The first quarter brick-a-palooza: I'll let Fran Blinebury of NBA.com sum this one up: "Who dropped the WNBA into the middle of The Finals? The Lakers (6-for-20) and Magic (4-for-14) combine for the lowest scoring first quarter in the history of The Finals. It was enough to give you horrid flashbacks of that 78-73 egg laid by Utah and Chicago in the Jazz' Game 4 in 1997." For some historical perspective, the previous low was 32 points after the first quarter of a Celtics-Lakers game...in 1969.
The Orlando Magic: Thanks to an inspired performance by Rashard Lewis (34 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) and a strong second-half from Hedo Turkoglu (who finished with 22 points), the Magic nearly stole Game 2 in L.A. But "nearly" wasn't nearly good enough, as they put the "suck" in "succumb" during the overtime session before losing 101-96. In those final five minutes, Orlando committed 3 turnovers (2 on their first two possessions) and shot 3-for-8 from the field. Still, the overtime fail aside, there are plenty of other reasons the Magic pissed this one away...even beyond their over-reliance on jump shots.
Courtney Lee: The rookie logged less than 12 minutes and finished with only 2 points (1-for-3), 2 rebounds and 2 fouls. But Stan Van Gundy still had enough confidence in the kid to put him in for the last play of regulation. And what a well-designed, perfectly executed play it was! Until Lee got involved, that is.
This was actually Lee's second boner to end regulation, since he also clanged a layup with 10.5 seconds left (although truth be told, he probably drew enough contact from Lamar Odom to justify a couple free throws). I have to say, that's a pretty tough spot for a rookie to be in, two clutch-time shots in the NBA Finals. But that doesn't change the fact that he missed 'em both. And those misses might have (in part) cost his team the game AND any realistic chance at winning the series. After all, since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, 11 of 12 teams winning the first two games have gone on to win the championship. Ruh roh, Raggy.
Still, Lee (quick correctly) doesn't feel as though the entire burden of losing should fall on his lanky shoulders. "We didn't lose the game just because I missed the layup. We could have won the game." And while it's certainly true that Courtney isn't THE reason the Magic lost, Stan Van Gundy's comments after the game were, well, yeah. "Hedo made a great pass, and we missed it. I just don't know what else to say about it. It was a great pass, it was right there, and he missed it." Way to feed your rookie to the wood chipper there, Stan.
Orlando's free throw shooting: They "only" missed seven freebies -- and Dwight Howard was 7-for-9! -- but there was a stretch near the end of the third quarter into the beginning of the fourth where they blew five in a row: Marcin Gortat gonked two with 1:38 left in the third (and the Magic up 59-59), Jameer Nelson bricked a couple with 11:41 to go in the fourth (with Orlando ahead 65-63), and then Hedo Turkoglu misfired on one with 10:41 left in regulation (when the score was tied at 65-65). Saying that "If the Magic hit even one of those, this game doesn't go to overtime" is a gross oversimplification. But still, those were five critical misses. Just add 'em to the laundry list of "What Ifs" the Magic are taking back to Orlando with them.
Dwight Howard: Hey, 17 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks...that's not a bad day at the office. But Howard also had 7 turnovers, mostly due to forcing a lost post "move" against the Lakers' aggressive double-teams. Not that he was able to make much of anything happen against single coverage when he got it. Even worse, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year seemed dazed and confused when trying to defense Pau Gasol in the post. Doesn't it sort of feel like he and Kevin Garnett won two different awards?
The Magic backcourt: None of Orlando's guards played well last night. NONE OF THEM. Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson combined to score 17 points on 6-for-26 shooting, including 1-for-12 from three-point range. Credit the Lakers defense, but some of those threes were W-I-D-E open. (Alston in particular was so alone on two of his triple attempts that they could have played that sad piano music from the Incredible Hulk TV show.) They had only 7 assists between the five of them, which is only three more than Dwight Howard dished out by himself. Hell, Rashard Lewis -- who's never been accused of rampant playmaking -- had 7 on his own. Basically, the Magic backcourt has utterly and rather dismally failed so far.
Kobe Bryant: Yeah, he had a team-high 29 points, but he also had a co-game-high 7 turnovers. Oh, and he failed to live up to his rep as the "game's greatest closer" in overtime, when his contributions looked like this: Missed a 22-footer (4:13); gave up an "And 1!" to Dwight Howard (3:19); hit an 11-footer (2:17); committed a turnover (0:42). Of course, his "meh" overtime (other than the made jumper) might have been an extension of his final possession of regulation...an ego-ectomizing block from behind by Hedo Turkoglu:
Officiating: I hate harping on the officials, but Kobe Bryant got pretty big helping of benefit of the doubt in the fourth quarter last night. Mickael Pietrus' fifth foul was absolutely ludicrous (he didn't touch Kobe, and Dwight cleanly blocked the shot), and after Pietrus fouled out, Hedo got whistled for a personal on a play in which Kobe simply fell down on his own. Bryant was awarded four big free throws off these plays, and of course Pietrus was pushed toward another foul out. Talk about your 2006 NBA Finals flashbacks. There's really no excuse for calls that bad. And trust me, these are only highlights. There were plenty of bogus calls throughout the game, going both ways, every way. I can't stand it.