn't stomach even as an entire franchise existed only to fill their most menial needs.
Orlando winning the NBA Finals would be like Daniel LaRusso winning the All-Valley Karate tournament, or Chris Knight getting that premo job from Professor Hathaway in Real Genius. It would be, in the words of Death Cab for Cutie, a movie-script ending.
That said, the Magic will probably lose this series.
No shame in that, though. * * *
by Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
When his teammates needed him most, point guard Rafer Alston reminded the Orlando Magic why they traded for him back in February.
Alston, whose horrid shooting and erratic playmaking in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals hamstrung the Magic offense, rediscovered his game Tuesday night, keying the Magic to a 108-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3.
Alston scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting — a stark contrast to his performance earlier in the series. In the Finals' first two games, he scored a total of just 10 points and made just 17.6 percent of his shots from the field.
"I was a little more aggressive than I was in Games 1 and 2," Alston said. "My teammates and coaches —everybody — told me to be the guy that they brought in. I took that very seriously, and that's what I wanted to do."
Orlando entered Tuesday night needing improved play from all of its guards. And while Jameer Nelson and Courtney Lee had lackluster games offensively, the Magic received 18 points from Mickael Pietrus and benefited from Alston's four assists.
"The guard play was great," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Rafer got off to a good start and played very, very well, played with great confidence." * * *
by Ben Q Rock, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)
Thanks to a balanced offensive attack and blistering shooting from the field, the Orlando Magic toppled the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, 108-104, for their first-ever NBA Finals game win.
Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard led Orlando with 21 points apiece, but the Magic also got double-figure production from Rafer Alston (20), Hedo Turkoglu (18), and Mickael Pietrus (18). Orlando withstood the shooting clinic Kobe Bryant held in the first quarter, in which he shot 7-of-10 for 17 points in the final 5:41 of the period. Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points, but was not much of a factor down the stretch.
It's a good thing the Magic picked tonight to shoot out of their darn minds, because if they hadn't, L.A. would have continued to roll. I don't want to say that neither team played any defense tonight--the effort was there, to be sure--but the statistics appear to indicate that both teams enjoyed what amounted to a shootaround on offense.
Orlando's game was a bit different, attempting a season-low 14 three-pointers. Orlando fed L.A. a steady diet of pick-and-rolls with Howard and Turkoglu, moved the ball well, and put the ball in the basket with apparent ease. If you're the Lakers, you just shake your head and say, "it's just one of those nights," when Pietrus hits a wild turnaround jumper from the baseline. * * *
Going forward, the Magic are probably concerned that they set an NBA record for field-goal shooting yet the game went down to the wire anyway. Then again, they shot 41.8% in Game 2 and still took the Lakers to overtime on the road. It all balances out, and the series will balance out at 2 games apiece this Thursday if the Magic continue to execute offensively, and make a better commitment to defense. Seriously, guys, 104 points allowed in 84 possessions? In the NBA Finals? I know it's against the Lakers, an elite offensive team, but that's just embarrassing.
Nothing embarrassing about winning an NBA Finals game. Just 3 more of those and Orlando will have earned its first-ever NBA championship. Funny how fortunes change after 48 hours, isn't it?
posted by "Jax502" to Third Quarter Collapse
I don't know if anyone else noticed, but based on my observation, the Magic that played in the Cleveland series seemed to have more poise and confidence vs. the Magic in the Finals.
Personally, I think the Magic are still shocked they are playing in the Finals. Game 2 was the awakening. Game 3 was hard fought but they showed some signs of confidence, (thanks to the crowd). Dwight needs to dominate more. (Excellent job on the line, keep it up). Game 4 they need to put all their doubts and stage fright aside and get ready to roll!!!
by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily (True Hoop)
Much like Clark Kent, Rafer Alston is known for his multiple personalties. And while Alston is known as "Skip to my Lou" because of his And1 days, that's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about home Rafer and away Rafer.
Alston scored 12 points on 8-of-12 shooting to help the Magic to their season-saving victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night.
Including the Eastern Conference Finals, he's averaging 19.3 points and shooting 50 percent in his past four home games. In the five road games over that stretch, he's gone 9-of-45 (20.4 percent) for 5.6 points per game.
Does playing at home really affect him that much?
"Kind of," Alston said after last night's victory. "You're in your own bed, you can do your own thing as opposed to being on the road and hiding because of so much that we have to do on the road. You don't want to just rip and run on the road, you want to get your rest, stay off your feet. Here you want to get your rest but at least you're in the confines of your own home. That's the only difference." * * *
by Woody Wommack, Orlando Magic Daily (True Hoop)
It was an interesting scene inside the Lakers' locker room following Game 3 on Tuesday night.
As expected, the media hoard almost doubled in size for the third straight series, and even resulted into a South American soccer type situation as everyone tried to shove into the door at the same time.
Once we all made it inside, it was the usual suspects providing post-game commentary, and unlike the Cleveland series, I actually believed what the Lakers players were saying after the game.
"This is a confident team," Lakers forward Trevor Ariza said. "I think they gave us their best shot and we only lost by four."
That last sentence by Ariza struck me as shockingly accurate. After all, the Magic shot an NBA-record 62.5 percent from the field, including 75 percent in the first half, and if it weren't for two free throws by Rashard Lewis the final deficit would have been just two points.
On the other hand, a win is a win, but I almost feel like the Lakers gained confidence from losing.
"You are talking to a confident group," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "We played everything to win this year and we are gong to lose some. Tonight we got out-played for a long period of time. If that game had two more minutes on the clock, it could have gone either way. We have to play a lot better." * * *
by The Big Train, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)
As Zoolander would say, the Magic can turn left. Last night Orlando improved to 1-6 all time in the NBA Finals with a 108-104 win against Kobe and the Lakers. Here are our reactions:
The Big Train:
You could say that there is no way Orlando will shoot 62.5% from the field again, much less over 70% in a half. You could say there is no way Rafer will play as well as he did, and Pietrus will hit some of the shots that he did. You could also say that there is no way that Kobe will miss 5 of 10 free throws and turns the ball over in the final minute. I'd even allow you to say that there is no way the Magic will have 5 guys score at least 18 points. But you can't say the Magic will be swept. You can't say that this team doesn't have heart. You can't say that we don't have a hell of a coach. And finally, you can't say that we have players that don't want it as much as the other team. Even Hedo Turkoglu.
I 3 Freely:
Let me tell you about a man named Courtney "I Got Kobe" Lee. If someone asked me to choose between Lee playing in your face defense on the best one-on-one player in the game for the entire series, or making one game winning shot, it would be a tough decision. Lee may have been the one starter that didn't fill up the box score last night, but the defense he played on Kobe in his 20 minutes of play (especially a brilliant stretch in the 3rd quarter) is what really stick out for me. * * *
Yesterday I asked Rafer Alston to arrive to the Finals and he arrived in grand fashion. His numbers and leadership were extremely impressive as the Magic finally got big games from their backcourt. The way the game was going the Magic had to play an absolutely flawless game on offense and that is what they did. * * *
Supply and Demand:
Was that Kobe the player and puppet I saw cracking under the pressure last night? It took the Magic a record 62% shooting night to break through and get their first franchise Finals win, but my guess is we will be seeing a couple more before Monday. Orlando has the talent to beat this Laker team and now appears to have shaken off the Finals stage fright that had them playing out of character. As long as the Refs keep the Kobe "star calls" to a minimum, this is going to be the hard fought series we all expected. * * *
* * * We will not be swept. We will fight hard every night. The Lakers are an amazing team. Phil Jackson is arguably the best basketball coach ever. Kobe Bryant has to be in the top 10 best players ever. We are living at this time. We are watching NBA Legends at their best. We will tell stories to our grand kids about this, how good Kobe was. How great were Jackson and Stan Van Gundy. How Dwight Howard became and even bigger superstar in this league. How Rashard's contract suddenly doesn't seem so big. Heck even how Hedo Turkoglu might be worth signing back on this offseason. The Magic might not win this series. Odds are they will lose. But they sure are making it exciting. * * *
At the end of the night, premature confetti and all, Dwight has given us something Shaq never could, a win in the Finals.
by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle
* * *
It was an offensive clinic. The Magic shot an NBA Finals high 62.5 percent for the game. The aggression off the dribble was a lot higher and Orlando looked to get to the rim rather than standing around the 3-point line. The Magic did a great job balancing their 3-point shooting and attacking the basket and getting the ball to Dwight Howard.
It was about as perfect an offensive game that could have been played.
It started with Rafer Alston. Alston attacked the basket and looked to score -- a major change from the first two games. He had 20 points and shot eight of 12 from the floor. He was especially damaging in the third quarter as Orlando expanded its lead.
The fourth quarter then became a showing of Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard's playmaking ability. The two exploited Los Angeles' poor pick and roll defense. Turkoglu got where he wanted on the floor and hit some difficult shots.
When he was not, he fed the ball to Howard. Howard once again hit his free throws as Los Angeles did a good job keeping him from scoring field goals. He hit 11 of 16 free throws on his way to 21 points. * * *
NBA Finals Game 3: Magic 108 Lakers 104
by Mike from Illinois, Orlando Magic Blog
* * *
Other game notes and stats:
- The Magic shot a remarkable 20 of 23 from two point range in the first half and 35 of 50 for the game.
- The Magic's best-shooting quarter was the second, as they shot 13 of 16 overall.
- The Magic starting frontcourt outscored the Lakers' starting frontcourt 60-40, and outrebounded them 25-14.
- Bryant, after starting out 8 of 11 shooting, made just 3 of his last 14 shots and scored just ten second half points. * * *
- The Magic used a nine-man rotation, with Tony Battie scoring four points and Jameer Nelson scoring two points; Marcin Gortat went scoreless.
- Courtney Lee was the only Magic starter not in double figures, scoring four points in 20 minutes.
- The Lakers attempted 14 more shots than the Magic.
- The Magic made 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth. * * *
Although this material will spool off before too long, as of 3 pm EDT there were the following videos available on the WFTV index page:
- RAW FOOTAGE of Hedo Turkoglu's post-game words for the media.
- RAW FOOTAGE of Courtney Lee, ditto.
- RAW FOOTAGE of Jameer Nelson, ditto.
- Magic's "Good Luck Girl" Comes Through Again.
- Multiple news reports on the game.
The Bottom Line:
1. How 'bout them Magic?!?!?
2. The Minimum Goal has now been achieved: a victory in the NBA Finals, first ever for the franchise. (Hey, Shaq, tell us how our ass tastes!!!)
3. Now to try to achieve The Maximum Goal...