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Magic Don't Need Best to Beat Lakers

Jun 10, 2009 – 11:45 AM
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David Whitley

David Whitley %BloggerTitle%

ORLANDO – We all should have seen this one coming, especially after Stuff had a better warmup than Andrew Bynum.

Orlando's mascot stood at half court, turned his back to the goal and flipped the ball over his head toward the basket.

Money.

It was either Stuff or Rafer Alston dressed in a furry green suit. Whoever it was, Tuesday night's tone had been set.

Almost everything Orlando threw up went in and the Magic won, 108-104. That was the good news for the home team.

The bad news was that almost everything Orlando threw up went, and the Magic won, 108-104.

"We shot 62.5 percent and almost lost the game," Alston said.

That's why the Lakers won't spend the next 36 hours hiding in their closets and a lot of people still think Orlando is teetering. Los Angeles played its worst game in weeks and still could've easily won had not aliens inhabited the body of Kobe Bryant for the final three quarters.

What are the odds he'll shoot 44 percent from the free throw line again, while Dwight Howard makes 11 of 16?

What are the odds Orlando will shoot 75 percent in the first half in Game 4?

What are the odds we really have a series now and not just a Lakers showcase?

Answers: 100-1, 500-1 and Even Money.

Yes, Game 3 had a lot of fluky elements. But anyone who thinks it was a total fluke is not a student of recent NBA playoff history.

From what I can tell, that includes a respectable portion of the media, most of Middle America and 98.9 percent of Lakers fans. Most had declared the Magic dead after Game 2, though many were ready to crown Kobe after Game 1's destruction.

That's when Courtney Lee missed that last-second shot in Game 2. Call it the Reverse Dagger.

You remember the first Dagger, don't you? That was LeBron James' 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Or was it Big Baby Davis' shot at the buzzer in Game 4 of the semis?

Or was it Howard getting suspended for Game 6 of the opening round at Philadelphia? Or Superman ripping Stan Van Gundy for not getting him the ball in Game 5 at Boston?

Latest NBA Finals Photos

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Golfer Tiger Woods talks with Director Spike Lee prior to Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals betweeb the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tiger Woods;Spike Lee

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on prior to playing against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kobe Bryant

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Pau Gasol #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Pau Gasol

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Trevor Ariza #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot against Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Trevor Ariza;Dwight Howard

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic drives for a shot attempt against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hedo Turkoglu

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kobe Bryant

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reaches for a rebound against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Pau Gasol

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09: Mickael Pietrus #20 of the Orlando Magic drives for a dunk attempt against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mickael Pietrus

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 9: Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives for a shot attempt against Tony Battie #4 of the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Lamar Odom

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09: Mickael Pietrus #20 of the Orlando Magic drives for a dunk attempt against Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals at Amway Arena on June 9, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2009 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** the Orlando Magic

    NBAE/Getty Images


The Magic collect daggers like Marty Riggs collected scars. Remember the nutty detective Mel Gibson made famous in Lethal Weapon? Remember the scene in Lethal Weapon 3 where he and Rene Russo compared their scars?

Gunshot. Stabbing. LeBron.

All in the line of duty. Orlando's duty throughout these playoffs is to be the fall guy who suffers a soul-crushing blow and never recovers.

Only it never seems to work out that way.

"I've said it throughout the season and throughout the playoffs," Van Gundy said. "The one thing you can't question with our team is their resilience."

When will we learn?

Probably when Alston is pouring champagne over Van Gundy's head as David Stern hands him the championship trophy.

No, I really don't envision that happening. The Lakers are better, though not by much. And certainly not by the margin a lot of people were thinking before Game 3.

They will be the ones saying the Magic played over their heads Tuesday night. It began with Stuff and continued with Alston going 8-for-12 after almost going 0-for-LA.

According to the box scores, Orlando pretty much played three-on-five in the first two games. Their guards were awful, partially thanks to Van Gundy deciding a four-month layoff wouldn't affect Jameer Nelson in the slightest. His return disrupted the chemistry that had gotten Orlando this far. Now the Magic have figured out Nelson is better in limited duty off the bench.

Howard appears to be figuring out the Doberman defense that discombobulated him in LA. Mickael Pietrus appears to have gotten the Kobe-jeebies out of his game.

The Magic can't shoot any better than they did in Game 3, but they don't have to keep setting NBA marksmanship records to keep winning. They just have to play the way they have all season.

It's a team far too erratic to feel comfortable about. Hedo Turkoglu is likely to go 1-for-11, then hit four straight 3-pointers. Same with Rashard Lewis. Alston and Pietrus are even more inconsistent.

But somebody always seems to get hot when it's absolutely necessary. Throw in that resilience Van Gundy has mentioned about 852 times, and Tuesday night was totally predictable.

And it pays to remember the Lakers aren't the most predictable group the NBA Finals has ever seen.

"We can play much, much better," Bryant said.

The Magic can't. But anyone who thinks they still can't win this thing simply hasn't been watching.
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