Orlando Magic come crashing down, fall to Lakers in Game 1


After five days of partying, the city of Orlando suffered a torrid hangover on Thursday night. I’m talking blurry vision, pulsating brain, never-ending taste of vomit — the kind of feeling that makes you never want to party again. Maybe the city of Orlando’s unanimous call for respect came four victories too early. The Lakers showed how good a team can be when its dominant superstar is surrounded by a variety of complementary scorers, role players, and hustlers. These are no Cavaliers. There’s no letting Kobe score 40 points and stopping the other guys. You can’t shut down Pau Gasol like he’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Lamar Odom is no Anderson Varejao. There are no glaring weaknesses coming off of L.A.’s bench. Against L.A., the Magic are going to earn their shots, earn their stops and earn their wins. And they didn’t tonight. Kobe Bryant, after a relatively slow start, was absolutely deadly. He scored on a variety of mid-range jumpers, runners and floaters from all different angles and lengths. Bryant’s game is so much more aesthetically pleasing than LeBron James’ — he scores so many ways and doesn’t initiate contact the same way James does. Bryant almost single-handedly turned the game around in the second quarter with a barrage of mid-range jumpers, all while Mickael Pietrus played pretty good defense and consistently put a hand in his face. The Lakers were down 33-28 with 8:32 left in the second quarter with Kobe on the bench. The Lakers then called a timeout, inserted Kobe into the game and went on a 25-10 run to close out the half. Kobe had 12 points and three assists during that stretch. Kobe Bryant, second quarter The Lakers put up and offensive rating of more than 110 and outscored the Magic 56-22 in the paint. They shot 46.1 percent and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were incredibly active, combining for 36 points and 31 rebounds. Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat totaled 24 points and 28 rebounds. Lakers frontcourt 1, Magic frontcourt 0. Obviously, the Lakers also won the backcourt battle, so it’s pretty easy to see why this game ended in a blowout. But defense wasn’t Orlando’s only problem. The Magic struggled on offense, to say the least. Rafer Alston was pointless, and Orlando’s forwards had trouble with the length and teamwork of L.A.’s defense. Los Angeles played beautiful defense, helping each other and working fluidly in cohesion. There was very few times an Orlando player drove the lane and didn’t get greeted by one or two Lakers in the paint. The Lakers sagged down onto Howard and dared him to pass to the shooters. Clearly a good strategy, at least tonight — the Magic shot 29.9 percent (their worst percentage of the season) and missed 15 three-pointers. They switched it up all night, too. More than once, the initial defender gave Howard the baseline, where one or two help defenders were waiting. There was clearly a lot of film studied by the Lakers. It paid off. But it’s not over yet. It was one game, and the Magic bounced back from a blowout loss to Boston in Game 2 of the Eastern semifinals with a win in Game 3. There are some reasons to be optimistic going forward, and we’ll get into those tomorrow. The Magic have a lot going against them. Blowout losses usually don’t bode well for the losing team. Phil Jackson is 43-0 when winning the first game of a playoff series, and Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have never lost in that situation, either. All hope isn’t lost, though. It’s just one game, and the Magic can still even things up on Sunday night. But one thing’s for sure: the Lakers hold their liquor better than Jack Nicholson.