Leaving Staples Center last night Lakers fans all around me had the feeling that this was the last Lakers game they would see in the 2008-09 season. All that was left is the trophy, the parade and the ring ceremony. Put this series in the fridge as there's no way the Orlando Magic rally from those two games and makes this a series.... or do they???
Stan Van Gundy pulled out all the stops, made the right adjustments and came within a missed layup from putting a real scare in the Lakers. So who's to say he won't push the right buttons in Game 3 and direct the Magic toward their first W of the series? Well Stan, I'm gonna give you five tips/adjustments for the Magic to virtually guarantee a win tonight:
1 - Continue to go big: The rule of thumb for most NBA teams today is to go smaller and smaller, stretch the defense, create seams and space the floor for the drive and kick game... that is unless you face the Lakers. LA is long, tall and long (did I mention that they're long?). Going small works if you have a quality point guard that can consistently break through the Lakers defense... and really even then teams like Utah, New Orleans and Houston had those guards and STILL they came up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
The Magic needs to go big! Play Gortat at the 4, move Lewis to the 3, Turkoglu to the 2 and rotate Alston, Nelson, Lee and Pietrus at the 1 depending on the situation. Gortat and Howard are too strong down low and their mere presence have held the Lakers low post game in check. SVG played Gortat more in Game 2 and the Lakers lost their low post rhythm. Gasol and Odom had trouble posting up Gortat and eventually gave up and stayed on the perimeter. Sure Orlando loses an outside shooter and clogs the lane a little on offense, but they'll still find points as long as Turk, 'Shard and Howard are on the floor.
2 - Defend Kobe with Turkoglu (especially in the 4th quarter): Kobe's biggest weakness is long and strong defenders. James Posey last year and Tayshaun Prince in 2004 were both long and strong defenders that held Kobe in check, basically shutting him down in the Finals. Turkoglu's size will counter Kobe's very effective post game and he's quick enough to stick with Kobe in the perimeter. Plus Kobe's competitiveness will cause him to scrap the Lakers offensive game plan just to prove to Turkoglu he can score on him all day. This especially happened in 2004 and we all know what happened. The risk is that the Magic's best 4th quarter option will be run ragged chasing Kobe but at this point it's worth the risk. And TRUST ME Turkoglu will get enough under Kobe's skin.
3 - Don't worry about NOT playing your PG's down the stretch: For some reason SVG caught flak for benching BOTH Alston and Nelson late in the 4th quarter in game 2. Why? They weren't doing a damn thing offensively and Turkoglu's very capable of bringing the ball up court like Scottie Pippen or Odom. Plus it's not like Fisher's an offensive threat to force Orlando to adjust defensively. In essence SVG went Phil Jackson by playing a small forward at the point and size at the two with Lee/Pietrus... and it almost worked. At home it WILL work.
4 - Bench J.J. Redick: This is not brain surgery, you got past Boston and Cleveland with Redick stuck in DNP-CD mode so why mess with success? Sure he hit a HUGE three late to tie Game 2, but the Lakers also doubled off him most of the time he was on the floor. Remember those key steals late by LA... all by guys leaving Redick wide open. Duke guys should do what they're best at doing, getting all the calls in the college game and having overrated NBA careers.
5 - What the hell am I doing? I'm a 10-year season ticket holder and I want another damn NBA title. No more free advice for Stan Van Gundy!
Game 2 really put a scare in all Lakers fans. Game 1 made us all think this was an easy sweep and the parade is just a week away. But give all the credit in the word to SVG, he made the right adjustments and all the Magic needed was just a tiny bit of production from the PG spot and this series is tied. Playing at the O-Rena (we will not use pyramid schemes here) will definately help the Magic's slumping outside shooting. But fare thee be warned, the Lakers are the best road team in the NBA and in each of the three previous series they were able to lock down mentally, play with extreme focus and resolve and get a clutch win. Hopefully the mere sent of a NBA title will draw out the same efforts that we saw in Game 4 against Utah, Game 3 against Houston and Game 3 against Denver... we shall see.
Will the Lakers pattern of huge road wins continue for Game 3?