The Disney Derby: Analyzing Game 1 of the 2009 NBA Finals

It’s Disney World verses Disney Land…


Orlando is 35-7 when they lead their opponents in rebounding.

Orlando is 42-4 when they score more than 100 points.

What is more, during their regular season match ups the Magic averaged 107.5 points per game and shot 46.5 percent against the Lakers.

Clearly, this isn’t the regular season.


Phil Jackson had his Lakers far more prepared for the Orlando Magic than Stan Van Gundy had his Magic prepared for the Lakers.

The Lakers out rebounded the Magic 64 to 49.

And astonishingly, the Lakers held Orlando to exactly 75 points in game one. From 107.5 points per game, to 75?! That’s a 32.5 point difference!


Orlando’s all star center, Dwight Howard had this explanation, “We’ve never had a shooting night this bad. We’ve just got to come out and play a lot harder than we did tonight.”

Uh, okay.

If one person shot poorly, he could have bad night. However, if an entire team shoots poorly, the odds are against the possibility that 8 to 14 different professional basketball players all had a random off night shooting on precisely the same night… there is a REASON why 8 guys from the same team shoot poorly, and usually that reason is the defense of the opposing team.


Also, people have WRONGLY attributed the Magic’s poor showing to jitters. That makes no sense. The Magic started off very strong and led after the first quarter 24 to 22. In fact, the Magic played as if they truly believed they could come steal game 1 the way they did at Cleveland in their previous series. It was the play of the Lakers as they began to assert their will that undid the Magic.

Jitters had nothing to do with Orlando’s poor performance and Rashard Lewis said so after the game, “There was no stage fright at all. Look, they scored 56 points in the paint, that’s more than half. You can’t win ballgames like that.”



The Magic had 22 points in the paint, but only 4 of those points came in the second half. Another 4 points in the paint came in the second quarter, leaving 16 of the points in the paint coming in the 1st quarter. The Magic were forced (or should I say “lured”) into shooting outside by the Lakers’ defense. Want more proof? In the first quarter, the Magic had attempted only 2 three-pointers, then went the rest of the game averaging 7 three-pointers per quarter.

The Lakers baited the Magic into the 3-ball, then contested it to make it a low percentage shot. Nevertheless, while everyone is talking about how poorly the Magic shot from the arc (35%), still the Magic actually shot the 3-ball better than the Lakers (33%).


The difference is Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, seemed to know while the game was in progress what was working and what wasn’t, and directed his team toward its strengths. The Lakers only attempted 9 three pointers, while scoring 56 points in the paint.

Phil Jackson’s game plan was excellent, and excellently executed.


Jeff Van Gundy, by contrast, seem to have no idea why his Magic were being beaten so badly. His sound bites contained no counsel about shot selection, scoring in the paint, etc. Instead, he kept exhorting his team to keep trying and not give up. Sorry, Van Gundy, but motivational guru Tony Robbins could have told them that, and told them much better than you did. They needed a coach, but Van Gundy was just as shell shocked as his players and had nothing.


Defensive player of the year, Dwight Howard, is supposed to be a deterrent for players who want to score inside, but the Lakers clearly made their living, and frankly a mockery of Dwight Howard and what was the highest rated defense during the regular season.

And offensively, the Magic shot 5 of 19 on layups, 16 of 54 on jumpers, and were 2 of 3 on dunks.


Rashard Lewis was 2 of 4 from the arc, however he was 0 of 2 on layups, 2 of 8 on jump shots, and 2 of 10 overall.

Hedo Turkoglu shot 3 of 11 and 1 of 3 from the arc (and had 4 of the Magic’s 8 turnovers).

Rafer Alston shot 1 of 7 on jumpers (including 0 of 4 from the arc) and was 1 of 2 on layups.

Jameer Nelson was 3 of 9 on jumpers and attempted 0 layups.


But very telling are the stats for Dwight Howard‘s shooting: he had 12 points and 10 of them were from the free throw line! Howard was 0 of 4 inside and 1 of 2 shooting jumpers.


A quick word about the three NBA officials in game 1. Here we have the Magic trying to win by hucking up 3s under pressure, and yet for all their outside shots the Magic enjoyed a whopping 18 to 29 free throw advantage. With a disparity like that favoring a jump shooting team, you would have thought the Magic was the home team. Kobe Bryant in particular, but Gasol as well, were being hacked like a victim in a cheesy horror movie and the refs would flat not give him the calls. They appeared to be reacting to the backlash of favorable treatment LeBron seemed to get against the Magic last series.


So far in the playoffs, when the Magic have been on the road they have averaged 46% shooting on the opposition’s home floor, and 39.1% from the arc. And in the playoffs, the Magic average 47.5% shooting when they win, 43% when they lose.

Against the Lakers in game 1 of the NBA Finals though, the Magic shot 29.9%.

The Magic shot poorly because their shot selection was poor, and their shot selection was poor because the Lakers defense encouraged it, and the Magic coaching staff were oblivious.


For game 2, the Orlando Magic may well be considering the following adjustments.

o Courtney Lee may be replaced in the starting line up. Why not? He didn’t really contribute much offensively (3 of 10 for 7 points), and Kobe used him like a rental car, particularly in the paint.

o Probe the Lakers’ interior defense with more dribble penetration. The Lakers have demonstrated difficulty stopping quick guards in the recent past, and if Alston and Nelson can drive, they will either get inside shot attempts, draw fouls on Lakers defenders, or bring help defenders freeing up Dwight Howard (or a cutting Turkoglu or Lewis) to score on lobs and shuffle passes.

o Tweak their pick and role to free up (or set up mismatches) for perimeter shots. This will spread the floor, stretch the Lakers defense and send Orlando into their game.

o Get more physical with their defense as the Denver Thuggets did.

o The Magic had only 3 shots in the paint in the defining 3rd quarter. What is more, Stan Van Gundy clearly did not know how his team was being beat, consequently he made no in-game adjustments. Next game, they may well have an assistant coach hotly monitoring the shot chart.

o And perhaps Pietrus ought to go back to wearing Kobe’s shoes. It couldn’t hurt.

As for the Lakers…


o Playing basketball is a lot like shaving: no matter how good of a job you did today, you’ve got to go out and do it all again tomorrow. The Lakers first and foremost cannot allow themselves to relax or be complacent; the Magic isn’t just going to roll over and play dead for the Lakers, all 12 Lakers, and their coaching staff, needs to bring that effort all over again in game 2.

o Kobe had LeBron-like numbers: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, however the Lakers succeeded where LeBron couldn’t because the Lakers as a team held the Magic to just 75 points, something the Cavs, or anyone else for that matter, couldn’t ever do. If the Lakers expect to hold home court Sunday, they will need to repeat their defensive effort, tweaking the game plan to counter Orlando’s adjustments.


o As goes Lamar Odom, so go the Los Angeles Lakers. Odom’s size, speed and agility make him a formidible perimeter defender against 6’10” Turkoglu and 6’10” Lewis, yet Odom’s size and strength make him a great post defender when Bynum is out, particular when Odom is working on fronting Howard to deny the entry pass. What is more, Odom is a hungry and skilled rebounder. The Lakers have no other player who can do what Lamar Odom does as well as Lamar can do it. Odom has to show up big for every game.


o The Lakers were +15 in rebounds in game 1. That means the Lakers had roughly 15 more shot attempts than they otherwise would have, and denied the Magic roughly 15 attempts to score. Also, the Magic have a system which scores on the “early offense” before the Lakers can fully set up its defense of long players to bother the Magic. Controlling the boards prevents the Magic from taking advantage of that early offense.


o During the playoffs, the Orlando Magic averages 100.5 points per game when it wins, and 92.5 points per game when it loses. The Lakers need to know then, that they can only give up about 23 points per quarter to be reasonably sure they’ll win, and knowing that, play consistent defense all game long.


o For once officiating was not an issue, other than the no calls on Kobe and Pau, but you wouldn’t know it watching Andrew Bynum. He lifts his hands in protest every time he makes a mistake, regardless whether officiating played a role. It was GREAT to see Andrew Bynum play hard, and I’m sure the Lakers were glad Bynum gave a good effort from the get go, but in addition to the effort, Bynum needs to toughen up mentally as well.


o The 4th quarter was the Lakers’ worst quarter offensively speaking, which isn’t good news, and which explains why the Lakers had 4 starters on the floor during “garbage time” in the 4th quarter (Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Fisher and then Luke Walton from the bench). It appears Phil didn’t want to give the Magic confidence for future games by letting them think the Lakers would give up big leads and let them back in games. Good move.


o It would be nice to see Shannon Brown, Trevor Ariza and to a lesser degree Jordan Farmar expand their roles as spot up shooters and use their speed and athleticism to drive deep into the paint when they are run off the arc to see if they can draw fouls on Dwight Howard as he steps in to help. They could also drive and dish to another player and create problems. However, that may mess up something else Jackson has going, I don’t know.

At any rate, by dominating the Magic as they did in game 1, the Lakers are in the driver’s seat for 3 reasons.


(1) The Lakers have taken pressure off of themselves and put it on the Orlando Magic to prove they even belong in this series.


(2) The Lakers have forced the Magic to adjust their game plan, adjustments which the Lakers can anticipate and counter.


(3) The Lakers have proved to THEMSELVES that they have the coaching staff and personnel to take care of business, provided both groups give their full effort.


Yes, the Orlando Magic are a resilient team and have bounced back before in the playoffs, but teams, like basketballs, have a hard time bouncing when they are flat. The Lakers defense, rebounding, and offensive agressiveness might just flatten the Magic again.

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