Finals Game 3 Preview — The View from Orlando...

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So I was futzing around on the internet last night, working on a FanPost for BlazersEdge on "What Will the #24 Draft Pick Get Ya?" when I bumped into a poll.

I don't really remember where the poll was located, ESPN.com or some neutral site like that. It was one question and pretty straightforward: "Who do you think will win Game 3? — Lakers or Magic?"

Well, we all have our views of that and the conventional wisdom simply has to be that the backs-against-the-wall Orlando home team is gonna break ice with a win... But, as I noted in my piece yesterday, I think the catastrophic situation at guard created in large part by the lunatic rotations of the goofus King of the Magic Kingdom was likely to lead to a terminal meltdown. So I decided to swim against the tide, be a trendsetter, stick the old neck out there... I clicked on LAKERS and up popped the poll results...

65% Lakers. (!!!)

That can't be right, I thought to myself.......... but I had other things to do so I moseyed along to continue my research for the Blazer piece.

Still, I found myself unable to dust this matter under the moth-eaten, stale-beer-scented, coffee-stained rug in my brain. I woke up this morning still wondering if it was possible that something so blatantly obvious as the Magic being the faves in Game 3 was not actually the consensus. Was this forthcoming Orlando collapse really so apparent?

Ummmmmm, no.

You guessed it, the home team is favored — Vegas universally has it as Magic by 4.

Wow, that's not much of a story, is it?

I will compensate for my failure to come up with something interesting for the intro by giving you a cool link and three interesting stats. But you've gotta click through for that, because I've burned up my space...

(Click below and win a prize!)

 

Here's the link: 2009 MOCK DRAFT DATABASE. A site called WalterFootball.com has compiled links to 84 different mock drafts on the internet. Bookmark your browser and you'll be able to get up to speed with the nerds in the few short days between the end of the finals and June 25. For what it's worth, here are 3 randomish guesses for the Lakers, who pick at #29: College Hoops Update — "Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech." Knicks FanBlog: "Nick Calathes, PG, Florida." Roundball Portfolio — "DeJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown." Figure out a few likely candidates, run some YouTube searches, and there ya go...

Now some Fun Laker Facts from me to you:

1. Trevor Ariza is a better 3 point shooter from (beyond) the elbow than from either corner or straight on. From the left elbow he's money, shooting 42.5% from the arc, yet from the left corner he shoots just 23.3% for 3. I could never make a shot from the corner when I was a kid playing pickup ball and it seems that the Laker SF has the same problem.

2. Shannon Brown's minutes have been declining throughout the playoffs. Against Utah, UPS was on the floor an average of over 17 minutes a game. Round 2 against Houston, he was down to just under 15. In the Western Conference Finals against Denver, PJ had him reduced to 11.5. Now in the first 2 games of the Finals, the future free agent has been on the floor an average of just 7. Not good news for those Laker fans like me who really like him. It's been good knowin' ya, partner...

3. The Candy Man is a really bad Free Throw shooter. Hey, I actually didn't know that.  Although he has shot a half-respectable 70.1% throughout his career, this season with the Lakers Lamar Odom shot just 62.3% from the charity stripe. And in the playoffs he has been even worse, hitting just 60% of the time. To put that in perspective: Dwight Howard is a better FT shooter than LO. Yikes.

Okay, now I've acquitted myself, time for some Orlandospeak...

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(1)

Magic Seek Relief at Home against Lakers

by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando Magic are back at the only place they finally might find order and comfort, playing the first NBA Finals at Amway Arena since 1995, roughly the time 16-year-old Kobe Bryant permanently applied his game face.

The Magic know this is surely a special occasion for revelers, but unfortunately, survival trumps sentiment tonight.

They've no doubt been followed to Orlando from Los Angeles by the Lakers, who are here to provide all the discomforts of home.

Watching the Lakers celebrate a 15th title this week, rolling around on Orlando's parquet, certainly would be the most awkward moment in a series of awkward moments for the Magic.

The Lakers haven't allowed the Magic to be the Magic much at all in taking a 2-0 lead. They've had them on the run since this whole thing started, creating chaos.

The Magic have been scrambling to find other ways to play, and with other players playing different positions, causing realignment of X's as well as O's.

Hard to play the NBA Finals on the fly, but it's reality. * * *


(2)

Magic's Offense is at the Breaking Point

by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel

It must be around here somewhere. Anyone check the hazy mist out in the L.A. smog? The concierge's desk at the hotel? Maybe somebody left it stranded back here in Orlando.

Anybody seen the Magic offense?

You know, the one that put up 101 points a game during the regular season. The one that was full of thunder from Dwight Howard and lightning from a flurry of 3-point bombs.

That one.

It's gone clank in two games against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic have scored just 171 points in consecutive losses. That 85.5 average has something to do with the Lakers' defense, obviously. But it also has much to do with the inability of the Magic to get into any groove when the ball is bouncing in their hands.

We'll get to the point: Jameer Nelson coming back after a four-month layoff has mucked things up for the Magic in the NBA Finals.

This is the dark side of the silver lining Magic fans saw in Nelson's return after that prolonged absence because of his shoulder injury. Nelson's unexpected availability has messed with the Magic mojo. * * *

...Nelson's return has rendered Anthony Johnson, a solid reserve, useless for the Finals. He has yet to play a minute after participating in all 19 playoff games. Alston is in a fog, struggling to adjust to his minutes getting squeezed by Nelson. He's only made 3 of 17 shots. Nelson is 4 of 12. * * *


(3)

by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel En Fuego blog

The Orlando Magic were on a roll in the playoffs. Beat the defending champs. Took out LeBron and his one man band. And then, the Magic messed it up. Or bad timing did, really.

Jameer Nelson's presence in the playoffs has hurt the Magic. Agree or disagree? * * *



(4)

by Kyle Hightower and Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

* * *
Orlando certainly helped out a lot on its way to 20 turnovers in its Game 2 loss, but the Lakers were particularly savvy at taking the ball away from the Magic Sunday night.

Six different Lakers combined for 12 steals, with F Trevor Ariza and PG Derek Fisher leading the way with three apiece. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each finished with two.

As a team, the Magic produced only five in the game.

Ariza and Fisher showed fast hands helping out on Howard, knocking the ball away as Howard began to operate in the post.

On one occasion, Ariza even managed to reach around Howard and deflect the ball as he received an entry pass from Magic F Hedo Turkoglu.

"That means we're doing our job when we get steals like that," Ariza said. "We have to help out each other.

"If somebody else helps, we've all got to help each other out if we want to win." * * *



(5)

by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

I realize this is the NBA Finals and everything is magnified beyond belief in the NBA Finals.

I realize that if you miss a short putt to lose the John Deere Classic, it's not nearly the same as missing a short putt to lose the Masters.

That said, I'm here today to tell you sports fans throw around the term "choke" and "choker" much too loosely these days. I say this because I keep hearing how Courtney Lee and the Magic "choked away" Game 2. I even heard ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, a former Orlando TV personality, even blamed the loss on "The Curse of Nick Anderson."

Repeat after me: Courtney Lee did not choke away Game 2 against the Lakers. He is not a choker.

Not even close.

He missed a relatively tough shot; he did not commit a choke.

A choke, in my opinion, is when you succumb to the immense pressure of a dire situation and miss a shot, drop a pass, etc., etc. that a professional athlete would normally perform with relative ease.

I would certainly term Nick Anderson's four missed free throws at the end of Game 1 in the 1995 Finals as a choke for this reason: Nick was a decent 70-percent free throw shooter and had four chances with nobody guarding him from the foul line to secure a victory. Although when I spoke to Nick a few days ago for a column on the situation, he says he did not succumb to the pressure — he simply missed the shots.

At any rate, I don't think Lee's miss qualifies as a choke any more than if Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis had missed a 15-foot jump shot at the end of regulation that would have given the Magic a victory.

Lee's miss of an inbounds alley-oop from Turkoglu was no easier than a jump shot. Watch the video at the bottom of this blog and you'll see that momentum was carrying Lee out of bounds at full speed, his body was already behind the backboard when he released his shot and he had to get the shot over oncoming 7-footer Pau Gasol.

If Kobe Bryant had missed the shot, yes, I would have been shocked because Kobe is the best player in the league. But Courtney is not Kobe. He is a rookie who is not accustomed to taking the last shot at the end of an NBA finals game. * * *


(6)

Fans Upset that Goaltending Gets Free Pass in Game 2

by Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel

Fans of both the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers found reasons to complain about officiating after the Lakers' 101-96 overtime victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

The subject: goaltending.

Most of the attention focused on what happened during the final tenths of a second in regulation — when the Lakers' Pau Gasol wasn't called for goaltending as he touched the rim while Magic guard Courtney Lee attempted a game-winning layup. Still, it appears that Lakers fans' gripes over a non-goaltending call on Dwight Howard early in the game may have more merit.

The more controversial of the two non-calls came with 0.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the score tied 88-88. Lee caught an alley-oop inbounds pass from Hedo Turkoglu and attempted a layup that would have won the game for the Magic.

Just as Lee's attempt bounced off the backboard, Gasol's right hand touched the underside of the rim. The ball then hit the outside edge of the rim and sailed away from the basket as the final horn of regulation sounded. The game went into overtime, and the Lakers won 101-96 and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

In the first quarter, Howard reached through the hoop to block a Gasol shot attempt — a clear violation of the rulebook's Rule No. 11, Section 1, Article G, which states goaltending occurs when a player "touch[es] the ball at any time with a hand which is through the basket ring."

The referees didn't call goaltending on Howard, which saved two points.

The non-call on Howard appears to be little more than a mistake by the referees. But if the refs did see Gasol's actions (it's possible they didn't), why wasn't goaltending called and the Magic awarded two points?

For the answer, you have to turn to Page 39 of the 2008-09 Official Rules of the National Basketball Association. Rule No. 11, Section I, Article H states that a player will not "vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through."

By not calling goaltending, referees determined that Gasol's action didn't vibrate the goal to such a degree that it caused "an unnatural bounce."

"If you're interpreting from the rulebook, I would not have called that a goaltend last night because the contact with the rim was pretty mild," ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler said in a phone interview Monday.

"I think that the ball wasn't going in anyway. That ball was coming off the rim too hard. I don't care how much Pau Gasol touched the rim; that ball was not going in the basket. There was too much English on the basketball when it skipped off the glass." * * *


(7)

Can Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat Coexist on Offense?

by Ben Q Rock, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)

Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's player rotations have come under scrutiny lately as he scrambles to find a suitable lineup to counter the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Kevin Arnovitz touched on the subject yesterday when writing about the Magic's flexibility at several positions possibly hindering them in the Finals, as he has yet to settle on a consistent rotation. Los Angeles presents unique problems for Orlando since, in Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom, it boasts three long, true big men who can neutralize Dwight Howard defensively and neutralize just about everyone on the glass.

After getting hammered on the boards, 55-41, in Game 1 of the Finals, Van Gundy made the unusual decision to pair Howard and reserve center Marcin Gortat at the same time in Game 2, for 9:41 total. Howard remained the center, as he has for every minute he's ever played since 2005, while Gortat shifted to power forward.

The reason this development matters is because Howard and Gortat are inarguably the Magic's most effective bigs, with no disrespect intended toward Tony Battie or Adonal Foyle. However, due to conventional wisdom, Howard and Gortat rarely play together. To wit, conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that playing Howard and Gortat together would stifle the offense, as neither player has much shooting range, thus clogging the lane for would-be slashers and penetrators. * * *

Here are the shooting statistics for Magic lineups featuring Howard and Gortat:

[ 24/59 shooting = 42.9% and 9/16 = 56.3% from beyond the arc ]

Indeed, the offense does not perform as well. Even a gigantic boost in three-point shooting can't mitigate the two-point shooting falling off a darn cliff, with the Magic connecting on a mere 15-of-40 of their two-point attempts in 41:29 of Howard/Gortat "Tall Ball" this season. Without looking at replay of the games, it's hard to confirm empirically, but the statistics appear to bear out the theory that the Magic can't get a clean two-point look with both players in the game, most likely due to the lane being clogged. * * *


(8)

Dwight Howard

posted by "Derek K" to Third Quarter Collapse

* * *
I think its time for Dwight to forget about the foul calls on him, and play his game, play to his strengths. He needs to play defense like he knows he's getting 22 rebounds and 5 blocks. He needs to run the floor faster, he is the fastest big on both teams period (and his teammates need to recognize and pass to that). And he needs to keep making clutch free throws, because he has already been making them in critical moments and overall.

He needs to play more all-out efforts because he is the most athletic big out there, while keeping conscious of fouling as best as possible. If he fouls out playing like this, I say he went all-out 'till he had nothing left in him, that he played with the most effort of any Magic player like a franchise center-piece could lead by example with, and if the refs dont call the stupid fouls, Dwight will be there the whole game with a make-up "Defensive Player of Finals" award afterwards.

On his offense, I don't know what Dwight can do here. He can stay patient and keep doing good pass-outs, or sometimes I see like he might have the baseline spin move or a face-up drive if he moves fast right away, then size up the situation and allow the doubles/triples come faster (altho sometimes they come just before Dwight even gets the ball... so dont know).

I also want to talk about how Dwight lowers the ball in his hands too much. You know exactly what Im talking about. Its a good 'ol patented Magic moment where we scream why did Dwight just repeat this TO and ranks right next to Turk's infamous "why no effing foul call while I TO the ball" layup?!?! * * *


(9)

Just How Valuable is Mickael Pietrus?

by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily (True Hoop)

On the surface, it appeared Mickael Pietrus had a pretty quiet Game 2. 23 minutes, two points and six fouls —no wonder JJ Redick played so much, right? Not quite.

Pietrus' defensive effort is something that won't show up on any stat line or box score. Despite foul trouble throughout, Pietrus furiously denied Kobe Bryant the ball as much as possible and used his length to keep Bryant from garnering many good looks.

Pietrus fouling out with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter has been the least talked about storyline of Game 2. Surely Orlando's best defender would've made a difference in the last few minutes and overtime, when every possession felt like it was the most important one.

In the Lakers' 14 possessions after Pietrus' sixth foul, Bryant scored eight points and touched the ball on almost every possession. There's no doubt Pietrus would've annoyed Bryant more than Hedo Turkoglu did (Turk's last-second, come from behind block aside).


Kobe Bryant, defensive breakdown  [credit: ESPN Stats and Info]

  • With Pietrus defending: 41 possessions, 27 touches, 4 field-goal attempts
  • With others defending: 51 possessions, 49 touches, 13 field-goal attempts
* * *


(10)

We Need You, Rafer

by Maxwell Effort, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)

Hello Rafer,

I just wanted to welcome you back to Orlando and tell you how much we need you if we are going to do the impossible and win 4 out of 5 from Los Angeles. We know your shooting has been abysmal and your playmaking has been non-existent. We know Jameer getting your minutes may have messed with your mental stability and maybe you do not feel like the leader of this team anymore. Well it is time to get over that stuff and lead this team to victory tonight.

You see your inability to do anything positive on the basketball court allows Derek Fisher to play off of you and try to strip Dwight and basically play a rover on the court to try and get steals. Your lack of offensive execution means we are playing 4 on 5 against a very good defensive Lakers team.

You are of the utmost importance if we are going to climb out of this hole and I for one will be awaiting your arrival into the Finals.


(11)

Game 3 Adjustments: Lakers-Magic

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

1. Keep the offense moving. The big thing Orlando has struggled with offensively this season is getting into the paint. Even when Dwight Howard gets the ball in the post, he is having trouble getting into the paint.

The Magic are getting the ball knocked away and poked out. Orlando's success this postseason has come because of the team's ability to get Howard going inside or the ability to drive the ball inside and kick out. That has been largely stopped in the first two games.

Orlando started doing something the team has not done. Moving without the ball. It widely worked, but it is a new wrinkle to the offense Orlando will have to continue integrate. * * *

2. Keep playing physical defense. It hurt the Magic for Mickael Pietrus to be on the bench for the end of the game. And those last two fouls were very "iffy" at best — I suspect superstar calls for Kobe Bryant. Despite Pietrus fouling out, he did a very good job defensively in staying physical with Bryant.

That, I believe, is the key to the Magic's defensive effort. They must try to be more physical than the Lakers. Los Angeles is not a physical team, Orlando can be. * * *

3. Control the ball and the pace. Two things Orlando did horribly wrong in Game Two -- turnovers and failing to take advantage of a plus-nine advantage on the boards.

Part of the Magic's problems offensively were the 20 turnovers they committed. Hard to win any game with that many miscues, forced or unforced. Orlando has to limit these turnovers. * * *

The pace also was slowed to a crawl at times and that does not favor Orlando. When the team gets a huge rebounding advantage, it must look to run. The Lakers shot the ball pretty well, but the Magic were reluctant to run.

I think ugly games like Game Two favor Orlando, but the team must look to push the pace and beat Los Angeles down the court. The Magic will find success if they can get into their offense before the Lakers set their defense. That will be key to getting their first victory in this series.


(12)

Yay! Another Franchise Kick In The Groin!

by Black and Blue Jor, The Howeva Files

* * *
So, what [were we at the Howeva Files] talking about today? Probably how the new Nick Anderson on the Magic is rookie Courtney Lee, chucking up a brick layup when it would have won the game. * * *

Seriously, this is almost too tough to watch. Instead of the series being 1-1, going back to Orlando, it is 2-0 Lakers and you have Kobe fist pumping all over the place. "Fist pump" has found a new home on every article on ESPN today, whereas before it was limited strictly to porn sites (seriously, check ESPN...it's insanity).

Somewhere Courtney Lee is looking at heaven and saying, "Okay, first you have my parents name me F'in COURTNEY and now THIS?! What the hell?!" * * *


(13)

The Shot That Will Live in Orlando Magic Infamy...


The Bottom Line:

1. Well, now we're home and it's tme to put a win on the ledger...

2. Sheesh, I sure hope the Magic wins, we're 0-for-6 in the Finals in franchise history...

3. Sure, we'll win. No problems. (Sheesh, if only that Courtney Lee shot had went in...)

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