by Jack Maidment
Against the very best you may only get one opportunity. One chance to turn the tide, to take advantage of the single time that your opponent slips just a little.
Sunday night the Orlando Magic did not get one opportunity to switch the momentum in the NBA Finals, they got two. As Game 2 built to its climax, the Los Angeles Lakers left the door slightly ajar for Dwight Howard and co on two occasions.
Despite excellent platy calling from Stan Van Gundy, the Magic failed to convert two golden looks, both falling to Courtney Lee. Instead of taking the Lakers back to Florida all tied up, they return home in a 2-0 hole.
Ominous? Yep. The Lakers are 37-1 in series where they have won the opening two games.
Before this Finals began the focus was placed firmly on the Lake Show. If Orlando ended up Champions it would be because the Lakers had gifted it to them.
Regardless of the fact that such a point of view entirely belittles the accomplishments of a very strong Orlando team, it forgets how dangerous the magic can be. Look up potent in the dictionary. There’s a picture of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis right next to that of Hugh Hefner.
However, if you were one of those people who believed in the Magic, you understood that they had a legitimate chance at rings if they ticked the right boxes.
1. Big games from Lewis to fully justify the amount of money that Florida’s finest (sorry Mr Wade) has committed to his lucrative contract.
2. Continuing clutch play from Turkey’s finest export (?).
Check on both counts. In Game 2 Lewis and Turkoglu combine to go 9-18 from down town. 50% from beyond the arc? Yeah, that could help.
3. Dominance down low and on the glass from Dwight Howard.
He may not have had 40, but Game 2’s perfomance saw Howard grab 16 rebounds to go with his 17 points. That’s pretty good going considering he is rebounding against Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, 1 on 3.
4. Contain Kobe.
Easier said than done for sure, but 29 and 8 for KB24 is a vast improvement on the 40+ he took in the series opener.
The Magic did all these 4 things in Game 2 but still roll out of town on a downer. Why?
Pau Gasol. The Spaniard is absolutely the key to Los Angeles’ victory and Orlando’s defeat.
24 and 10. Gaudy numbers from a player who is making the people calling him ‘soft’ look pretty silly.
It was Gasol that powered the Lakers to Game 2, 3-3 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line in the 4th quarter and the overtime period.
The City of Angels climbed aboard and he carried them to 2 and 0.
The Lakers record in this situation might be scary, but the combination of Pau and Kobe is scarier. Spanish. English. Telepathy? Their communication is simply infallible.
Game 3 is the biggest in Orlando’s history and anything other than a win will spell the end of their season.
Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to Orlando?
Or as Pau would say:
‘Gracias por todo, hasta luego. Adios.’