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.