Stan Van Gundy had the perfect play drawn to get the Magic even in the series at the end of Game 2, only Courtney Lee's shot wouldn't go down. Now Orlando faces a do-or-die in Game 3 at home on Tuesday.
The Lakers have gone from one extreme to another in building a 2-0 NBA Finals lead. The Western Conference champions won by 25 in Game One but needed a Courtney Lee miss and overtime to capture Game 2. LA hopes that while the venue changes the results remain the same.
Game 3 is tonight in Orlando with the Magic facing the first of three “must-win” situations. The 2-3-2 format favors the Lakers who are a win away from putting a hammer lock on this series. Orlando knows that one win won’t get it done and they’ll probably need a sweep for a realistic shot at a ring. How do they do it?
It starts with Dwight Howard. The Magic big man has had two sub-par games caused in large part by the Lakers three-headed monster of Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. Howard committed seven of Orlando’s 20 turnovers in Game 2. He needs Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu to play like they did Sunday night when they combined for 56 points on 9-for-18 shooting from three-point range. If they keep hitting from long distance that should give Howard a little more room to roam. If not, the Lakers will continue to double and triple team every time Howard touches the rock.
With apologies to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers MVP in the series has been Pau Gasol. Not only has he been a dominant force on the offensive end (24 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2) but he’s been an unexpected surprise on the defensive end where he’s been asked to man up against Howard. If the Lakers can figure out how to keep Lewis and Turkoglu from getting wide open looks and continue to keep Howard in check, they could pull the upset tonight.
Which Bryant will we see tonight? Kobe admitted after Game 2 that he was guilty of playing too much like the Kobe of 2005. In the past #24 has been guilty of incessant grousing at his teammates and being a tad selfish at times. He promises things will be different tonight.
So in this land of Hollywood and Disney we’ve learned this much: Bryant played like a Superhero in the opener but was a mere mortal in the sequel. Meanwhile Orlando’s Superman, Howard, has been kept down in the first two games by the Lakers “kryptonite” defense and Howard’s personal “Lex Luther,” Gasol.
The Magic are favored by four points with the total set at 198. The total has been volatile to say the least. It was 206 in the opening game of the series.
The Lakers are +170 on the ML tonight compared to -180 for the Magic.
A closer look at the numbers will tell you that history favors the Lakers. Only three teams in NBA history have recovered from an 0-2 deficit to win the crown. LA is also 38-1 when they have a 2-0 series lead while Phil Jackson, who has won nine titles, is a perfect 43-0 in the postseason when his team wins Game 1 of a series. And to add insult to injury, the Magic are 0-6 in the championship round.
The Lakers say they’ve learned humility and how to put teams away after three grueling series leading up to the finals. The Magic will point to their ability to bounce back from heartbreaking losses (four to be exact) in these playoffs.
The Magic need a home sweep. The Lakers would be happy with at least one win in Orlando and a chance to wrap things up back in Hollywood. Either way there should be an electric atmosphere tonight in the “House of the Mouse.”
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