Skip to my Lou comes through when the Magic need him the most


With inconsistent playing time down the stretch of key games for almost the entire 2009 playoffs, a reputation for being emotional and a bit of a handful when he’s unhappy, Orlando point guard Rafer Alston has been given every reason to lose his composure over the last month. But in Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 4 victory Cleveland, there he was, just when his team needed him most.

The Cavs closed the first half on an 18-7 run and had silenced the sell-out crowd inside Amway Arena, taking a 58-50 lead heading into the locker room. Sometime between the end of the first half and the start of the third quarter, Alston, who played just nine first half minutes, turned back the clock and seemed to morph into his famous alter-ego, “Skip To My Lou.”

During the first 3:32 of the second half, Alston scored 12 consecutive Magic points, doubling his output from the first half, while shooting 4-of-4 from the field. The Cleveland lead had shrunk to just three points at 63-60 with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter. After a short burst by the Cavs pushed the lead up to seven at 67-60, it was Alston again, this time with a bank-in three from well beyond-the-arc.

“At halftime I knew I had the most rest out of anyone,” Alston said. “… So I thought maybe come out, be aggressive, play with a lot of energy, get us off to a good second half start.”

Even though he scored only five points the rest of the game, Alston’s offensive outburst kept the Magic afloat just long enough to get back in the game while keeping Cleveland from blowing it wide open.

“Rafer’s spurt was huge,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said after the game. “I mean, he played a heck of a game … You’ve got to give Rafer credit. He came out beginning of that third and he was a big factor. He kept them in the game when we could have built the lead.”

Alston finished the game with a career playoff-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 6-of-12 from three-point land. Throw in four assists, two rebounds and two steals and Alston had his most impressive game of the 2009 playoffs.

“Rafer stepped up tonight,” Orlando center Dwight Howard said. “He wasn’t Rafer Alston, he was the playground legend Skip To My Lou. He was getting to the basket, he was finishing. He played with a lot of confidence. When he plays like the playground legend, then he’s tough to guard.”

On a night where the Magic made a new playoff team-record 17 three-pointers, Rashard Lewis said Alston’s shooting made it easier for everyone else on the floor to get clean looks at the basket.

“He made it a lot easier on a lot of guys tonight because he was making shots,” Lewis said.

Alston’s Game 4 statistics boost his already impressive numbers against Cleveland. For the series he’s now averaging 14.8 points per game, better than everyone on the Cleveland roster outside of of LeBron James and Mo Williams, while shooting 44.8 percent from the field. Alston’s 10 three-pointers are also more than any player on the Cavs roster, as is his 43.5 percentage. Not bad for a guy who is no better than his team’s fifth option on offense.

“They are daring me to shoot it,” Alston said. “The first two games, (I was) not so good shooting the ball. But here I am, it is the last two, I’m able to knock them down.”