Orlando Magic make history in first NBA Finals win
Brian Schmitz asserts that the Game 3 win was important, not only for the Orlando Magic, but for Rafer Alston as well.
The win was particularly uplifting for Alston. Alston was basically benched along with Jameer Nelson by Van Gundy in Game 2 as the Magic played down the stretch with no point guards. Alston had also complained after a poor shooting effort in Game 1 that Nelson's return had disrupted his flow.
"Number one is I don't take it personal," Alston said. "I think the first game I just said that it was a rhythm thing because I never had a that done before, never played like that. Second game I was able to find a flow in the game but not hit shots. And tonight, I was able to make shots."
Alston said that the Magic had a close enough call despite their hot shooting, meaning they needed to play better defense.
"The bad thing is we shot 62 and a half percent and almost lost the game, so we've got to find a way to defend these guys….stop fouling Kobe."
Game 3 victory returns aura of excitement to Orlando
Mike Bianchi talks about the mood in the city of Orlando last night.
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 .
Somebody needs to tell Denzel, Jack and the boys in Hollywood to put their brooms away. The Lakers aren't sweeping; they're sweating. The Magic have closed to within 2-1 and they're actually within a missed alley-oop of being up 2-1. This series is far from over.
"This is a tough team," Kobe said of the Magic. "This is not a cupcake team."
Could Magic breakup be imminent?
George Diaz takes a big-picture look at the Magic and talks about what the future may look like for the team once the season is over.
The Magic will savor the moment Tuesday, and well they should. Everyone can pick the confetti off their shoulders and go home happy. We live for the now.
Could this be the beginning of a sweet ride? Or could it be derailed by simple economics?
It's best to do the math another night. This Magic team is here and now, and not going quietly to the vaunted Lakers.
PG Alston brings the rain
Josh Robbins elaborates on Rafer's good play in Game 3.
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. [...]
"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." [...]
"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."
Orlando Magic's Mickael Pietrus proves vital at both ends against Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Hightower notes how Mickael Pietrus proved to be a key factor in the Magic's win over the Lakers yesterday.
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. [...]
He made several big shots Tuesday, though. While Coach Stan Van Gundy liked the play at the very end, he said the biggest might have been a tip-dunk with 2:41 left in fourth quarter to break a 99-all tie.
"Pietrus gave us a huge lift," Van Gundy said. "I thought one of the biggest baskets was his follow dunk at the end…I thought that was maybe the biggest shot of the game."
- NOW THAT'S MY MAGIC!!!!!
UPDATE 6: Dwight Howard posts on his official blog today.
That’s the word – efficient – that I’m always hearing from Stan. I think I was pretty efficient in Game 3. I cut my turnovers down to one, I missed just one shot and I made most of my free throws.
And when guys like Skip, ‘Shard and MP make shots like they did, that just opens up even more things inside for me. We shot the ball like this and play this hard in Game 4 on Thursday and I think we’ll have us another win.
We really, really believe we’re still going to do this. I liked coming home for three games in a row and we felt like we could get all three of them. It’s one game at a time of course, but we haven’t lost any confidence that we can beat the Lakers.
Thank ya’ll for being so loud last night, but we need it even more hype come Thursday.
- For a Lakers perspective on Game 3, check out Forum Blue And Gold, Lakers Blog, and Silver Screen and Roll.
Click after the jump to see what the national media had to say about Game 3.
Magic Shoot Their Way to Game 3 Victory
Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse recaps Orlando's win over Los Angeles in Game 3.
The Orlando Magic returned home and played like they owned the place -- which they do -- beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-104, to regain some respect and restore their sagging confidence.
The Lakers still lead the best-of-seven NBA Finals, 2-1, but the Magic suddenly think they can win it again. They were quick to remind everyone that the Miami Heat won the title in 2006 after losing the first two games.
The Magic proved their resilience once more, bouncing back to win after a agonizing loss, much like they did against Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland in earlier rounds.
"I'm a motivational genius,'' Van Gundy said jokingly. "I thought for two days what to say to him (Alston) and I just said `play your game.' It took me two days to come up with that.''
What it took was a confidence boast for Alston, and a return to the way he had been playing earlier. He never considered himself a 3-point shooter, but his role had evolved into one because of the way teams were playing against him.
"It's disappointing to go out there play so poorly. Tonight I was aggressive from start to finish,'' he said. "I was able to mix it up, and that's what I do best, instead of standing around the 3-point line like I was Ray Allen or somebody. Tonight I was able to penetrate, get to the foul line, shoot a pull-up jumper and find open men.''
Aggressive Alston Sets Tone For Magic
Sean Deveney of The Baseline explains how Alston's excellent play helped key Orlando's win against Los Angeles.
Alston was, of course, hardly the only hero on the floor for Orlando, not with the team shooting a Finals-record 62.5 percent and having five players score 18-plus points. But he was the most important, making the Lakers (finally) pay for leaving him to help on the Magic’s better offensive players. In the first two games, Orlando’s three big offensive stars -- Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard -- were subject to constant double-teams because none of the Magic guards could make a shot. That changed in Game 3. [...]
This was a major breakthrough for the Magic, whose offense had stagnated beneath the futility of their perimeter shooters. But Alston, who had played well in the conference finals, helped turn that around, and, in doing so, breathed some life into the Magic’s hopes for the series.
"It definitely felt good to see us shoot like that," said guard Courtney Lee. "Obviously, the first two games didn’t feel like we were playing the way we had been. But Rafer came out tonight and really set a tone. He was able to kind of get us all going."
Daily Dime: Rafer redeems himself
Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com delves into the performance of, who else, Skip to My Lou.
Friends back home in New York were texting him the same thoughts: To play smart, to knock off the knack for knuckleheadedness he had displayed so consistently over the better part of all four rounds of the NBA playoffs.John Hollinger of ESPN.com chimes in on the topic of officiating.
Alston even told himself to stop jacking up 3-point shots as though he were Ray Allen, and his Magic teammates -- even one guy who didn't play a minute Tuesday night and another who hasn't played in months -- got in on the motivational act.
"My teammates, everybody was telling me to be the guy that they brought in. I took that very seriously, and that's what I wanted to do.
"Rashard (Lewis), Dwight ( Howard), Adonal (Foyle), and then tonight, it was surprising, even J.J. (Redick) pulled me aside and said 'Come on now, play your game, get back to being Rafer.' And some of them wanted some Skip tonight," Alston said, referencing his New York playground nickname, Skip to My Lou. "I gave them a little of that. But these guys are the best. They encourage me, and they keep looking for me with the confidence that I can stick the shots."
With an off day to intensify the lobbying and any number of questionable calls from the past two games to vent their wrath about, keep a close eye on the two coaches in Wednesday's media day. Historically this has been the time for coaches to get their points across, and Jackson in particular has been among the most willing practitioners of the game.
Kobe Bryant and Courtney Lee, Heating Up
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop offers his observations and thoughts on the matchup between Kobe Bryant and Courtney Lee that really heated up during the third quarter of last night's game.
He had been extremely aggressive as a scorer and defender all first half. Then the 30-year-old Bryant waged a battle royale with 23-year-old Courtney Lee through the first eight minutes of the third quarter.
When Bryant caught the ball, instead of staying an arm's length away, as many Magic defenders have, Lee got right up into Bryant's rib cage. When Bryant drove, Lee worried more about preventing easy shots, and less about racking up fouls. (By the end of the quarter, Lee and Bryant would be the only two players in the game with as many as three fouls.) When Bryant posted up, Lee got low and used every bit of muscle he had to bump Bryant from his preferred spot.
After making eight of 15 in the first half, over the eight minutes of the third quarter, before Lee checked out for good, Bryant scored just two points, on free throws. Bryant fought and fought -- into the post, around screens, through various sets. He touched the ball plenty, but didn't even get a shot off during those eight minutes.
Bryant has a tendency not to acknowledge opponents getting under his skin, but Lee readily admits that the battle was intense and a little personal. "Basically, I got a little frustrated with it. I was like man, it's time to compete. ... He wants it bad and we want it bad, too. We're not going to just give it away."
At one point, it appeared like Bryant and Lee threw simultaneous elbows at each other. "A couple plays," says Lee "we got into a little scuffle, but there's no harm in that. We were competing. ... The referees did a good job of telling us to keep it clean, to keep the elbows down, but other than that we were competing.
Can we expect to see more of the same in Game 4? Lee does. "He's aggressive," he says of Bryant. "That's how it's supposed to be. It's not easy at this point. Everybody's chasing that trophy."
This player interaction was something I pointed out in the game thread yesterday. It appeared that Bryant had an easier time scoring on Pietrus than on Lee because of the fact Mickael wasn't badgering and pestering Kobe on defense as much as Courtney was. The rook was a gnat out there, visibly bothering a great player.
The Magic on the Rebound
Kevin Arnovitz lists "rebound" games for the Magic after gut-wrenching, tough losses.
In a postseason that lasts more than eight weeks, it's hard to appreciate the full scope of what a team has experienced. While most of us were falling in love with the Boston-Chicago series, the Magic were enduring their own emotional turbulence -- buzzer-beaters, blown leads, sweet vengeance, a suspension for their franchise player, and more sweet vengeance. And that was just the first round.
"I've said it throughout the season and throughout these playoffs, the one thing that you can't question with our team is their resilience in situations like that," Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game. "Whether it's from game to game, minute to minute, our team will keep playing."
Normally these sorts of statements are filled with clichés, but not in Orlando's case. Whether the Magic win the NBA title this season or not, they'll have built up enough scar tissue for future battles.
The Magic made 35 of 50 two-point field-goal attempts in Tuesday's 108-104 win over the Lakers. It was the second-highest two-point field-goal percentage in NBA playoff history (.700). The record is .705, by the Celtics in 157-128 first-round victory over the Knicks in 1990. The previous high for an NBA Finals game was .658 by the Bulls in a 107-86 win over the Lakers in Game 2 in 1991.
Chameleon Alston comes through for Magic
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports captures this great tidbit in the Orlando locker room after the game.
After this victory, Alston sat in front of a locker filled with And 1 sneakers and tried to get teammate Marcin Gortat to teach him some Polish.
Gortat is a bald 7-footer from an old textile town in central Poland. These two couldn’t be less alike, an only-in-the-NBA pairing. Naturally, they are great friends. So Gortat complied, teaching him "how are you" in Polish.
The NBA public relations people were waiting to whisk Alston off for a waiting pack in the interview room, but this seemed important to him.
"See, I don’t want to talk to you," Alston laughed to Gortat. "I want to talk to Polish women."
This is what runs through Rafer Alston’s head minutes after the biggest game of his life.
Fast Breaks: Magic-Lakers, Game 2
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated lists three observations he took away from Game 3.
Lakers, Magic battling to free themselves of Shaquille O'Neal
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated believes the NBA Finals isn't just about Orlando or Los Angeles, but also about two franchises trying to extradite themselves from Shaquille O'Neal (former player for both teams).
Forgive me, Kobe, but this Finals is all about Shaq. Can Los Angeles ever win a championship without Shaq? That's what the Lakers are trying to prove. Will Orlando ever overcome the departure of Shaq? That's what the Magic are trying to prove.
Shaquille O'Neal presides over this series like an eccentric god of ancient Greece, never seen and always felt. The insecurities, the ambitions that drive these Finalists -- all of these gifts that keep on giving were going-away presents from Shaq. For five absent years in Los Angeles, as well as for the 13 seasons since his departure from Orlando, both franchises have been trying to make themselves forget about Shaq.
Behind the Box Score, where the Magic had something to say
UPDATE: Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie shares his thoughts about the Magic's win over the Lakers.
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.
And you have to appreciate, once again, the resiliency of the Orlando Magic.
It's a Series
UPDATE 2: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus talks about Game 3.
The big difference for the Magic was the play of the team's guards. In Game Two, Stan Van Gundy got little production from any of the variety of players besides Hedo Turkoglu he tried in the backcourt--starters Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee and reserves Jameer Nelson, Mickaël Pietrus and J.J. Redick. Last night, Redick never got off the bench, Nelson played just 11 minutes and Turkoglu spent no time in the backcourt. The group of Alston, Lee and Pietrus proved more than equal to the task, combining for 42 points on 31 shooting possessions.
At the other end, Lee and Pietrus had their best game against Kobe Bryant. Even when Bryant was going off for 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, the Magic was executing its game plan defensively and forcing Bryant into long two-point attempts. The only criticism ABC commentator Jeff Van Gundy could find was that Orlando could have done a better job forcing Bryant to his left. Lo and behold, the hot start proved fool's gold, and those shots would not go down all night long. Bryant missed 11 of his 15 attempts the rest of the way and finished with 31 points on 30 shooting possessions. (The Magic did get a break in that Bryant had unexpected difficulty at the line, missing half of his 10 free-throw attempts.)
Lee set the tone with his defense in the third quarter. Aside from falling for Bryant's up-fake once and getting caught with his hands on him beyond the arc as Bryant fired another time, both resulting in trips to the foul line, Lee played textbook defense on Bryant, giving him no space to operate offensively. Pietrus then spelled Lee for the final 14 minutes and got help from Dwight Howard in executing against the Bryant/Gasol pick-and-roll that the Lakers went to six times in the final five minutes.
Boxscore Breakdown: Finals, Game 3
UPDATE 3: Neil Paine of Basketball Prospectus breaks down the box score.
Finally, an offensive explosion for the Magic, who had been held in check for the majority of games 1 & 2 by L.A.’s stifling defense. Although, strangely for a team whose M.O. is knocking down perimeter J’s, Orlando did the majority of their damage from inside the arc — they drained a Finals-record 75% from the floor in the first half and a record 62.5% overall, but only 22% of their attempts came from the outside and they only made a paltry (by their standards at least) 35.7% of them. So that must mean Dwight Howard got loose, then? Uh, yup… Superman tied Lewis with a game-best 21 points and a +5 plus/minus, snagging 14 boards and recording an incredible 161.0 offensive rating, miles better than the 101.2 & 93.1 he put up in games 1 & 2, respectively. But it wasn’t just Howard who shined offensively: just as literally every Orlando player not named “Lewis” suffered through a rough game on Sunday night, every member of the Magic (save for Courtney Lee & Jameer Nelson, both of whom logged less than 20 minutes) was on fire Tuesday. Together, Turkoglu, Lewis, Howard, Alston, Pietrus, and Battie used 86% of Orlando’s possessions and combined for an insane 138.4 (!) offensive rating. This time, it was Los Angeles that had no answer for the Magic’s offensive onslaught.
Pressure doesn't faze Pietrus in Game 3
UPDATE 4: Chris Broussard of ESPN.com explains that Mickael Pietrus is not fazed with the NBA Finals.
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, Pietrus helped hold the L.A. superstar to five fourth-quarter points on 2-of-6 shooting.
That by itself would've been plenty for coach Stan Van Gundy. But Pietrus provided a bonus, scoring 10 points in the fourth -- more fourth-quarter points than any other player -- to push the Magic to a 108-104 Game 3 victory that added some desired sizzle to these Finals.
But the soft-spoken Pietrus, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added three steals, was not about to brag about his play against Kobe.
"I was just a lucky defender," he said humbly. "I take no credit. You can always give yourself credit, but Thursday, he's going to come out red-hot, so you can't be giving yourself too much credit. [...]
"He's obviously not fazed by this," Van Gundy said. "And I think that's a great thing."
French connection pays off for Orlando in playoffs
UPDATE 5: Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports tosses in his thoughts about Air France.
Part III, In Which The Pendulum Swings Both Ways: Lakers at Magic, Game 3
UPDATE 7: Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm lists his observations concerning Game 3.
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.
Make sure to check out this post every few hours for updates.