Ten Observations about Game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals

Ten Observations about game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals:

(1) The Orlando Magic blew TWO layups / opportunities to win in the last 12 seconds of regulation

While everyone is talking about Courtney Lee missing the layup with 0.6 left in regulation, we ought to be talking about the fact that Courtney Lee missed a lay up just 12 seconds earlier as well. Had Lee made the 1st layup, with Kobe’s subsequent shot getting blocked, the Magic would not have even needed that last play; they would have won in regulation.

(2) The Lakers’ defensive impact this game is underrated

The Magic averaged 107.5 points per game against the Lakers in the regular season, and were held to 75 points in game 1, and 88 points at the end of regulation in game 2. This is NOT due to jitters or off shooting nights; Stan Van Gundy has now TWICE credited the Lakers defense.

The main problem, defensively speaking, for the Lakers was the 3rd quarter where they gave up 30 of the Magic’s 88 points in regulation. Judging by the points scored in the other quarters, had the Lakers not let up their defensive intensity in the 3rd quarter, they would have won in regulation by 7 to 12 points.

There are hundreds of examples that bear up this point, including the 20 turnovers the Magic had, and the fact that Pau Gasol’s hustle over to alter Courney Lee’s shot with 0.6 remaining in regulation was the play of the game.

After game 2, Dwight Howard said this of the Lakers’ defense, “They are mixing it up and changing things and it is frustrating me a little bit.”

(3) Derek Fisher’s contribution this game is likewise underrated

Fisher had been averaging about 27 minutes per game in the 2009 playoffs, but played 41 minutes against Orlando in game 2. Subtract 5 minutes to account for overtime, which isn’t fair because Phil Jackson chose Fisher to be on the floor for crunch time, and Fisher still logged 36 minutes. Fisher was on the floor because he was solid offensively (12 points, 2 of 3 from the arc), but his real contribution was defense.

Rafer Alston was 1 of 8, Jameer Nelson was 1 of 3, JJ Redic was 2 of 9, and Courtney Lee was 1 of 3.

(4) Turnovers washed out the Magic’s Rebound advantage

Prior to game 1, Derek Fisher said, “Our ability to rebound the basketball could really be the difference in this series.” He is right; in this series the rebounding factor is huge.

In game 1, the Lakers were +15 in rebounds, and won by 25 points.

In game 2, the Lakers were -11 in rebounds and needed an overtime (not to mention luck) to squeak by in overtime.

What kept the Lakers alive was their defense. In game 1, the Magic had 8 turnovers. In game 2, the Magic had 9 turnovers by the end of the first quarter and 20 by the end of the game.

In a nutshell, while the Lakers were -11 in rebounds in game 2, the Magic turned it over 12 more times than they did in game 1, which pretty much negated the Magic’s rebound advantage.

(5) Stan Van Gundy had his moments, both great and questionable

At the end of game 1, Stan Van Gundy said, “I think that we’ve got to look at playing a little bit bigger.”

During the 1st quarter, Van Gundy played J.J. Redick at the point, and played his 2 centers at the same time: Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard.

When Doris Burke asked Van Gundy about the double center lineup in his interview between the 1st and 2nd quarters, Van Gundy confessed that they had planned to do that, but were forced into it earlier than they wanted to due to foul trouble.

With the Magic’s point guards playing so poorly, every Lakers’ fan should be glad Van Gundy forgot to use this combination again, particularly during the overtime. This double center combination, with Hedo Turkoglu handling the ball on offense and guarding Kobe on defense, could really mess with the Lakers, particularly if the Magic uses it when Bynum is on the bench.

Gortat is a capable enough center to start on most NBA teams (in fact, the Lakers should trade Bynum and pick up Gortat as a free agent next year), and with Dwight Howard at power forward the Magic could establish a power game inside for spurts that the Lakers couldn’t do much about.

(6) The Lakers still need to learn to play right for all 48 minutes

The Lakers opened up the game with 2 bad (and long) jump shots. The Magic opened with layups.

Then, to start the 3rd quarter, the Magic took it inside to erase the Laker lead with layups and free throws, while the Lakers began the 3rd quarter with long jumpers again.

And defensively, the Lakers were lax in the 3rd quarter as well, giving up 30 points that quarter after holding the Magic to 35 points total for the 2 previous quarters.

The Lakers keep backsliding into thinking they are good enough to beat teams despite their bad habits, rather than ridding themselves of the bad habits.

The Lakers repented though, and held the Magic to 23 points in the 4th quarter, forcing an overtime.

(7) Hedo Turkoglu defended Kobe Bryant well.

Unlike Shane Battier’s face guarding, and Carmelo Anthony’s physical wearing down of Kobe, Turkoglu likes to bump Kobe as he gathers for his shot then Hedo backs off hard and uses his length to challenge Kobe’s off-balance shot. The refs were letting Hedo bump Bryant, and it was working as well as anything else has to slow down Bryant.

(8) In overtime, both the Lakers and the Magic played as they did in game 1

In overtime, the Lakers took their game inside: 9 of the Lakers 13 points in overtime were free throws. Of the remaining 4 points, 2 were by a layup, and 2 were from a Kobe Bryant jumper.

By contrast, the Orlando Magic only attempted 1 shot in the paint, and missed 4 of their 5 outside shots.

As Rashard Lewis said at the end of game 1, you can’t win that way.

(9) The Lakers quit trying to score inside

In game 1, 39% of all the Lakers shots were layups.

In game 2, 19% of all the Lakers shots were layups.

(10) Orlando’s offense didn’t adjust as much as you’d think

In game 1, 26% of all Orlando’s shots were layups.

In game 2, 29% of all Orlando’s shots were layups.

EDIT:

(11) The Lakers struggle to score when they don’t move the ball, and when they don’t rebound.

The Magic have already shown what they can do to a team that gets most of its points from just 1 person. The Orlando Magic have the best defense in basketball right now, so the Lakers need to move thedefense by moving the ball. And as for rebounds…

The Lakers were +15 in rebounds in game 1, and -11 in rebounds in game 2. That is a 26 rebound swing!

The Lakers need rebounds to help them score.

On the offensive glass, rebounds allow them to get the ball into an inside scoring position without having to run an offense to get the ball there. This allows the Lakers easier, high percentage baskets, and often sends them to the free throw line for additoinal free points.

On the defensive glass, rebounds allow the Lakers to run out for easier, high percentage, early offense baskets. After a score, the Magic run down and get their defense set before the Lakers can bring the ball down, but after a missed basket, the Lakers can get the ball down more quickly and attack whatever partially set defense awaits them.

Also, rebounds (both offenive and defensive) limits the Magic’s shot attempts, and increases the Lakers’ shot attempts. I’m glad the Lakers are playing more consistent defense now, but the Lakers still need to really make rebounding a priority again.

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