Lakers Go Up 2-0 with Magic Memories of 1995


Jun 8

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Poor Nick Anderson. They’ll never let him forget. Not now. Not the way Orlando Magic shooting guard Courtney Lee missed a potential game winning layup at the buzzer Sunday night and the Lakers went on to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals 101-96 in overtime and take a 2-0 lead.

It was 14 years to the day Sunday that Anderson in the Magic’s first ever Finals game missed four free throws at the end of regulation in Game 1 and the Houston Rockets went on to win in overtime and swept the series 4-0.

It was devastating for the sensitive Chicago kid from the U. of Illinois and within two years Anderson was a wreck, shooting 40 percent on free throws before getting himself back together for the last few full seasons of his career. Anderson now works in community relations for the Magic. Anderson admits he lost confidence because of that game and it affected his life on and off the court. The irony was the Magic never would have been there if not for him as the Magic shooting guard made that famous steal from Michael Jordan in the conference semifinals as the Magic beat the Bulls in Jordan’s comeback season from baseball.

It wasn’t Anderson’s fault, as it wasn’t Lee’s Sunday. The inbounds pass from Hedo Turkoglu with 0.6 seconds left caught Lee a bit under the basket with Pau Gasol closing and Lee just shot it a bit hard.

Rookie Lee was gracious after the game in comments to reporters, though we’ll see how he moves on.

“It was a good play, it was a good pass,” Lee said. “Coach did a good job of drawing up the right play. I caught it, got a good look at the backboard. I tried to get it up there as quick as possible, and the ball rolled off the rim. We actually were going to run a different play at first, and then coach drew up another play going in after that timeout (when Turkoglu couldn’t get the ball in). Turk told me he was going to be looking for me and we connected. The shot just didn’t fall. You sit and groan about it just for that moment, but you still have another five minutes to go out there and play. We didn’t lose the game just because I missed the lay-up, we could have won the game.”

Yes, it was oh so close to giving the Magic a 1-1 split in Los Angeles after the blowout loss in Game 1, and teams don’t often win all three of those home games in the 2-3-3 format.

Though Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy remembers when his sort of Miami Heat did. It was when the Heat won the 2006 title after Van Gundy was forced out early in the season after Dallas had won the first two games at home.

“Bottom line is we came here for two games and we didn’t get the job done,” said Van Gundy. “Now we have to go home and have a great Game 3. I’ve seen series turn, as I told them. I was still in Miami not doing a damn thing, but I was still in Miami in 2006 when they lost both games in Dallas and then were way down in the third quarter in Game 3 at home (13 with six minutes left), came back and won that one, Dallas never won another game. Series can change.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson has seen it as well as his 2004 Lakers were swept in the Finals in Detroit. And we all remember the 1991 Bulls winning all there games in Los Angeles. So you can turn things around, but it’s going to be difficult for the Magic.

For one thing, when you have a good chance to win a game in a series and lose it, now you, in effect, have to win five games. Orlando had a great shot at this game. They made a number of adjustments and they worked well. They got leads twice in the last two minutes and that last chance at a fabulous finish after Hedo Turkoglu blocked Kobe Bryant’s game winning driving attempt in regulation from behind.

The Magic then ran a terrific play with Howard picking off Bryant on a back screen and Lee flashing open for the lob and shooting it barely too hard with the score tied as time expired.

“It was just a brilliant play,” said Bryant, who had 29 points and eight assists but seven turnovers. “It was just a very, very smart play that he drew up. He knew my eye was more on the shooters coming up, and just a hell of a play by a hell of a coach.”

So what were you thinking as the ball went toward Lee, Bryant was asked.

We can’t use the word even on the internet. Maybe if this were HBO.

The Lakers then took the game in overtime when J.J. Redick, playing timidly as Van Gundy stopped using his point guards because they were shooting so poorly and basically weren’t being guarded by the Lakers, missed an open three and then drove into traffic and threw the ball waay. Derek Fisher got a fast break three-point play out of it and the Lakers finished it off with a Bryant-Pau Gasol pick and roll basket for Gasol and three-point play.

Gasol ended with 24 points and 10 rebounds and answered a bunch of post game questions with the theme obeing he no longer is a so called “soft” player. Fellow longtime alleged marshmallow Lamar Odom had 19 points off the bench. Though in the Lakers’ constant attention to Dwight Howard, Odom let Rashard Lewis roam free for 34 points. Turkoglu had 22 and Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds.

The problem for the Magic was what many believed would get them knocked out of the playoffs early, a miserable shooting backcourt. Lee and Alston combined to shoot two of 12 and slowly returning Jameer Nelson was one of three. Redick was two of nine as Van Gundy went most of the fourth quarter and overtime without a point guard and had Turkoglu running the offense, which he often does at the end of games in pick and roll with Howard.

“I thought Rafer was playing well, but they’re just leaving him open on every post-up, and we couldn’t get the ball in the basket, so we were just searching for somebody to be able to make a shot,” said Van Gundy. “Obviously we didn’t find anybody. Our guards were 6 for 26. I thought the (guards) got plenty of shots. I don’t think it’s much trouble to get our guards shots. They’re not guarding them. They’re only guarding three guys, so it’s not very hard to get those guys shots.”

Van Gundy was then asked in the media post game how to fix that.

“I don’t have any idea how to fix that,” he said.

I really do enjoy that guy.

And he’s shown he’s a terrific coach.

The Magic made all the right adjustments to combat the Lakers’ Game 1 domination, but, in the end, someone has to make a shot.

The Magic trapped and double teamed Bryant and especially forcing the ball toward Trevor Ariza, who was three of 13 and one of five in the first quarter. The Lakers were only saved by eight Orlando first quarter turnovers in a record low scoring 15-15 first quarter. The Magic again shot poorly after a 29.9 percent Game 1, but their changes had the Lakers gasping.

Orlando did have early foul trouble with Lee, Mickael Pietrus and Rashard Lewis. But after the Lakers size bothered Orlando in Game 1, Van Gundy played Howard often with Marcin Gortat or Tony Battie to neutralize the Lakers size advantage. It had an effect early, though it also slowed the Orlando offense, which relies on speed and fast breaking with three point shooting.

The Lakers’ plan remained similar. They constantly hustled back in transition to cut off the Magic’s runouts, and they swarmed Howard, doubling him whenever he put the ball down or made a move with the ball.

“It’s their defensive scheme,” said Howard. “Phil is a smart, smart coach. Not saying the coach from Cleveland isn’t, but the way they’re using their bigs on the defensive end has been a little tricky for me. It’s something that I’m learning. Their bigs are doing a great job of forcing me to other bigs.”

Howard has become better at moving the ball out, and Lewis got it going in the second quarter with 20 points to get within 40-35 at halftime, and then Turkoglu took advantage of the doubling on Howard to get 14 in the third quarter as Orlando took a 65-63 lead going into the fourth.

Fisher, who’d been traumatized earlier in the playoffs by quicker guards, was able to be more effective against a weak Magic backcourt and Alston shooting so poorly and not being able to run out. Fisher made a big fourth quarter basket after scooping up a loose ball, but Redick, who was passing up shots despite not getting much defensive attention, hit a three to tie it at 84 before it looked like the Magic would steal the game on late Lewis and Turkoglu jumpers. It was Gasol tying it at 88 with 33 seconds left when Howard deflected a Fisher pass but couldn’t hold on and Gasol picked up the loose ball and scored. Again, just a fraction away for Orlando.

“I don’t think we dodged a bullet,” said Bryant. “I think they played extremely well and we played well enough to win. They bounced back like we knew they would, played extremely well, and we got out of here with a win.”

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