Lakers/Magic Game Three Preview

Kurt —  June 9, 2009

Even though yesterday was a travel day, everyone was still talking about strategy and changes. (I was on the Roto Experts radio show, which you can catch here.) I think we will certainly see some adjustments in game three from both team — really more extensions of what worked and counters by the other side than wholesale changes. But things will be different.

One key way things will be different that is not Xs and Os is I expect the Magic will play with a level of energy and desperation they have yet to reach these playoffs — this is a true must win. They know it. Their fans will be there and they know it. (By the way Orlando fans, stop whining about the non-goaltend. You can read my thoughts on the play at this link, I’m not getting into it here.)

One other thing we will see is better play from the Orlando role players, who will be in a comfort zone in Amway Arena. Rafer Alston couldn’t hit anything in Cleveland last series but was lights out in Orlando. There will be more of that from him and the bench and role guys.

A few things I think about game three:

• Post up Kobe. Post up Odom. Those are mismatches on the block, and while Howard comes over from the weakside to create issues you can pass out of that to create open chances.

• The Lakers need to continue to limit the fast break and secondary break points that Orlando loves — they averaged 10.5 points per game that way in the playoffs up to the Finals, but have just two points total in the Finals. The role players will be more comfortable running at home and will be energized by the crowd. They will push the ball more in the past, the Lakers need to slow the outlet and the man coming up court, and find those guys spotting up for threes in transition.

• The Lakers need to continue to make it tough for Dwight Howard to get the ball where he wants and get rolling, in part by throwing multiple looks at him (including some doubles). In overtime, the first three Magic possessions started with the ball going to Howard on the block, and after those three they led by one. The next eight did not, the Lakers won. Not a coincidence. The Magic are going to feed Howard, the Lakers need to make it tough without as much double-teaming as we saw in game two.

• The Lakers need to keep Kobe and Gasol at the heart of the offense without just running the Kobe/Gasol pick and roll. (And credit Petrius, who played good ball denial defense on Kobe — he allowed 27 Kobe touches on 41 possessions, the rest of the Magic allowed 49 Kobe touches on 51 possessions.) Bill Bridges has a great idea about what to run.

I especially like the high post entry to Pau at the free throw line and Kobe coming around for the handoff. This creates a screen roll action without Kobe initiating the play and opens up driving lanes for Kobe. The Lakers ran this twice in the second half. I hope to see more of it.

• When the Magic go to the “twin towers” of Howard and Gortat, Bill Bridges says clear out for Lamar Odom, out on the wing is the counter. Smart idea.

• If Orlando is going to double Kobe on pick and roll sets, Darius suggests the Lakers do what they did against Denver — start that action out very high and have Kobe step back and pull the double-team farther out, then make the pass that creates a 4 on 3 for the rest of the players.

My feeling — the Lakers are going to win at least one of the three games in Orlando, but this one game may be the toughest. Not that the Lakers can’t win it, but I expect the best game we’ve seen out of Orlando yet tonight.

to Lakers/Magic Game Three Preview

  1. This is where the Lakers need to show their experience by coming out strong and playing strong, tough defense to thwart the emotional energy the Magic will be playing with!


  2. During the Finals the Lakers have stayed close during the first quarter, something they didn’t do consistently earlier in the playoffs against Denver and Houston. If the Lakers can match Orlando’s energy through the first half they should have a good chance at stealing this game.


  3. j.d. Hastings June 9, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yeah I think most people are expecting Orlando to win this one. The Lakers are due for a a latdown, while Orlando is due for a great shooting night, especially at home for the first time this series. And you can’t expect the whistles to help any. If they can pull it out, all the better, but if the Lakers lose, hopefully it focuses them, like losses have the entire postseason.


  4. I haven’t heard a single pundit pick the Lakers tonight…hopefully, that means that KB24 and the boys continue the Magic history of futility in the Finals…


  5. Funny, I was watching Game 6 of the 1997 Finals between the Jazz and Bulls and Pippen had a play where he jarred the rim much worse and the refs made the same ruling that the flight of the ball was not affected by the touching of the rim. It is on youtube for those who care to watch a great 4th quarter.

    Also, way too much Kobe having to initiate and force offense. I agree that Gasol at the high post creates a ton of action and exploits our biggest mismatch, which is being able to create offense with our size from 15-18 feet away.


  6. tonight’s referee:
    J. Crawford D. Stafford M. Wunderlich


  7. Refs tonight:

    Joe Crawford
    Mark Wunderlich
    Derrick Stafford

    Thursday night they get Bennett Salvatore and Scott Foster (the same Scott Foster who Donaughy made all those phone calls to).

    In other words, if they’re going to win one in Orlando – it better be tonight…


  8. we need a duplication of denver game 6 mentality/effort/execution…….


  9. I like these statement games… Orlando will come out like gang-busters, so if we can sustain their initial momentum and keep the game close, we have a good chance of taking this game. Regardless, win or lose, if the Lakers can play hard and cause Orlando to think about how difficult winning 4-5 games will be, the trophy will be sitting in First Class on the flight home.

    Defensive intensity will be the key. We looked a little lax on run-outs plus the Magic had us running around aimlessly as they moved the ball around the horn. Better spacing and less immediate double teaming on Howard initially will allow Ariza, Odom and Fish to contest the perimeter threats sooner. We may have to give up a couple of defensive 3-seconds by playing in no-man’s land, but we can’t crash Howard as soon as he gets the ball. If we can wait until he makes his move, (sweeping to the left), we can still apply enough pressure to force him to cough it up.


  10. A little off topic, but I like the Philly/Toronto trade for both teams. If you didn’t see it, Jason Kopono for Reggie Evans. Philly needs a three point shooter and they get the best in the league right now (or close to it). Toronto gets some cap space that they are going to need to build around Bosh or rebuild if he bolts. And Evans can help their interior defense some.


  11. Kurt,
    Something I noticed in game 2 was the close-outs on three point shooters, especialy LO on Lewis. At one point they were showing a clip of all of Lewis’ 3s, and on atleast 3 occasions the Lakers defender (most notably Lamar) fails to get his hands extended as he’s running at him. It may be a silly question, but how much do you think it realy bothers very good shooters if the defender is comming at them with arms up, even if they have no chance of blocking the shot? On the same note, in game one our perimeter defenders were closing out much harder, many times passing the shooter. Do you think it was a point of emphasis to stay infront of the shooter in game 2 or just a sloer rotation in not getting there in time.


  12. 12. An obvious question, for smarter people to answer: is there any argument for the Lakers to simply have Lewis’ man just stay glued to him in a ball-denial kind of fashion? Would that kill us in the post with Howard?


  13. Franky,
    That is a good question. Just from playing basketball in high school, I don’t think it bothers shooters. I was always a good shooter and as long as I saw the rotation was late, it really didn’t matter what the defender did with his hands. I think it matters more where your feet are, and how fast you’re coming toward the shooter. But even that, at an NBA level, shouldn’t have much of an effect. The take-home is to not be late rotating. We must anticipate the past instead of reacting to the pass.


  14. This is a very different Game 3 than the Lakers have encountered in this season’s playoffs, but in some respects it may be easier than the others.

    While Orlando is a better team than Utah, Houston or Denver, it’s not like we’ve ever heard anyone utter a phrase similar to, “Ooh, those fans in Orlando are murder” or “It’s so tough to win a game in Amway.”

    I suspect tonight will sort of be like seeing all of the empty seats at Tropicana Field miraculously transform into brand-new Evan Longoria T-shirts just in time for the World Series last fall. There’s nothing worse than “fans” who discover a team on its way to the playoffs.

    Magic games were drawing less than 16,000 fans a night early in the season, so ABC shouldn’t try to sell us on the idea that Central Florida’s full of die-hard Magic fans. And the Johnny-come-lately bandwagon lot can be silenced if the Lakers hang tough late into the game.

    So the Lakers are not dealing with rabid Jazz fanatics sitting 3-feet away like those in Salt Lake, nor are they adjusting to the mile-high altitude in Denver, which certainly affects a player’s stamina.

    The Lakers won Game 3 in much tougher conditions against Houston and Denver, having dropped a game at Staples and needing a win to regain home court. And L.A. was a Deron Williams buzzer-beater away from taking Game 3 at Utah.

    For all of those reasons, let’s hope the Lakers don’t come in with a “2-1 is fine” approach tonight.

    Bottom line: this game is winnable, and a 3-0 lead would be a killer for Orlando’s hopes. As Kobe has said previously: “No mercy.”


  15. I’d like to see Howard prove he can consistently score one-on-one before doubling on every possession. Not to say he should never be doubled, but Odom kept leaving Lewis open to help on a guy who has more turnovers than field goals in this series. He needs to be smarter about helping on Howard.


  16. The most efficient off ball defender (considering steals) is Fish. He is the one who gets into Howard and stabs at the ball down low. Lamar is often the one who sandwiches Howard when he is close to the basket.

    Therefore, I suspect Lamar is being asked to help less and Phil is really hoping Bynum can stay on the court more minutes.

    The only problem with Fish’s help is that Alston has been money on his 3s at home this year.


  17. Coffee is For Closers June 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I’m shocked (and pleased) Dick “never too old” Bavetta didn’t get tonight’s game.

    The line is Magic -4 for tonight.

    Kurt, you forgot about Reggie Evans best skill – oh, the nut grabbing… Poor Chris Kaman.


  18. This will be the toughest game of the series, if we get this I think a sweep will probably go down.

    I think Howard will finally get going tonight, but I also expect a better Kobe, so we’ll see what happens.


  19. Coffee is For Closers June 9, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Kurt, perhaps that’s what you were referring to when you mentioned Reggie’s “interior defense”…


  20. I agree with dEDGE, if the Lakers can withstand the initial onslaught, they have a good shot at taking this game. The key will be D.

    I actually expct the Lakers to come out with a lot of energy.

    Of course, last game I expected Howard to get off, while Turk and Lewis continued to struggle. I’m a regular Bill Simmons with my prognosticating power… 🙁


  21. 17. I was totally expecting Dick Bavetta on this one. Since we have Bennett Salvatore for Game 4, it is almost certain that Bavetta will show up for Game 5. The Lakers better win Game 3, as in terms of officiating this is by far the best team they are gonna get in Orlando


  22. #17, Coffee
    LOL! My husband has referred to Reggie Evans as The Nutcracker ever since that game!

    Personally, I remain impressed at Chris Kaman’s self-restraint. I don’t know a single guy who wouldn’t draw blood after being treated like that… and I wouldn’t blame them!

    Wishlist for tonight:

    *Absolutely no nutcracking from either team.

    *Pau and Andrew humiliate Howard in the paint. Make him go another six quarters before he gets his second dunk in the series!

    *Kobe go Mamba-Nova-Assassin on anyone who covers him, with outstanding passing and steals.

    *Lamar Odom exploding in the fourth quarter again. That was beautiful.

    *At least two all-net corner threes from Fisher.

    *Return of The Machine. Please?

    *Trevor Ariza plays his career-best playoff game ever in front of the front-office that dumped him for not shooting well enough.



  23. @Coffee: thnx for resurrecting the Reggie Evans nutlust. Toronto needed more sack punching in the frontcourt.

    @Burgundy: nice point about the potential fix for Game 4. We’ll see if a crucial Foster call affects the over/under.

    In terms of strategy, Orlando has nobody to match up with Lamar or Kobe. Expect them to start grabbing and holding the way Houston and Denver did. It’s the only chance they have.


  24. I expect Ariza to get in foul trouble tonight. Orlando fans have a point when they say Ariza has been allowed to play a physical brand of defense that their wings haven’t on Kobe (but such is the nature of the NBA). But I think, with no Javie, that the home court will affect the whistles a bit more. Those 50-50 calls will likely go against Ariza, and if he doesn’t adjust he’ll be called for some grabs chasing Turk around screens.

    Seems like Orlando is favored in this game, but I would really love to see the Lakers come out full bore. If we drop one game, suddenly we start to sweat a bit because Game 4 becomes a less sure proposition. Momentum is an ephemeral thing. I’d like to see all our boys (especially Odom) in attack mode. Odom’s played a fantastic series so far and I’d love to see him keep it up.


  25. Snoopy, to me that Ariza/Tuyrkoglu thing is a good no call. If you are going to call Ariza for being physical you have to call Turk for that constant hook he does with the off arm to get by his defender.


  26. “If you are going to call Ariza for being physical you have to call Turk for that constant hook he does with the off arm to get by his defender.”

    Thank you, I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed that. The one time it got called he actually did it like 17 times on that possession.


  27. I think something that realy has been overlooked is the rebounding numbers from game 2. To me, this is the primary reason we saw the Magic almost pull it out. We went from destroying the magic on the glass in game one, to being outrebounded by 9 game 2 (including by 6 in offensive rebounds). The reason for this was Howard making more of an effort in pulling down boards, but I think we will do a much better job tonight then we did in game 2. If we can regain the rebounding edge, I think it will put us in an excellent position to pull this one out tonight.


  28. Kurt – generally I judge consistency from one end of the floor to the other, not who in one particular matchup on one side of the ball (Turk offensive/Ariza defensive) is dishing out more punishment. The Magic wing players have been whistled on calls defending Kobe that the refs have let slide with Ariza. Generally speaking, that’s the inconsistency that usually annoys fans. There’s also a question of how much Turk would need to use the off arm if the defensive fouls were called consistently on both ends.


  29. “Pig” Miller June 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I’m looking for a heightened sense of being tonight, like game 6 in Denver, where the Lakers smell the blood in the water and come out ultra focused on the task at hand and lay the hammer on the Magique.

    Something tells me the Lakers are going to put it down tonight. I mean like, “you thought you could play with us, but you can’t” type stuff.

    I can’t wait.


  30. I like the “smelling blood in the water” analogy…and as a Parrothead I keep singing,…”Fins to the left, Fins to the right…”

    I’m looking for the Lakers to move in for the kill tonight.


  31. Kurt (25): Not to mention that a couple of times, Howard gives Ariza a little chuck just as he’s going over the pick, driving Ariza into Turkoglu, who then asks for the foul. Fortunately, the refs didn’t buy that.


  32. I have a question: Does anyone else prefer the Lakers to finish the Magic off at home (preferably Game 6)?

    I know it’s better to finish it when you get the chance, but it’s been so long. I would just love to see the crowd and celebration if we were to win it at home.


  33. Shocking NBA news: Jermaine O’Neal exercises his $23M option for next season. I can’t believe he didn’t opt out…


  34. I have high hopes that the Lakers come out tonight focused and trying to cut the heart out of the Magic.

    What I am hoping for tonight:

    Focus on Defense.

    Make the extra pass, especially side to side.

    Draw the shot clock out on our sets, which we have been doing well.

    High pick and roll.

    Bynum with a big time game.

    Kobe with his assassin’s shot touch.

    Lamar with hard crashes to the board.

    Gasol with plenty of touches.

    Go Lakers!


  35. 31. I get the sentiment, but I in no way want this to go 6 games. That’s what the parade is for.

    Adjustments. The Magic will presumably keep jamming Kobe on the PnR and keep hitting the boards, as that worked well for them. I don’t think they will get as many clean looks from outside in the half court… those were mistakes that the Lakers can clean up. But the Magic could do a better job getting the ball to their main guns, Turk and Lewis (and possibly Jameer), in crunchtime. It’s just asking for trouble to make Lee and Redick your crunchtime playmakers.

    I am expecting either (1) the Magic blow the game open with transition 3s or (2) it’s a grindy game that stays close till the end. For the Lakers to win, someone who’s not Kobe/Pau/Odom has to step up.


  36. dave in hillsboro June 9, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    J-Man, the City of Los Angeles–meaning the government–probably would prefer the Lakers to win in Orlando. Just going by history.

    Also, B Shaw interviewed by Mike Trudell:

    “We have to come in tonight with the mindset that we want to get this game, set ourselves up nicely. Put all the pressure on them. You know, right now, we can play free and easy. They’re gonna feel the pressure coming and try to play in front of their home crowd. I keep hearing them making comments about, um, they have three games at home. Well my mindset is they have two games at home. We’ll win this one tonight, take care of this, and then one more game Thursday night. So, we’re not thinking about three games because it’s not a given that it’s gonna get to a third game.”


  37. Others have mentioned it, but we have to do two main things to make life easier tonight – continue to control the boards and stay with our man if/when they get hot. I’m really surprised we haven’t used some of Ariza on Lewis and Odom on Hedo (instead of the other way around). I like that all of the experts are picking the Magic to win tonight. Their adrenaline should be off the charts, but if we hang tough, the game is ours for the taking. Let’s go for the jugular tonight!


  38. #31,
    Yes and no. I would love to see the party at Staples. But I think I would love a sweep even more.

    Soft.. undeserving… inconsistent… SWEEP!

    I feel my game-hyperness coming on. Maybe I should not have had that fourth espresso?

    I expect the Magic to come out and play for their lives tonight. They will be desperate, hungry, they will play hard and they will do anything they can and more to win this game. Can we match that? I think we can. Will we? I’m not sure… ask me again in a few hours.


  39. you can’t finish a team off when you’re only up 2-0…we should only have this talk when lakers actually have 3 wins under their belt.


  40. Let’s worry about where and when the Lakers party once it’s time for that party. A 2-0 lead without a road win is hardly secure.


  41. I prefer romantically the trophy gleaming through streamfalls of rainers poured down from our own dim heights to a huddled group photo in the locker room that reminds me of my brother’s wedding that got stormed out so we gathered in a kitschy piano room where our tuxes ect. lent an air of ridiculous incongruity and worse of anticlimax; I really don’t like my memories of Shaq & Co. huddled in a janitorial closet grinning while David Stern awkwardly sidled up staring into the camera with a cheesy expression and holding the trophy like it was a cup of beer he’d just finished; but, since we’re winning in five (or, according to a guru I know), four, I just have to accept it, and then from the mercy is for the weak vantage I have to accept it; when you got a guy on his heels, go for the knockout, don’t wait because you want your girl to see. Bill “that stain is a shart but the pants have been washed, relax” Simmons’s read of Kobe in game two ushered in a new era of pop psychology. I think a good name would be psypoology. Anyhow don’t now but Kobe didn’t seem like a man (during the game or after) bent on proving something tonight, but he did evince an intensity of concentration that perhaps was harbinger of gobsmack for Magic tonight. No matter how strong the bull from the gate etc. Even when LA shooting bad, lax on d., there’s an overall sense of calm and of seeing the game as an equation as it were like they’re taking the ACT and divvying time so that no one section kicks their ass. They seem confident that at pencils down they’ll have done enough, and done it well enough, to receive the best score in class. Game two nerve-wracking but not like Rockets or Denver. Fish, Odom, they’re back like it was a mid-season streak. I don’t know why I’m about to click submit comment. It’s like thinking of an anecdote at dinner that’s not particularly interesting, funny or insightful yet you think why not. Let’s just ruin things for a moment.


  42. Coffee is For Closers June 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I’ll echo some other’s here; lets be careful with the basketball, and maybe use the anticipated over agressiveness of magic against them – a few back cuts by kobe maybe, and lets control the boards. Do that, and magic will have a tough time building a big 1st half lead. If its close in the 2nd half, advantage lakers.


  43. If I were the Lakers, I’d take a big chance in Game 3 and let Dwight Howard get his in favor of staying with their shooters. As long as we can hold the rest of Orlando’s players to 40-50 points, we have a good chance of winning even if Dwight goes for 40.

    On offense, if Orlando goes big with Howard and Gortat, I agree with OdomIso on the wing, but I also think some PNR with Odom and Gasol or Odom and Bynum will work well. If we can attack Howard early and get him in foul trouble, this game gets a lot harder on Orlando on offense and defense, as well as taking the crowd out of the game.


  44. I’m more skeptical the Lakers get this game 3 vs. the game 3s against Houston and Denver. Playing a game 3 tied at 1-1 forced the Lakers into must-win mode and looking at history, home teams that go up 2-0 don’t do well in game 3 (by my count 4-8 in the 2-3-2 finals era).


  45. Dex’s comment was hilarious:

    “Bill “that stain is a shart but the pants have been washed, relax” Simmons’s read of Kobe in game two ushered in a new era of pop psychology.”

    How could you ever dream of NOT submitting that?

    By the way, it is WAY, WAY too early to talk sweep or whether it’s better to celebrate the win in LA.

    Magic are a TOUGH, TOUGH team, and my concern is that SVG now knows the “big” lineup is effective.

    I think the guards will finally start connecting on their threes at home.

    I think the officiating will be tighter, too – Ariza might even foul out.

    I don’t think there’s going to be a sweep, and I certainly don’t think the Lakers winning the series is a foregone conclusion.

    There’s a lot of basketball left…


  46. Tim Floyd quits as USC basketball coach…Whoa!


  47. Pat Riley, for whom Van Gundy served as a longtime assistant coach at Miami, calls him “the most important acquisition Orlando ever made. More than any single player, he’s the one who turned the franchise around. He solidified the organization.”

    That’s a pretty bold statement, but could very well be true. Am I imagining things, or wasn’t it SVG who convinced Dwight what a terror he could be defensively? Wasn’t Dwight not all that focused on the defensive end before SVG? Or am I remembering things wrong?

    The thing that impresses me most about SVG is how he adapts his system to fit his personnel. It’s Riley-esque (think Showtime vs the 90s Knicks). There’s not many coaches who could have used 2 tall (but finesse) small forward with that kind of success.


  48. Snoopy – I love how riles is singing his praises now, but not in 2006…


  49. 46. That Floyd news is odd. Sign of big trouble coming to USC (with the combined Mayo/Bush recruitment investigation by the NCAA)?


  50. Stay hungry, Lakers. Alien waters. Display intrepidity. Be careful with the ball, fellas.

    But not too careful.

    Go for it.


  51. Coffee is For Closers June 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Should I adjust the color on my TV, or is Stuart Scott really wearing a gawd awful orange shirt and tie?


  52. For both teams, it’s a must-win. Orlando for being down 2 games, and LA for losing last year’s finals.

    Anyways, there’s a higher chance I would be in Orlando in Game 4, as I have been giving LA good karma (LA never loses when I’m attending their game, their record is somewhere near 40)


  53. New post up for the game chat.


  54. Lakers will most definitely lose this game, but the key is that they dont get blown out. That means they need to keep it under 10 points at least. dont give this Orlando team too much confidence. I agree with Kurt though, the Lakers should be able to steal a game in Orlando, either game 4 or 5.


  55. 4 Point play by Bryant, right on..