Monday, June 8, 2009

VSR: Halfway to a Parade (Game 2 recap)

At this point, everyone’s already thinking about Game 3 tomorrow so I’ll change it up and do the recap, quick hit style. Lakers Nation has a lot to be happy about and the Orlando crowd has plenty of reason to hopeful (and yes, I'm plotting All-Star Weekend in 2011!!)

1) No matter how you slice it, Courtney Lee’s shot was a tough play to make. Yes, he should’ve made a point blank lay-up but that was no point-blank shot. You go full speed ahead and try to come back to the hoop with a 7-foot Pau Gasol trying to distract you. I honestly think the first shot he missed when he had Gasol on the floor was much easier (the one Odom helped distract)

My heart sank when Turkoglu made that pass. Brilliantly designed and set up but just not executed. I welcomed Lee to the Nick Anderson club last night but in theory, missing a difficult lay-up isn’t exactly missing four consecutive FT’s.

2) The key to the game was Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom stepping up. Odom carried the team early in the 4th quarter and Gasol stayed ready when Fisher and Kobe dropped easy dimes to him for critical three-point plays in the 4th and overtime. Gasol also played excellent defense on Rashard Lewis in the 1st and he’s not backing down from Dwight Howard.

Nobody took more heat last year against Boston than those two. Nobody had more to lose this year than them. And since Andrew Bynum went out with that knee injury, Odom has become better on the glass and has been the X-factor in these last two series. Pau has quietly become the most effective big man of this postseason over that time and it’s not just his numbers, it’s how he’s asserting his presence in the Finals. Love how Fox Sports’ Mark Kreigel put it – the better basketball player is beating the better athlete.

3)Despite Stan Van Gundy outcoaching Phil Jackson last night, there are some major questions they need to answer. Why isn’t Rafer Alston playing more – did you really have JJ Redick in there at the point in the 4th??? Where is Orlando’s bench – Pietrus is getting blown up by Kobe, Anthony Johnson is MIA. These are the adjustments SVG has to make now that Turkoglu and Lewis have their shot.

4)Dwight Howard, meet LeBron James circa 2007 NBA Finals. Two young superstars drafted #1 out of high school with incredible gifts (LeBron = great vision/strength/speed /bball , Dwight = leaper/rebounder/best young big since Shaq) but got exposed against better teams in the last round of the playoffs.

LeBron got exposed for having no mid-range/post game. And now Howard is in the middle of kryptonite courtesy of double-teams. His limited offensive game (nothing besides hooks and decent spin moves) is showing and he knows what he has to do for next year. Til then, might wanna mix in some more FG's over the next few days.

But it happens to everyone. Every great player has that moment of clarity when they know what they have isn’t enough and they need more.

5) We’re seeing a Lakers team that has grown up over the last two series. This was a team that couldn’t bump back when pushed on the road. This was a team Houston pushed to the very last drop. Now they know how to fight back, how to play smarter, how to dig in.

Game 2 was a great one that both teams had to have and the Lakers earned it. Despite SVG’s weird lineup in the 4th (still scratching my head about JJ Redick as the technical PG despite Turkoglu running things), he had both of his main guns catch fire. Lewis hit some wide open shots but that’s all he needs to get into a rhythm. And yes Kobe did way too much to be a facilitator (7 TO’s with his 8 dimes) but his guys eventually delivered.

Bad game turned good? That's the story.

It was an off-night for the Mamba but I see the team’s will has consumed everyone. They know they are halfway to a title and they aren’t satisfied until they get to the top of the mountain. They know Orlando is going to fight for their lives tomorrow. Let’s see how this collective fire handles the weather of Orlando where the Magic are sure to make it rain.

"LeBron, are you still playing that game? Didn't you watch that classic last night? Oh that's right, you prolly didn't. Look here, I'm gonna need you to tidy up the place while I'm gone. Maybe I'll bring back a souvenir --- for my ring case to go along with my three championship rings."

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