Los Angeles Lakers crush Orlando Magic in Game 1 of NBA Finals
Brian Schmitz recaps the Lakers' victory over the Magic last night.
Kobe Bryant welcomed back the Magic to their first NBA Finals since 1995, scoring 40 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 100-75 rout in Game 1 at Staples Center.
The Magic pulled out all the stops. They brought point guard Jameer Nelson out of mothballs and playing more than anyone could have imagined (23 minutes) after a four-month layoff, but it wasn't nearly enough.
No more Magic fantasyland as Lakers, Kobe dominate
Mike Bianchi talks about Orlando's defeat at the hands of Los Angeles.
Title is key to Kobe Bryant's renown
George Diaz elaborates on Kobe Bryant's chase for his fourth ring.
Nelson's return a nice problem
Kyle Hightower recaps Jameer Nelson's performance yesterday.
Nelson played the entire period and scored four points (2-of-4 shooting), dishing out four assists and grabbing one rebound.
Van Gundy said he thought Nelson played well in the second quarter, but was forcing things in the second half. Nelson played 23 minutes in all and ended his night with six points (3-of-9 field goals), four assists and two boards. Alston played 25 minutes and also had six points (2-of-9).
Though Nelson said after playing a lot more minutes than he anticipated Thursday, he said it's all about finding the fastest way to improve.
"I wasn't going out there to try to be the hero or be the savior. I thought I would try to bring a little energy," he said. "The players have been around me and know the style I play. So it wasn't like I was going to shoot every ball or make every play ... It's about the next night now."
Lakers Crush Magic in Game 1
Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse asserts the Magic were overwhelmed by the Lakers.
Pietrus Honors Memory of Flight 447
Mickael Pietrus, nicknamed 'Air France', donned kicks with the No. 447 on the sides to honor the memory of Air France Flight 447.
A nice gesture by the Frenchman.
Nelson Plays But Can't Make an Impact
Matt Steinmetz of NBA FanHouse captures some quotes after Game 1.
"I think he had an effect in the ballgame," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Nelson. "I think he came in and he was effective in penetration and finding guys. It looked like he was back in the format of what he wanted to get accomplished. Obviously his shooting wasn't quite there, although he hit a couple of shots. But we anticipate he'll be out there more."
Maybe so. But don't expect Nelson to be introduced with the starters at any point in this series.
"I'm not coming back to start," Nelson said. "I'm coming back just to relieve Ray (Rafer Alston) when he needs a break and just do what the team needs. I'm not trying to come back and start or anything like that. I think he's done a great job and no matter what he deserves to start."
Part I, In Which The Mamba Sinks It’s Teeth In: Orlando at LA, Game 1
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm lists his observations from last night's matchup.
Are Finals Blowouts Meaningful?
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop takes a look back in NBA history to see whether or not blowouts in the NBA Finals are truly meaningful to a series outcome.
Last Year's Finals Still Driving Lakers
Sean Deveney of The Baseline notes how last year's NBA Finals experience is on the minds of every Los Angeles player right now and what that means for Orlando.
- NBA Finals showcases eclectic mix of stars
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports delves, briefly, about the variety of stars in the championship series that reside from Europe, high school, etc.
- Nelson's return puts Alston in awkward spot
Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports talks about the point guard play.
- Behind the Box Score, where the Lakers were dominant
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie analyzes Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
I don't want to hear about "jitters," because the Magic came out and topped the Lakers by two points in the initial quarter. [...]
Really, it was pretty simple. The Magic could not make shots.
The Jameer Nelson saga? Some tried to spin it, after the game, talking about how Rafer Alston missed the entire second quarter, and how that somehow turned off the Orlando offense. Really? I just saw a lot of missed, open-to-easy, shots. I saw Rashard Lewis miss a ton. I saw Dwight Howard miss some chippies. I saw Mickael Pietrus miss a few. Courtney Lee, as well. Marcin Gortat, near the basket. And that's all in the second quarter!
That's not on Nelson. He set these guys up, and the guys set themselves up. Rafer Alston on the bench has nothing to do with Rashard Lewis missing an eight-footer on a post-up, on a play where Nelson didn't even make the entry pass. Or Lee missing an open three-pointer.
And the second biggest thing, to me? Dwight Howard was horrible. Absolutely horrible, on either end.
There was plenty of talk about Howard missing one of six shots. Only taking six shots. Only making one. Having no real impact in the scoring column. We love to talk about offense.
But it was his defense that was the absolute worst. He was a step slow on his help, all game. With or without foul trouble, and usually without any chance at picking up an actual foul. Late in contesting shots, and late in getting to rebounds on both ends.
An Impressive Win
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospect breaks down, with great detail, how Los Angeles was able to defeat Orlando in such convincing fashion.
Let's start by dissecting the Lakers' offense. What's interesting is that, on some level, Bryant's game was exactly what the Magic would want. He got to the free-throw line relatively infrequently (eight attempts) and took a single three-pointer among his 34 shot attempts. Bryant was shooting virtually exclusively midrange twos, which is why he still was not especially efficient, scoring 40 points on 38 shot attempts. The strategy worked for two reasons. First, Bryant is simply the best in the game when it comes to making difficult shots. Second, he was able to take those shots from 12-15 feet instead of 15-20 feet, a crucial distinction. Bryant did that by backing down Lee in the post and because Orlando was not particularly aggressive in defending the pick-and-roll, preferring instead to lay back and keep Bryant away from the bucket. [...]
Howard had a bizarre statistical line, attempting 16 free throws and just six shots from the field. He was able to draw a number of fouls on the Lakers' big men, especially Andrew Bynum, but was unable to finish in the paint the way he did in the Eastern Conference Finals, making a single field goal. More often, Howard was drawing help and kicking the ball out, making the right play. However, Pietrus (3-for-5) and Rashard Lewis (2-for-4) were the only Orlando players who were hitting from the perimeter. The starting backcourt of Lee and Rafer Alston combined for one triple in eight attempts.
More problematic for the Magic was attempting to drive when the Lakers closed out hard. They met stiff resistance in terms of help defense with long arms ready to contest shots. Lewis wilted under the defensive pressure, missing all six of his two-point attempts, and his teammates were hardly much better. Hedo Turkoglu was unable to supply the missing offense; he shot 2-of-8 on twos and created just two assists.
Initially, it appeared Nelson would be able to supply a spark on offense. After his initial burst of energy, however, Nelson proved ineffective. He handed out three assists in his first four minutes on the floor, then one over the next 19. Nelson shot 3-for-9 from the field, which actually made him a relatively effective shooter compared to his teammates. Nelson ended up with a -19 plus-minus, but it would be a mistake to read too much into that. The Magic proved equally ineffective with Nelson on the bench early in the third quarter. [...]
We've seen all too often in this postseason that a lopsided win means nothing the next game. Even Orlando bounced back from its worse loss of the playoffs (Game Two at Boston) to win Game Three going away. The concern for the Magic, then, should be less about the outcome of this particular game than the fact that the Lakers have now played arguably their two best games of the playoffs back-to-back. They seem to have found the higher level of play we suspected they have had in them all along, and as long as they continue to play at that level they will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to beat.
Orlando Magic meltdown in NBA Finals Game 1
Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com gathers some quotes from a few Magic players.
Howard had just one field goal on six attempts, failing to convert a bucket from the first quarter on -- which coincided with the time the game first started getting away from the Magic before it got out of control.
The Lakers pushed him out of his comfort zone, cut off the baseline and quickly rotated out to the Magic's shooters when Howard had to bail out. But did said shooters bail him out? No.
Mickael Pietrus went 3-for-5 from behind the arc (making one of them after pump faking Bryant three times -- another play that would have been highlight reel material if it hadn't taken place with the Magic already down 20-plus points), but Orlando's starting backcourt combined to shoot 1-for-8 on 3s (Courtney Lee was 1-for-4, and Rafer Alston went 0-for-4) and 5-for-19 overall. Nelson was a spotty 3-for-9 from the field in his first game in four months.
Aside from Howard, Orlando's other two main offensive weapons, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, were almost as brutal from the field.
Said Turkoglu, who shot 3-for-11: "Compared to the last three series, and what we did to get here, we didn't do anything. They wanted this one more than us."
From Lewis, who shot 2-for-10: "There was no stage fright at all. Look, they scored 56 points in the paint, that's more than half. You can't win ballgames like that." [...]
Can the Orlando Magic bounce back after Game 1 Finals loss?
Marc Stein of ESPN.com chimes in with his thoughts.
Orlando has lots to repair even if the presumed dents to its self-confidence are a media creation.
[...] it's the Magic's turn for a resurrection. You want to believe they've got one more surprise stored up, remembering how decisively they answered Glen Davis' Game 5 buzzer-beater by winning a Game 7 in Boston and then bullied LeBron James' Cavs. But this looks like a bigger job for Superman and Co. based on our first glimpse of how L.A.'s activity took away Orlando's inside game.
The Lakers Pick a New Strategy, and Roll
Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop captures this quote from Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy that caught my eye. Needless to say, the ol' coach is correct.
"I think both our coaching on how to play the pick-and-roll and our execution were poor," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I thought we were giving him too much space on pull-up jumpers, particularly on pick-and-rolls."
David Thorpe is expecting things to be pretty different in Game 2. The Orlando Magic couldn't figure things out at the offensive end of the floor. But if they had been scoring at all like they did in the last series (shooting 15-53 inside the arc), and the game had been close, then Kobe Bryant's 34 shots would be seen as Bryant once again doing too much. Thorpe also points out that Bryant didn't get the most efficient opportunities -- nothing from downtown, and very little at the line. But the Lakers rolled, and Bryant looked like a genius. But that doesn't mean a similar approach couldn't be used in a win.
IT’S JUST ONE GAME
UPDATE: Dwight Howard posts on his official blog and shares his thoughts.
OK, ya’ll I know that was ugly, but it’s just one game. Trust me, it was just one game.
We just had a really bad shooting night and it happened to come at the worst time in the NBA Finals. I think we hit like 23 shots as a team and Kobe had 16 all by himself for L.A. We’ve never had a shooting night that bad all season, so I don’t expect that to happen again to us.
Ya’ll know how we bounce back, so I fully expect us to learn from this over these next two days and come out ready on Sunday. We came back when Philly hit a couple of shots on us, we came back from Big Baby’s shot in Orlando and Bron’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. We can get this turned around too and I know we will.
The thing that upset me most was that the Lakers played harder than we did. They beat us to loose balls, they outrebounded us and outworked us. That just can’t happen. Rarely have we ever said a team outworked us, but that was the case.
Magic Defense: Another Bad Game 1
UPDATE 2: Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse, using some detailed charts, shows Orlando's trend of playing poor defensively in Game 1's this year ...
The Magic, boasting the top-rated defense during the regular season, let L.A. score at will for several stretches of Game 1. Alarmed? Know that this wasn't the first series-opener this postseason in which Orlando's vaunted defense laid an egg.
L.A. Ate All of Orlando's Rebounds
... and examines how Los Angeles dominated the boards last night.
Los Angeles Lakers making noise on defense
UPDATE 3: John Hollinger of ESPN.com talks about how the Lakers were able to shut down the Magic.
Magic Blog: David Steele
UPDATE 4: David Steele provides his thoughts about yesterday's matchup.
Nelson's return can't save Magic in Game 1
UPDATE 5: Chris Broussard of ESPN.com states that Jameer's return from his shoulder injury garnered mixed reviews.
- For a Lakers perspective on Game 1, check out Forum Blue And Gold, Lakers Blog, and Silver Screen and Roll.