Today, I'm going to run the second part of my three-part series on a few Orlando Magic players and analyze their performances in the playoffs. I'm going to concentrate, mainl y, on offense with my posts.
Part I: Hedo Turkoglu
The second player I will examine is Rashard Lewis.
|First Round||Minutes Per Game (39.7)||PPG (19.2)||RPG (6.0)||APG (3.5)||FG% (44.0%)||3P% (37.0%)|
|Conference Semifinals||Minutes Per Game (40.6)||PPG (20.4)||RPG (6.3)||APG (3.0)||FG% (45.5%)||3P% (32.4%)|
|Conference Finals||Minutes Per Game (42.0)||PPG (18.3)||RPG (5.8)||APG (1.3)||FG% (49.3%)||3P% (48.4%)|
|NBA Finals||Minutes Per Game (42.4)||PPG (17.4)||RPG (7.6)||APG (4.0)||FG% (40.5%)||3P% (40.0%)|
|adj. plus/minus (+9.66)|
|statistical plus/minus (+2.23)|
Like Hedo Turkoglu, Lewis started off the postseason slow against the Philadelphia 76ers, mainly due to the fact he was nursing a knee injury (tendonitis, to be specific) that had been nagging him as the regular season began to wind down. The extended time off didn't serve Lewis well, as his play offensively was affected and he struggled to find his shooting touch for the first few games against the Sixers.
Slowly but surely, Lewis rounded into form against Philadelphia and he finished the first round very strong - scoring 24 points in Game 5 (9 of 16, 56.3%) and scoring 29 points (11 of 22, 50.0%) in Game 6. Credit Thaddeus Young for defending Lewis well during the beginning of the series, staying at home (a calculated Sixers' strategy) and using his athleticism to bother him on the perimeter. Lewis didn't help his own cause by continually settling for jumpers.
However, Lewis took Young to task down on the low block and off the dribble as Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy made a concerted effort to get him good looks at the bucket and help snap him out of his funk. The game I like to point out is Game 6, where Lewis was the primary offensive option for the Magic (due to Dwight Howard's suspension) by default. Lewis executed beautifully around the paint and showcased his back-to-the-basket skills that were left dormant with the Sonics.
Lewis played like he was back in a Seattle uniform (where he was the primary low-post presence for the team), passing out of the post, shooting over his defenders by using his superior size and strength. It was a great performance by a savvy player.
Luckily for Magic fans, the best was yet to come for Lewis, who played excellent basketball against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. One of the storylines in the series, which I pointed out before in the past, was that Lewis had an advantage against the likes of Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine. The main point of contention was the fact that Lewis was too quick of a cover for either player.
Time and again, Lewis had his way against the Celtics, using his athleticism & speed to get past Davis or Scalabrine and putting up any shot he wanted. Instead of hanging around in the low block (though, he still posted up here and there), Lewis opted to roam around the perimeter and make Boston pay by attacking the basket or shooting around or beyond the arc. It's the type of play that warranted general manager Otis Smith to go out and acquire Lewis via sign-and-trade two years ago.
Lewis would continue to perform at a high level against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lewis didn't take too long to come up with a signature performance AND shot in his career, as he exploded for a ridiculous stat line in Game 1 - 9 of 13 shooting (69.2%) from the field, with a game-winning shot to cap it all off. As I noted in my analysis of Hedo Turkoglu two days ago, Lewis had a field day with the 3/4 pick & pop, nailing outside jumper after outside jumper.
Not to be outdone by his own handiwork, Lewis stepped up in crunch time in Game 4.
Like the previous series against the Celtics, Lewis had his way against the Cavaliers because the team had no one that could cover him. LeBron James did see time on Lewis but he was too busy having to guard, seemingly, everybody on the Magic - Rafer Alston, Hedo Turkoglu, etc. Anderson Varejao saw the majority of the minutes against Lewis, defensively and it was no contest. Lewis punished the Brazilian by using jab steps, pump fakes, and everything else in his offensive repertoire. To put it simply, Lewis was a matchup nightmare for Cleveland and he took FULL advantage.
In the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lewis had a very schizophrenic series. The days off seemed to affect both he and the rest of the team in Game 1, as Lewis struggled mightily in the first Finals game of his career. It showed in the stat sheet - 2 of 10 shooting (20.0%). It was, at that point, Lewis' worst game of the playoffs. Naturally, Lewis came back and played his best game of the playoffs in Game 2. Lewis could do no wrong, netting 34 points on 12 of 21 shooting (57.1%), 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. It was, easily, Lewis' best game in a Magic uniform.
The points were the most Lewis has scored since joining Orlando in 2007.
A number of times in the game, Lamar Odom got caught leaving Lewis to help out to double-team and of course, he paid for that decision. Can't leave a shooter like Lewis open. It was more of the same in Game 3, as Lewis was able to join Orlando in shooting the lights out against Los Angeles for the franchise's first Finals victory. Lewis was involved directly in pick/pops and indirectly in pick/rolls to get open looks at the basket. What I mean with the latter of the two plays is that the Magic would run a 1/5 pick & roll (Alston/Howard) or a 3/5 pick & roll (Turkoglu/Howard) and subsequently find Lewis open as a result. Likewise, Lewis was able to beat Odom off the dribble a few times when the opportunity presented itself.
Overall, Lewis did a great job of recognizing his mismatches and exploiting them accordingly but credit should go to Odom (and Gasol, a bit) for finally neutralizing him in Game 4 and Game 5 of the series. Lewis just couldn't get things going offensively.
It's a reason why the Lakers were able to defeat the Magic in the NBA Finals.
Rashard Lewis had a fantastic postseason. There are a number of superlatives I could give to describe Lewis' play in the playoffs - how about clutch? Lewis proved his worth, making game-winning shots, playing high-level basketball, etc. Like Turkoglu, Lewis is an extremely valuable member of the Orlando Magic because of the number of matchup problems he presents on offense. The proof is in the pudding. Lewis had his way for the majority of the postseason until he finally met his match against a team that could guard him with effectiveness, defensively.
That's how it goes. The NBA is all about matchups.
Lewis, more often than not, will have the advantage.