Game 2: The Pivotal Game

Gatinho —  June 6, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers

“It is the second game and not the first that dictates the tempo and the mood of the series.”

-Brent Musburger before Game 2 after the “Memorial Day Massacre”.

A brief history of the Lakers, The Finals, and Game 2.

1984: Gerald Henderson steals the ball. Celtics win in 7.

1985: Kareem has 30 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks after being called out in the media by Pat Riley. Lakers win in 6.

1987: Celtics switch Ainge onto to Magic. Cooper makes 6 of 7 threes. Lakers in 6.

1991: Jordan goes 15-18 from the floor and has 13 assists. Bulls win the series in 5.

2000: Shaq scores 40 points with 24 rebounds. Kobe sprains an ankle, but Ron Harper has 21 points. Lakers win in 6.

2001: Shaq has 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, and 8 blocks. Lakers in 5.

2002: Shaq has 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Lakers win 106-83. Sweep.

2008: Lakers come back from being down by 24 with 8 minutes left to play…but lose. If they win that game, you’re at least looking at a shot at a 7th game.

Gatinho

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33 responses to Game 2: The Pivotal Game

  1. I finally re-watched the video of last year’s comeback, via Gatinho’s link. Those were some painful memories. I thought the officiating was pretty one-sided back then, but looking back – I saw some miscalls in the Lakers favour too – Radmanovic’s travel comes to mind; then there’s a few ticky-tack fouls that sent Kobe to the line, etc.

  2. Forgot 2004. Though I guess it was left out cause it doesn’t fit the pattern. Kobe nails game tying shot, and Luke is the X-factor in overtime en route to a Lakers win to tie the series up.

  3. I looked at 11 Finals appearances from 1980 (which also doesn’t fit the pattern as a ‘mood, tempo setting game), and 8 out of the 11 they were pretty important games. 1983 they were manhandled in 4 by Moses and Dr. J.

  4. I am curious to see what kind of split SVG gives to the PGs. If Nelson gets the majority of the minutes, and remains rusty (understandably), I bet Alston checks out of the series and one of their advantages is lost.

    I want to see Bynum be aggressive on the offensive end again, as it seems to be key for him being more active defensively.

    Also curious to see the number of shots and, more importantly, the shot efficiency of KB24. That will be a key factor, along with Odom’s involvement on the boards.

  5. What most of us are hoping is that Andrew now ‘gets it’ that his job is primarily defensive and stays tough against Howard. If he does, his offense will come with time.

    I agree that his attitude offense has determined his mindset in the past, but his recent comments and actions indicate that he realizes what he means to this team defensively.

  6. I somehow forgot that Ron Harper finished out his very good career with us. Hey, my memory sucks. He had some very good years with Cleveland before he went to Chicago. He was a very good, professional player. And let’s not forget that we didn’t win another championship until A.C. Green came back. He did the same thing Derek Fisher did when he came back, he taught us how to win again. I don’t care about their stats. Some things don’t show up in a box sheet. There is an unquantifiable advantage to having a veteran winner on your team who isn’t the superstar. I’ve seen the results too many times to think I’m wrong.

  7. Correction – in 1991 we lost in 5 (not 6). That year just getting to the Finals was an accomplishment (see Magic’s 60 foot high toss to complete the WCF over Portland).

    Game 2 is another chanced to assert ourselves as the better team.

  8. A game two victory here for the Lakers puts enormous pressure on the Magic. They have to win four of five.

    A victory for the Magic gives them a huge leg up. It gives them confidence. It allows them to take only two out of three at home and still be up.

    Yeah, game two is huge. Lakers need to show up to play and Kobe needs to exploit the mismatches, not try and force things.

  9. It seems to have been stated on a few forums besides this one, that Bynum’s defense has elevated the team’s defense. I suppose a change in mindset may have something to do with it but I lean more towards his fitness. He is more explosive then we saw in his early return phase and certainly less tentative then in his appearances in the first few rounds. I was hoping that the few on and off performances against Houston were the sputtering of an engine as it was igniting and his solid contributions in the first games against Denver were the heating up of the engine. Clearly the Lakers’ defense became elite again as Bynum has been able to contribute consistently and as we have been saying all year, the Lakers will only go so far as their defense takes them. 3 more wins baby!!!

  10. It sure seems to me that Andrew Bynum`s plan is to get on the court and foul anyone in the hope that he can take a seat on the bench. This guy is disappointing me every time I see him on the court. If the lakers win the championship Bynum will have very little to do with it.

  11. this game 2 is our chance to take their heart out.
    period.

    right now there have to be lingering doubts…are they ready for the finals against this Lakers team? are they outclassed? do they need to lose a finals like the Lakers did last year to learn how to win one?

    if we stay as focused and determined as we were in game 1, and beat them soundly, the series is …
    O V E R .
    no way do they sweep us at home, and all we need is one W on the road to finish it out at home in game 6.
    O V E R .
    whereas, come out in game 2 relaxed, no intensity, and let the Magic get a W, and take home court back away from us, well, friends, NOW we got a series on our hands.
    They’ll BELIEVE that game 1 was a fluke, that they just weren’t as ready as the Lakers, (for game 1) but they’ll believe that they can BEAT us, and we all know how important confidence, and belief can be.

    so, Gathino is right, game 2 is THE pivotal game in the series, Win, and it’s over, Lose, and it’ll probably go 7, and it could be anybody’s series to win.
    what do we want to do?
    finish it early, take the drama out of it, end it quick?
    or make it a dramatic 7 game series, (which we expect to win anyway)???
    which is it?

  12. Carlos, what game were you watching? Bynum’s job is to not give any easy baskets and dunks to Howard, and that means fouling sometimes. Howard is very good at drawing fouls, and Bynum did a good job using his to effect. Howard is a poor free throw shooter, fouling him is often the smart play. Bynum also turned away another several shots, at least altering them. After the game Jackson said he was happy with Bynum’s performance.

    I think Bynum played a good game, and if he keeps playing like that the Lakers will win the title and he will be a big part of it.

  13. I always believed that game 3 is psychologically important. a team down 2-0 can get back into the series. a team up 2-0 can put the series out of reach. and a series tied 1-1 gives an advantage to the winner of game three.

  14. Bynum was a big, big defensive help in game one, no doubt in my mind.

    The Lakers looked like Championship caliber defenders with him out there.

  15. Game 2 will be a much closer contest now that both teams have gotten the first game jitters out of their systems. The Lakers will be more efficient and balanced on offense. Gasol, Ariza, Farmar and Brown will all play better than what they showed in Game 1. It was the veterans, Kobe, Fish, LO and Luke who carried them to their lopsided victory on Thursday.

    But the team defense was superb from start to finish. If we come out with that same mindset and intensity, Orlando doesn’t stand a chance. The Magic will shoot better in Game 2, but they’ll still find themselves down 2-0 heading back home to the Magic Kingdom.

  16. Carlos,
    I realize your frustration with Andrew – he is just so talented we want him to be in Dwight Howard’s class right now.

    However, I wonder if you have been listening to the Laker coaches or reading this blog? If you have, then you should know that we don’t want him to try to score first and to avoid fouls at all costs – we want him to strongly defend the paint and make things difficult for Howard, even when this results in picking up fouls. Heck, we got 20+ minutes out of him. He tired out Howard so Howard was less effective against Pau and Pau also had 20+ minutes where he didn’t have to guard Howard. I would call that a success.

  17. Those series listed were all so different that I’m reluctant to put too much weight into the past results.

    The one I recall the most was Game 2 in 2001 — I was at that game and as Chick would say “It was nervous time” after the Lakers dropped Game 1 to Philadelphia, and the Sixers hung around until the end of Game 2. But once L.A. won that, the world was no longer on its ear and the Lakers cruised in five.

    Bottom line: win Game 2 Sunday, and Orlando has to win four of five against a Lakers team that hasn’t lost three in a row since Pau joined the squad. That reason alone makes Sunday’s game extremely important. And Kobe knows it.

  18. One of the stats the TNT guys used this year was that, historically , teams that have been up 2 to 0 in the NBA playoffs have won over 94 percent of the series. A game two victory wouldn’t win the championship but man a 94 percent chance of success is nothing to sneeze at. So let’s hope Drew and Pau keep up the hard work on Howard and that Ariza keeps his chin up while running those shooters off their sweet spots.

  19. nomuskles, I beg to differ with you about the importance of game three over game 2.
    I think we have to treat game 2 like it’s a game 7, treat it as a “must win”. if we can gut out a W in game 2, we can go to Orlando with a “get 1 out of 3 mindset”.
    now, Orlando’s game 3 is their “game 7, must win” game, and we should of course go for a W, but at the very least, make them “earn a W”, push them as hard as possible, but we kind of know, they’ll get that game 3.
    we have 2 chances on games 4 or 5 to get a W, and we’ve done our job.
    Now, we come home, up 3 games to 2, with 2 games at home, needing only one W for the ring.

    and if we don’t win game 2, (then read above, my thoughts…)

  20. but of course, no muskles, when we get to game 3, I’m sure I’ll make a case that game 3 is THE most important game, (probably echoing what you just said…;))

  21. Bynum is now at 75% it looks like. My orthopedic doctor friend told me when the injury first occurred that Bynum would be back before the playoffs but he wouldn’t be 100% till one month into the off-season. But that he would make a full recovery for next year. So it is no surprise that he hasn’t been as explosive or as athletic in the playoffs. The one worry I was told is that he could injure a lower extremity while compensating playing with the bum weak knee. So lets hope we don’t find out in the off-season that he needs another operation or that he hurt something else. Because next year with a healthy Bynum taking his game to the next level and the likelihood the Lakers upgrade at the PG spot with Shannon Brown or a free agent signing… this Los Angeles team will look 70 win worthy.

  22. I’d argue that Game 1 is always the most important in any series but I see your point.

    In terms of Bynum, people need to cut the kid some slack. He’s coming back from a serious injury and being asked to check the best big man in the game. All things considered, I thought he played an excellent Game 1.

  23. (Repost from end of last thread.)

    Adjustments. I think ORL actually played Kobe okay tactically to give him that midrange jumper — he was just laser-like in the 2nd and 3rd, and could easily shoot a lower percentage. The problem is strategic… they really need to double Kobe and give Fish and Ariza the open 3s. Even if this leads to the same number of points, this will give them *higher-quality misses*… it will lead to some long rebounds with guards running out past the shooter, leading to running game and transition 3s. If Kobe takes the midrange jumpers with our bigs diving, or if he passes out to the Gasol high post-low post passing game, these lead to misses rebounding near the basket which we can contest, leading to few fast break points.

    I really think that if the Lakers continue to shut off the Magic transition game, then the Magic will have a very hard time winning. They cannot beat the Lakers in a series using solely the half-court game… they would have to hope for monster penetration from the guards or terrible foul trouble for our bigs leading to Dwight going off.

  24. hahaha. yes, to be clear, i wasn’t saying, “don’t worry about game 2.” just that game 3 is sort of the point at which you can feel a shift in momentum or the door slams shut. i do want to echo your philosophy, though. the most important game is always the next game and the most important quarter is always the next quarter.

  25. all games in the playoffs are must-wins, but some are more must-wins than others, and some are more must-wins for one team than the other.

    game 1 was a must-win for the Lakers, b/c to blow HCA right off the bat puts enormous pressure on them for game 2. If Magic had won game 1, game 2 would be a “freebie”: if they get game 2 also then they’re golden; if not, they will have gotten the split they wanted.

    game 2 is a must-win for both teams. A 2-0 lead is a very commanding lead in the 2-3-2 format, esp given how the Lakers haven’t lost 3 consecutive games in the Gasol era. A split and we have a series on our hands.

    game 3 is a must win for the Magic, more so than for the Lakers. If Magic are down 0-2, obviously they must have game 3 or it’s all over but the crying. If the series is even at 1-1, game 3 is still more of a must-win for the Magic for the same reason game 1 is more a must-win for the Lakers: giving back HCA right off the bat will be disastrous as it will put huge pressure on the Magic to win their next two home games, while the Lakers essentially get 2 free shots to drive the nail in the coffin.

    and so on. I don’t think you can say at the start which is the most crucial game. Much depends on where the series stands and which teams are playing. Generally speaking, though, you don’t want to lose the first game to a) a PJ-coached team; b) the Lakers; and especially c) a PJ-coached Lakers team.

    (egads, I hope I didn’t go and jinx them.)

  26. Thanks, Gr8scott. It was a virtual sweep after injuries to Worthy and Scott.

  27. Apricot. I agree. Myself and others said before the series started that preventing Orlando from getting easy transition points (3′s, dep position by Howard, or offensive put backs by Howard after a missed transition shot) would be a key to the series.

  28. I love all the Gatinho posts… Great stuff again

  29. Too kind, Pato.

  30. The Dude Abides June 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    1991–Scott was healthy and on fire throughout the Western Conference playoffs, but the Bulls identified this before the series and had Paxson face-guard Byron throughout the series, never having him help on Magic or Perkins in the post and thus not leaving Byron open to hit threes. Worthy sprained an ankle against Portland in the WCF and was ineffective in the Finals.

    In fact, poor health played a huge role in some of the playoff series losses of the Magic era.

    In 1983, Nixon played poorly after breaking his finger in the West playoffs, Worthy was out for the season with a broken leg, and McAdoo was also out of the Finals. Tough to win without two Hall of Famers and one All-Star.

    In 1984, ummm….1984 never happened. Same as 1986. But we all remember that the Lakers went 11-0 in the West playoffs in 1989, then they had 10 or 12 days off after the WCF. So Riley took the team to Hawaii for two-a-day practices against the wishes of the players, who were getting older and needed rest, and Byron and Magic tore their hamstrings, probably as a direct result of fatigue (Byron before Game 1, Magic during Game 1). It took Byron almost one full year to recover from his injury and regain his stroke, and the rest of the team never forgave Riley for 1989 and basically told Buss and West that he had to go.

  31. I don’t know if anyone stated the obvious. But Game 2 is pivotal for the Lakers because a loss gives the Magic a chance to sweep their way at home to a championship.

    If the Lakers win tomorrow, I don’t see how they let this one slip away.