In the Finals, there are no such things as moral victories. However, I am as content with last night's loss as one can be losing.
The Magic were going to win at least one game. Most people pick this series to go six. I picked it to go five, and in our series poll, only 4% predicted a Lakers sweep. So, unless you are a 4 Percenter, you have to be somewhat content that it took out of this world accuracy from Orlando to beat us last night. It also took Kobe failing in crunch time, and Rafer Alston looking like an All-Star. If someone told you these things would happen, but withheld the score, I doubt a 4-pt loss is what you would guess. But there the Lakers were, tied at 99 with a chance to go up 3-0 when the Magic played the BEST basketball they possibly could. We took their best punch and it barely made a mark.
Part of the problem with the Magic's great display was the confidence was instilled in Game 2, by Rashard Lewis getting confortable. As soon, as he was able to relax, the rest of the team settled down, and headed into Game 3 ready to shoot. Couple that with Dwight Howard being allowed to get too deep, and our defense was effective. It just goes to show you, how a few blown assignments helped lead to last night. We have to stop Howard from getting the ball close to the basket, so that we are forced to double so fast. It makes an extra defender cover too much ground, and put us in foul trouble. Shooters were left open and/or Dwight was at the FT line. He hit his free throws and the shooters couldn't miss.
Unfortunately, for the Magic, they aren't likely to repeat last night's history making shooting performance. Fortunately, for the Lakers, Kobe isn't likely to be that bad when it matters most. As a team, we played well enough to win, but can definitley improve on somethings. We'llprepare for Game 4 knowing that we can improve, but the Magic might not be able to. One thing that should be noted, is we did not come out flat, lethargic, or uninterested as some fear. We haven't shown the "Jekyll and Hyde" Lakers. We also haven't lost two games in a row in these Playoffs. No doubt, Kobe will be as focused as ever in Game 4, looking to right his wrongs.
So, relax. The Magic earned that win, we have the satisfaction of knowing that their best was barely enough to overcome the anomaly of Kobe's late game failures.
Click on through for today's Lakers Links:
Magic 108, Lakers 104: Game 3 Recap - Silver Screen and Roll
This one is on Kobe.
It's hard to blame him too much when he was the primary reason the Lakers were in the game at halftime. The Magic shot 75% from the field in the first half, including 44% from three-point range, and yet took only a five-point lead into the half, and Kobe was a large part of that. He was 7-10 in the first quarter for 17 points, along with three rebounds. He scored 21 points on his first 11 shots – efficiency that would have Doug Collions raving, a rate of 1.9 points per shot. At the same time, he also dished out eight assists for the game – half of the entire team's 16 total – in a formidable effort to create good shots for his teammates. Unfortunately, this was a four-point loss, and in such a close game, one or two mistakes can make the difference. Kobe came up short in several key ways that caused this loss.
20 Second Timeout: Magic Set Finals Single Game Field Goal Percentage Record, Beat Lakers 108-104
You can expect that the same people who were foolishly speaking of a Lakers' sweep just 24 hours ago will now overreact to this game and talk about how the Lakers are in trouble. The basic realities of this series have not changed. The Lakers have the best player, they own homecourt advantage and--when focused--they are quite capable of matching up defensively with the Magic, who needed record field goal shooting on their homecourt plus a highly unusual free throw shooting performance from Bryant to eke out a four point win. The next game will be completely different--the Magic will not shoot .625 from the field, nor will Bryant shoot .500 from the free throw line--but it most likely will again be very competitive.
Forum Blue And Gold " The Practical Fan
Orlando had the best shooting night ever in the Finals — an insane 75% in the first half, still 62.5% for the game. They had the energy of their first home Finals game in 14 years behind them. They had Rafer Alston shooting like he only does at Amway. And it still came down to one possession at the end. It came down to Kobe Bryant having an off night at free throw line.
SLAM ONLINE | " Magic Make History, And Barely Win?
The Magic won’t set another NBA Finals shooting record this series. So the question is: Can they beat the Lakers again when they shoot like mere mortals?
The Los Angeles Times:
Kobe Bryant's weariness should make Lakers fans wary
Bill Plaschke, King of the Flip Flopping Overstatements (Bobble, bobble)
The Orange County Register:
Kobe can't close out the Magic
He came out on fire…he ended up flaming out. He started by making a bunch from the floor … he finished by missing a bunch from the free-throw line. He was all energy early … he was all empty late. Kobe Bryant, so often the inhuman highlight film, was oh so human Tuesday, the game’s No. 1 closer this time the victim of someone else’s walk-off dramatics.
Magic’s Pietrus Has One More Comeback in Mind - NYTimes.com
Orlando’s Mickael Pietrus has no baseline for comparing his N.B.A. finals experience to any other moment in his career. But his nightly battles with Kobe Bryant do not seem to faze him.
Hardwood Paroxysm " Part III, In Which The Pendulum Swings Both Ways: Lakers at Magic, Game 3
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.
LA Daily News:
SHELBURNE: In waning moments, Kobe's fastball was not up to speed
He fixed his eyes on the basket and took a deep breath. Bent his knees and followed through with his hand high in the air. Throughout his remarkable career, and particularly in these remarkable playoffs, that's about all you'd need to see from Kobe Bryant before putting the made free throw up on the scoreboard. He's been as automatic in closing games out as Mariano Rivera was in the mid-90s. As dominant with the game on the line as Trevor Hoffman. But on this steamy night here in Central Florida, he just didn't have it. The best closer in the game didn't have his best fastball.
The Press Enterprise:
No Kryptonite to blame for foul night
The Lakers hit just 10 of 17 in the half, the most crucial a miss by Kobe Bryant with 59.8 seconds remaining and his team down three.
Percentages bear out steady Gasol
Gasol’s performance won’t likely be remembered given how his team lost, but in scoring 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting, an 81 percent clip, he may have been the game’s best offensive player.
Behind the Box Score, where the Magic had something to say - Ball Don't Lie... - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
This is how it goes in close games. The Magic, to be quick with it, were pretty lucky to be around in Game 2 as the turnovers mounted and the missed shots piled up from the Orlando guard corps. The Lakers, to be quick with it, were pretty lucky to be close in Game 3 as the Magic's shooting percentage shot through the roof as the missed free throws added up for Los Angeles. And that's why we're not quick with it. Nobody was really lucky, in the truest sense of the word, during either turn. These are two fantastic teams that are just bouncing off each other right now. And while we might see some obvious reasons as to why one team pulls ahead, or why the loser could never close the gap and take a lead, you just have to appreciate basketball like this.
NBA Finals: Kobe Bryant's clutch touch not sharp in Game 3
Here it was, literally in Kobe Bryant's hands, the chance to turn this basketball into a gold trophy, an opportunity to tie the score or take the lead against the Orlando Magic with half a minute left, a shot at the historically insurmountable 3-0 advantage in the NBA Finals in his grasp. He bobbled it. He lost it.
Daily Dime: Rafer redeems himself
That was quite the story Stan Van Gundy told afterward about how he motivated Rafer Alston. A short story, and a tall tale, too. "I thought for two days about what to say to him, and I said 'Play your game.' You can write that down. That's a quote. It took me two days to come up with that."
NBA Playoffs: Pressure doesn't faze Pietrus in Game 3
In a matchup with the earth's greatest closer, Kobe Bryant, Orlando's sixth-man actually came out on top. Playing sticky defense on Bryant down the stretch, he helped hold him to five fourth-quarter points on 2 of 6 shooting.
Rafer Alston Skips Back Into Favor -- NBA FanHouse
Rafer Alston stopped looking over his shoulder and wondering when he would get pulled from the game. Instead he just played his game Tuesday night.
Dent in Kobe's Armor as Lakers Stumble -- FanHouse
What happened to the killer fangs, the death staredown, the stalker profile? Kobe Bryant's raw facial expressions, so intimidating only a few nights ago, have vanished into a humble silhouette of self-flagellation and disgust. He was supposed to rule the NBA Finals like no singular force since the man he emulates, Michael Jordan, and he was positioned to close with a jackhammer Tuesday night if he simply was himself. But he was someone else and somewhere else in the final minutes of Game 3, flashing the absolute wrong body language when he clanked a gigantic free throw with a minute left -- his fifth miss of the evening -- and sunk into the sort of exasperation that Jordan never would have let us see.
(Bobble, Bobble. That's right. Tenured Casa Bobblehead resident Jay Mariotti claims MJ would never let us see exasperation. Because Mike was perect and never made a mistake or lost a game? Is that it?)
Superman Saves the Series for Magic
After Tuesday, everybody in Orlando believes a super hero exists. The only question is whether he will appear three more times and, even if he does, if his teammates can put him in a position where singular heroics will be enough.
(Bobble, Bobble. Kevin Blackistone)
Kobe or LeBron? Ask Coach K
Kobe or Lebron?
"Well, they are both on my team,'' said Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the USA Olympic Team that won a gold medal with them in 2008. "So I'm not going there.''
(He still picks Kobe to win the game winner.)
Rafer Alston, Magic catch fire in Game 3 win in NBA Finals
Three Observations :
1. The Magic have the unique ability shoot their way into a series and shoot their way out of one.
2. This is what the Magic's point-guard rotation should look like.
3. It might be time to rethink the double-team strategy on Howard.
The Sporting News:
Lakers Took Every Blow, and Nearly Survived - The Baseline
understand this: The Los Angeles Lakers still are in control of the NBA Finals. And it’s more than the 2-1 lead going into Game 4 Thursday night. The Lakers withstood every possible blow the desperate Magic could deliver, made critical mistakes in the fourth quarter, and were still a play away on the last possession if Odom -- L.A.'s long and rangy power forward -- guessed right on the last inbound pass. "I couldn’t believe some of those things they were hitting," said Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
Kobe Bryant Disappears Down the Stretch - Bethlehem Shoals
But I stand before you to say that, as a Kobe booster, last night's game was just embarrassing. I have been waiting all morning for news to come out about some Jordan-like freak flu, or a broken finger, or bad news at the half. Because after absolutely dominating the first quarter, Bryant got less and less visible as the game went on, and then proceeded to both force shots down the stretch and then miss more free throws in the fourth than I think I've ever seen him fail on.
First Henry Abbott, now Bill Simmons. Dex continues the battle against the brainwashing.
ESPN NBA Today (Can someone tell me why Jemele Hill has a job? Oh yeah, it's ESPN. Bobble, bobble.)