Lakers 101, Magic 96: Chills, spills, and thrills!
Great line from Shannon Brown. Asked if he was holding his breath as rookie Courtney Lee missed a wide open, potentially game winning layup, which led to OT and an eventual Laker win, Brown shook his head and smiled.
"I wanted to live."
Thanks to the play of a few players (including one praised in the video below), the Lakers are not only living, but doing so in large fashion as they head to Orlando.
The breakdown is below.
- Veterans. The word "experience" gets tossed around a lot in June. Tonight, we got a feel for why. LA's veteran core was easily the biggest factor in the win, and once again showed that the Lakers are far more than a one-man show. Kobe Bryant was good but not great, at least by his MVP standards, particularly when it came to taking care of the ball. Seven TOs isn't exactly typical. "I didn't read coverages as well as I did (in Game 1) and we still managed to win the game. It's on me to make those adjustments, (to) make those reads," Bryant said. Granted, it wasn't all locusts and plague for 24. 29 points on 10-22 from the floor, juiced by 8-10 from the line. The giveaways were mitigated by eight dimes, including a killer dish to Pau Gasol late in the OT, setting the big Spaniard up for a critical three point play. The Magic made it clear they weren't going to abide by a constant stream of mid-range jumpers coming off the screen, as was the case Thursday night. They jammed Kobe hard, denied the ball, and generally tried to make his life tough. As the game went on the Lakers more successfully created space for Kobe, moving him off the ball and letting him receive the ball on the move from the weak side, but on this night he clearly needed the rest of the gang, and the rest of the gang obliged. Specifically:
- Lamar Odom: The naked-eye test had him as the best player on the court for the Lakers. 19 points on 8-9 from the floor, eight boards, three blocks. Countless contests on the defensive end. In his postgame press conference, LO was critical of himself for losing Rashard Lewis as much as he did (Lewis had 20 of Orlando's 35 points at the half), but a) he wasn't the only guy on him, and b) in the second half, things got better in that regard. As we mentioned in the video, Odom was active inside and out, and was one of the only guys to make hay in Orlando's paint. But while the points were big, to me the play that sums up his night came at the end of the fourth. With ten seconds to go, Courtney Lee used a Dwight Howard pick to shed Kobe, then stepped into the lane in front of Gasol and seemed to have a clean path to the bucket. Odom streaked over from the weak side, changed the shot, then hauled down the rebound in one swift motion. Huge. I'd point out, too, that he led the team with a +10, but given that he's done this all year, should it be a surprise?
- Gasol: Early on, I thought Pau was timid offensively, too respectful of the DPOY manning the lane for the Magic. 1-5 in the first quarter, and from there Pau wasn't a exactly a dominant force. But as is often the case with Gasol, by the time it was over, he had filled up the box score. 24 points on 7-14 from the floor, and he hit five clutch free throws in OT (on the night, Gasol was 10-11 from the stripe), this along with 10 rebounds. With Andrew Bynum saddled most of the night with foul trouble, Gasol's work defensively was critical. Pau stood his ground against Howard inside, helping hold him to only five field goals against seven turnovers (more on that to come). "I know he's tougher-- he's done weight raining, put his work in towards having more of a physical nature to his game," Phil Jackson said. "But I've always been impressed with his ability to find angles and play guys in a way in which the ball is not there for them. It's not as easy as it might appear."
- Derek Fisher: 12 points, including a big driving layup (not something we type all that often in reference to a Fisher voyage into the paint) with just under six to play in the fourth, but his biggest moment came in the OT, when he stepped in front of a JJ Redick pass to Howard on the pick and roll for the steal, then went the other way to pick up a foul and two freebies that put LA up by three.
- Post Defense: Howard was limited to five field goals, and more importantly was forced into seven turnovers. The Lakers were again smart with their double teams, waiting for Howard to put the ball on the floor before bringing help. In fairness, Howard didn't get much help from his shooters. The Magic hit only 33% of their triples, and outside of Rashard Lewis were a combined 4-18 from beyond the arc. Without people pitching in on the perimeter, there wasn't much keeping LA from working over Howard in the post. That was true in Game 1 as well. Regardless, through two games Superman is a very pedestrian 6-16, and hasn't been a force offensively in any way, shape, or form. For that, credit a strong defensive scheme from the Lakers.
- Free Throws: Remember when those were a problem? Quietly, the Lakers have turned that around. 24-28 (85.7%) tonight, following a 15-18 showing in Game 1. Game 6 against the Nuggets returned a hard to improve upon 25-25 (NOTE: Corrected after first giving the wrong figure), and Game 5 a perfectly tolerable 74.3%. Add in another night of very manageable turnovers (12, giving the Lakers 20 through two games against one of the league's top defensive teams) and it's an indication that they're not simply rolling out and making big plays, but taking care of the little stuff, too.
- Bench Play: Take away Odom, and 19 of LA's 23 bench points disappear. Remove his eight boards, and you're left with four. Without LO's two dimes... the bench gets a bagel. You see where I'm going with this, right? Luke Walton was a non-factor after a strong Game 1, Sasha Vujacic missed his only shot (an ill-advised corner three with a hand in his face), and while Jordan Farmar hit a couple shots, there were a few hiccups in his 6:09 of burn. Collectively, the starters (I'll throw Odom in here, since he played almost 46 minutes) dominated the playing time, in part because the Lakers were obviously locked in a tight game, but also because Jackson wasn't getting much from the reserves.
- Rebounding: The Magic generated 10 points on second chances, fueled by 10 offensive boards (it could have been worse, too). Frankly, it could have been worse. Overall, the Lakers were dominated on the glass, 44-35, registering a defensive rebound rate (67%) well below their already-low-for-a-playoff-team mark of 73%. The Lakers were even worse on the other end. Normally a good offensive rebounding team, the Lakers managed to grab only four of their 42 misses, good for 9.5%. This compared to a 28% mark heading into Game 2. For that, thank Howard, who hauled down 16 rebounds. This is yet another reason for the Lakers to more effectively try to attack Howard and force him into foul trouble. Tonight, unencumbered by the weight of personals, he was free to get his Windex on with impunity.
- Bynum: In Game 1, Bynum wrestled with foul trouble of his own, but managed to contribute greatly in those minutes he played. Tonight? Not so much. His 16:24 produced five points, five fouls, and only one rebound. Heading back to Orlando, the Lakers will need to see more from Bynum. I mean that literally (dude, stay on the floor) and figuratively (produce a little more when you're there).
Things That Are Illegal:
As mentioned earlier, the bench wasn't terribly prolific this evening, which meant 41 minutes of burn for Derek Fisher. If that's what it takes to win a championship (or sound cool to his grand kids), it's all good to Fish.
BK praised the play of Kobe and Pau. Fish takes his turn, specifically complimenting their communication.
Shannon Brown, on surviving OT.