The Orlando Magic recovered from a slow start in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, but ultimately fell short in overtime by a 101-96 score. Rashard Lewis led all scorers with 34 points, and single-handedly kept Orlando in the game in the second period, scoring 18 of his team's 20 points to stake the Magic to a 5-point halftime deficit. Hedo Turkoglu, too, came up big with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. But the Magic made some costly, sloppy mistakes with the ball with the game--and let's be completely honest, the entire season--in the balance. To win the title, the Magic now have to win 4 out of 5 against a Lakers squad that has flustered its offense in these Finals.
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Orlando had a chance to win in regulation after a clutch defensive play by Turkoglu, as he blocked Kobe Bryant's would-be game-winning offering from behind, then signaled for timeout. Orlando had 0.6 seconds with which to work, and ultimately chose to ran a lob play, but not for the person one might expect. The Lakers, like everyone else, have seen footage of Dwight Howard's game-winning alley-oop flush against the San Antonio Spurs two seasons ago, which came on a lob pass from Turkoglu. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy anticipated Pau Gasol's walling off the paint, denying Howard access to the rim, so he drew up the lob for rookie guard Courtney Lee. Turkoglu's pass was mostly on point, but Lee could not convert the layup, and for that he is sure to take a beating from the media in the coming days. Pinning a loss on a player does the opponent a disservice by denying it agency in the game's outcome. The Lakers won this game every bit as much as Orlando lost it, but had Lee converted at the buzzer, it'd be his victory, and Van Gundy would look like a genius. But because the Magic went on to lose, Lee and Van Gundy are scapegoats for missing the shot and for playing a crunch-time backcourt of J.J. Redick and Rafer Alston in the NBA Finals, respectively. Pardon me for ranting here, but our desire to boil entire games down to one play, to pin their outcomes on a single individual, is uncalled for. Trite.
Enough of that. With regulation in the books, the Magic faced the iffy proposition of having to win in overtime on the road. As we know by the final score, things didn't turn out so well for them. They turned the ball over on their first two possessions, three times overall, and shot just 3-of-8 from the field. Y'all needle my co-writer Eddy for his frequently using the word "execution," but he has a point here. The Magic could not get things done in overtime, or for much of the game, against a long, smart Lakers defense which seems to have almost everything figured out.
It seems weird to say that when the Magic's two forwards combine for 56 points on 54.5% (eFG), but it's true. Los Angeles knows Orlando's offensive tendencies. It knows that Dwight Howard prefers to go right in the low post, it knows that Howard frequently brings the ball low enough to get stolen, and it knows that J.J. Redick is not looking for his shot at all. Howard committed 7 turnovers tonight, and to be precise, we should note that not all of them were ballhandling turnovers. And J.J. only coughed it up once, but that's deceptive, because it doesn't indicate the degree to which the Lakers were able to arrange their defense so as to cut off the passing lanes when he drove to the basket. He would have had a few layup chances had he kept driving, and looking to shoot, tonight. It's something that ABC's broadcast crew brought up throughout. And it's correct.
Every playoff loss stings. I almost wrote, "every loss," but clearly losing a mid-January game to a lottery team doesn't even approach what losing the second game of the NBA Finals to go down 2-0 feels like. If there's any consolation, it's that Orlando looked sharper tonight, and for longer stretches, than it did in Game 1. The final score and the length of the game reflect as much. But on this stage, little improvements don't mean much. Wins do. And Orlando is now in a 2-game hole with at most 5 games to play. It's not promising, but maybe tonight is a start. For instance, the Magic controlled the glass for most of the night, as Van Gundy revisited the rarely-seen Howard/Marcin Gortat pairing at center and power forward. Gortat managed just 3 boards in 15 minutes, so he wasn't his usually rebound-gobbling self. Still, their sheer size on the interior for some stretches, in my estimation, went a long way to helping Orlando muster a 9-rebound advantage on Los Angeles. Lewis did his part too, with 11 boards--5 offensive, which is 1 more than the Lakers managed as a team. It's going to take more than great rebounding to beat the Lakers, though. Actually, let's amend that statement: it's going to take more. Period. (Or, if you prefer, full stop).