Finals Game 2 Preview (pt. 2) — The View from Orlando...

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Why Sunday?

I slowly drifted into consciousness this morning, retrospectively happy that I didn't finish that fifth Full Sail IPA, when it suddenly hit me — this is a really bizarre schedule that Godfather Stern and The Family have foisted upon us.

Think about it: first we had the really long wait for Game 1. I can sort of see that, one has to allow for the possibility of a 7 game series and to allow teams to rest so that everyone is playing on a level court...

But then: TWO days off before playing a Sunday NIGHT game (this puppy starts at 8:00 pm on the East Coast, where the greatest part of the country's population lives).

And then: only ONE day to travel and rest before Game 3 on the other end of  the country.

That strikes me as weird... Really weird.

Why wasn't Game 2 in the middle of the day on Saturday? Isn't that when sports fans across the country are looking for a great excuse not to mow the lawn?

Even if you assume that the ABC types have decided that a big Sunday sports show is all "plus business" for them compared to their normal lucrative Saturday line-up (a premise which I seriously doubt myself, but humor me for a moment) — why don't you make like the Superbowl with an early afternoon broadcast? Say 2:00 pm on the west coast and 5:00 pm in the eastern time zone... Isn't that a better slot for a three hour sporting extravaganza than a 5:00 pm/8:00 pm broadcast start time with Monday being a work day?

I really don't understand this stuff. If anyone recalls having heard the reason why Game 2 was scheduled for Sunday evening instead of mid-day Saturday — or even if you have any good theories — hit the comments section with the info. I'm dying to know.

One thing I do understand is that this schedule has proven to be very advantageous to Orlando. It allows them an extra day to watch film and right the ship after the game 1 loss and it puts tired legs on the traveling visitors for Game 3. Home teams draw energy from their crowd and the Magic will have that reservoir from which to draw upon.

Speaking of Orlando, here are another set of pre-game links from Planet O.

(Click on through for that good stuff...)

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(1)

Rafer Alston still the starting point guard for the Orlando Magic, and says he has no beef with Coach Stan Van Gundy

by Brian "There is Absolutely No Irony in My Byline Being Attached to This Particular Headline" Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

LOS ANGELES - Orlando Magic point guard Rafer Alston, irked that he sat while some of his playing time had gone to Jameer Nelson in Game 1, softened his stance Saturday. He said he has no problem with Coach Stan Van Gundy.

Alston said after Thursday night's 100-75 loss to the Lakers that he was affected by Nelson relieving him and playing the entire second quarter.

Van Gundy said Alston was making an excuse for his subpar play, to which Alston responded, "I'll give you a good excuse. I sat 12 minutes real game-time. I sat about 30 minutes real-life time. There's your excuse. It's different. I don't care who it is."

On Saturday, Alston laughed off the exchange with Van Gundy.

"That's Coach. But I'm not the one to make excuses. Everyone understands about playing. It's just a rhythm thing. And he understands that I still go out and give him 100 percent effort every time and do what I have to do with the minutes that I'm given," said Alston, who played for Van Gundy in Miami.

"This is my second go-around with Coach and we never have any problems. He and I are on the same page." * * *

 

(2)

It's Time to Start Nelson at Point Guard

by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

LOS ANGELES - All of this conversation and consternation about whether Magic point guard Jameer Nelson should be playing in the NBA Finals is as ridiculously aggrandized as the "Sorry, honey" $4 million purple diamond ring Kobe Bryant bought his wife.

As the Magic ready for tonight's crucial Game 2 against the Lakers, we should not be asking why Nelson is playing.

What we should be asking is this:

Why isn't Nelson starting?

Why are the Magic and Coach Stan Van Gundy skirting and skulking and hemming and hawing about this move?

Why are they being so indecisive and unclear? * * *

Van Gundy says now it was a mistake to have played Nelson so many minutes even though Nelson contends he wasn't tired and his conditioning is fine.

"If it was the regular season, I'd throw him in there and figure he would get better and better over time," Van Gundy says when asked why Nelson isn't starting. "But we've won three series without Jameer. It's mainly a conditioning issue at this point. We're looking at Jameer as more of a support player in this series."

I understand Van Gundy's reasoning, but I don't agree with it. I don't want to see less of Jameer in Game 2, I want to see more of him. He was an absolute Laker-killer during the Magic's two regular-season victories over L.A., leading the Magic in scoring both times with 28 and 27 points. * * *

 

(3)

Conditioning Main Concern for Orlando Magic Point Guard Jameer Nelson

by the Orlando Sentinel Sports staff, Magic BasketBlog

Magic General Manager Otis Smith said Saturday that he's still confident of the decision to insert PG Jameer Nelson into the rotation despite a four-month layoff.

Smith said that while team chemistry was an issue, the chance to win a title was worth the risk of playing Nelson, who had shoulder surgery Feb. 19.

"I consider the chemistry question in everything that I do. So it's not necessarily just this," Smith said. "I consider it in everything that I do. You take a chance knowing that it will have some effect on [chemistry]. But you're in the NBA Finals. And last I checked we're going to do everything we can to win it."

He said he wasn't overly concerned about Nelson aggravating his shoulder.

"I don't think his shoulder has anything to do with it," Smith said. "I think it's more of his endurance, his conditioning and all of that. I think the longer the series goes, the better he will start to feel. ... It would have to be something really, really freaky to aggravate it." * * *

 

(4)

L.A. Assistant Brian Shaw Pushes Regrets Aside

by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel

LOS ANGELES - It's been nine years now, but Brian Shaw still remembers the moment.

He looked around the locker room where the Los Angeles Lakers were celebrating another NBA title. He saw his teammates, eyes glistening from a mix of tears and champagne, hugging moms and dads. His buddy, Shaq. Robert Horry. Derek Fisher. Rick Fox.

"Why not me?" Shaw thought to himself.

Life teaches you to brace for the unexpected. But there isn't a Hallmark card in the world that can erase the shot to the heart that Brian Shaw felt in the summer of 1993.

A car flipped on Interstate 15 south of Las Vegas. Shaw's life went tumbling, too. His dad, Charles Perry Shaw, 52, and mom Barbara Everette Shaw, 51, died in the accident. His sister, Monica Elaine Shaw, 24, gone, too. * * *

Shaw played in Orlando as a backup guard and occasional starter from 1994-97. He was part of the last Magic team that went to the Finals in 1995. He bought a home in Windermere during his run here. Bought a boat through connections with Magic owner Rich DeVos. Recently traded it in for another one, using the same connections, to help satisfy his pangs to go fresh-water fishing.

If the Lakers win, it will not be all about Kobe and the craziness of that scowl. It will be because Shaw has helped devise defensive schemes that have taken center Dwight Howard away from his comfort zone. Without the ability to square up to the basket for short jumpers, Howard was frustrated in Game 1 by a blitz of double-teams. Pau Gasol, fronting him, Andrew Bynum leaning on Howard from behind. Unable to bully his way past them, and nowhere to go, Howard - Mr. Black Magic, as he calls himself — disappeared. He made only 1 of 6 shots. * * *

 

(5)

Orlando Magic Must Avoid Falling into an 0-2 Tar Pit Against Los Angeles Lakers

by Brian "Sources Say Dwight Howard is Sick and Stan Van Gundy is in China" Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

LOS ANGELES - Given their rich heritage, the Los Angeles Lakers can't really view Game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight as anything more than just another big night out.

On the other end of the basketball spectrum, well, the Orlando Magic can actually make franchise history at Staples Center.

And maybe they'd better.

The Magic are still looking for their first-ever Finals victory.

Sure, they've only played in one other title round while the Lakers are making their 24th Finals appearance. The Magic are now 0-for-5 in the Finals, having lost Game 1 to the Lakers 100-75 on Thursday night and having been swept in 1995 by the Houston Rockets.

They could use a breakthrough win, not solely for historical purposes, of course. But because a split in L.A. swings the momentum the Magic's way and reminds doubters of their resiliency heading back to Orlando for three consecutive games. * * *

 

(6)

Anatomy of a Trade

by I 3 Freely, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)

* * *
[BILL SIMMONS QUOTE:] The question remains: Did Otis Smith plan on this? When he overpaid Lewis, was he thinking, "I need to find a shooter to spread the floor for Dwight?" Was he thinking, "I am going to revolutionize basketball and I need Lewis to help me do it?" Or was he just like a drunk guy at an auction throwing out some insane dollars to make sure he won? I am leaning toward the third scenario, and here's why: Smith basically gave away Trevor Ariza for Brian Cook and Mo Evans last year. Does Cook make any sense for this '09 Magic team? Of course not. Does Ariza? Of course. That's what makes me think Smith stumbled into it. Revolutionary basketball geniuses don't throw cap space away or give up building blocks for no reason.

 

I want to address this comment because it is similar to several comments I have read from national media members this season, regarding their perception of the trade of the Magic's Trevor Ariza for the Laker's Maurice Evans and Brian Cook that went down in November of 2007.

Simmons' comment is typical of those made by national sports writers who aren't in a position to focus on any one team to a degree that allows them to truly "know" the inner workers of every deal. National sports writers have to cover all or a portion of the NBA and their time and attention can get stretched too thin. A local beat writer, regardless of his reputation, is in a greater position to know most, if not all, of the factors that went into a transaction.

So, as it affects this case, what Simmons failed to mention (or perhaps even realizes) is that the primary reason that Ariza was traded was because of the diagnosis by Magic team doctors of a chronic foot problem. It is also necessary to consider and appreciate that two seasons ago, when this trade went down, we were still very much in our Grant Hill-induced "kneejerk reaction to any injury" phase. And here, we even had a FOOT INJURY! AAAAAHHHH!!!! It is sufficient to say, you don't mention "small forward" and "foot injury" in the same sentence around the Magic front offices. * * *

 

(7)

Otis Smith is the Real Executive of the Year

by John Paulsen, The Scores Report

All due respect to Denver's Mark Warkentien, who won the 2009 NBA Executive of the Year Award, but Orlando GM Otis Smith deserves the honor. This is the problem with how the league hands out these awards at the end of the regular season - there's no way to take the playoffs into account.

Granted, it's a regular season award, but in that case, wouldn't Danny Ferry deserve it for pulling the trigger on the Mo Williams trade, which led to an All-Star nod for the guard and a 66-win season? Mitch Kupchak also deserves mention for his theft of Pau Gasol (now a year and a half old) along with mining Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown from other team's benches. * * *

Now let's take a look at the job Otis Smith has done (from HoopsHype):

June 7 2007
Released head coach Billy Donovan and named Stan Van Gundy head coach.

July 11 2007
Traded a conditional second-round pick and cash to the Seattle SuperSonics for forward Rashard Lewis.

July 12 2007
Signed center Dwight Howard to a contract extension.

August 27 2007
Signed center Marcin Gortat.

October 31 2007
Signed guard Jameer Nelson to a contract extension.

Draft 2008
Selected guard Courtney Lee (22nd overall pick).

July 10 2008
Signed guard Mickael Pietrus.

July 15 2008
Signed guard Anthony Johnson.

February 19 2009
Traded forward Brian Cook to the Houston Rockets for guard Rafer Alston. Traded center Adonal Foyle and guard Mike Wilks to the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, in the last two years, Smith has 1) locked up his two cornerstones (Howard and Nelson) to long term contracts, 2) traded for the versatile Lewis, who wreaked havoc in the Cleveland series, 3) found two starter-quality perimeter players in the draft (Lee) and free agency (Pietrus), 4) found a couple of hard-nosed rotation guys in the draft (Gortat) and free agency (Johnson), 5) pulled off a deal for Rafer Alston when Nelson went down, and 6) found a guy to coach them all up (SVG) after Billy Donovan left the franchise at the altar. * * *

 

(8)

Game 2 Adjustments: Magic - Lakers

by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle

1. Look to score and attack the basket.  The thing that amazes me about this Orlando team time and time again is its ability to make the extra pass to find the open shooter and typically the better shot.

The Magic simply were passive on both sides of the court. As SportsCenter put it on its Twitter feed: "Josh E:The Magic looked happy to be there.The Lakers looked like they wanted to win 4 games in 1 night. And Kobe looked better than them all."

That is all that needs to be said. The effort was sort of there. The aggression was not. * * *

2. Be more physical on defense, especially with Bryant.  Everyone in the Playoffs has pointed out that the Lakers are not the most physical of teams. Orlando is not seen as a physical team, but it is. * * *

I remember Orlando's first game against Los Angeles. Bryant went off for 41 points, but I came away impressed with the job Keith Bogans did. Bogans was tough and physical with Bryant. I cannot recall Bryant driving to the hoop and getting easy shots at the basket. It was a tough 41 points (and it was on bad shooting).

The Magic are going to be fine with Bryant getting his points (barring 81-point outbursts) as long as others do not get involved -- notice how Phil Jackson pointed this out discretely during the game. But Orlando has to keep Bryant on the perimeter and, like defenders against Howard, us the team's fouls against him. * * *

3. Bounce back.  Orlando has been real good at bouncing back this entire season. This is one game. A 25-point blowout still counts as one win in the series. So this series is still competitive. The Magic cannot forget that.

They must bounce back strong in Game Two. That means a good start. An aggressive effort on both offense and defense. And a quick memory.

Who knows if Orlando is going to win Game Two. But the Magic will give a better effort for sure.

 

(9)

My Two Cents

posted by "Nogaro" to Magic Madness message board

My .02 cents...

1. Gasol is too much for Shard. He should start at the 3. For those of you who think Ariza would be a problem for Shard. Well let him put the ball on the floor and deal with Howard and Battie in the paint because he surely can't shoot over Shard. On the offensive end Shard can post Ariza and be very effective.

2. Kobe is wayyyy too much for Lee. That is a MAJOR mismatch. Start JJ and sub with Pietrus. He will still be Kobe but at least he will be challenged.

3. Howard is having a hard time with the Lakers big. Battie needs to step up and help. He can guard Pau or Binum or Odom when needed. Battie should start.

4. Jameer only gets AJ's minutes. As of right now, he is a better choice than AJ that's it (in my view)

7. Hedo off the Bench with fresh legs to play the 3. Hedo was RED on the very first quarter. He looked fatigued right of the bat. Maybe some rest will give our "closer" fresh legs for the 4th.

8. KNOCK OPEN SHOTS. The guys are getting open looks. Not WIDE open looks like they were having against Cleveland but open looks. They should have knocked those down.

If this adjustments are made, we win the next 4 games. Guaranteed! Will SVG have the COJONES to do them? We'll see.

 

(10)

Assorted TV News Reports

WFTV, Channel 9, Orlando

This link takes you to the WFTV sports page. Although they will spool off fairly soon, in the "Top Stories" section there are the following videos available as of 2:30 AM EDT June 7:

1. Fans Waited for Hours for a Chance to Buy Tickets to the NBA Finals.

2. City Crews Prep Amway Arena for Game 3.

3. Jameer Nelso Makes Amazing Return to Magic Team.

4. RAW VIDEO: Magic Practice at Staples Center on June 5.

5. Magic Fans' Heartache Continues Day After Loss.

 

(11)

Poll: Predict The Impact Player In Game 2

by Eddie Rivera, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)

Tonight, the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers face off in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. There's no doubt that Orlando will play better, given the circumstances, but the question is .. can the Magic beat the Lakers and take home-court away?

Many Orlando fans hope the answer to the inquiry is 'yes' because the team can't afford to leave Los Angeles without a split, if it wants a realistic chance at winning the title. Sure, the Magic have come back from long odds before in the playoffs this year but potentially being down 2-0 in a series against the Lakers is not an ideal situation to be in. As head coach Stan Van Gundy has said before, the team can't afford to keep digging themselves in big holes in hopes of digging out of them. * * *

 

(12)

NBA Finals Game 2 Preview

by Mike From Illinois, Orlando Magic Blog

The Magic have had two days to dissect their blowout loss to the Lakers in Game 1 and also to look at game film.

This quote from the Yahoo! game preview from Stan Van Gundy says it all:

"We've been through it," said Van Gundy, who plans to keep his rotations intact for Game 2. "As the playoffs have gone on, I'm given them history lessons of just about anything that can happen in the playoffs, people being blown out at times. All of us were upset with our performances the other night; I wasn't happy with mine, I don't think they were happy with theirs. We're anxious to get back at it."

The Magic are 6 1/2 point underdogs. * * *

 

The Bottom Line:

1. Time for our Magic to win one if they're really going to win this series.

2. Man, we could really use Trevor Ariza right about now.

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