It’s not over yet, but it’s getting there


Try to keep your head up, Magic fans. There’s a precedent here. Stan Van Gundy was an assistant coach in Miami in 2006 — “not doing a damn thing,” as he puts it — when the Heat fell down 2-0 to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. The Heat were even losing late in the third quarter of Game 3 before storming back to win the next four games and closing out the series in Game 6. It’s not impossible to come back from 2-0. It’s just really, really difficult. But if the Magic are one thing it’s resilient, and I’m not counting them out yet. That said, the Magic had some problems in Sunday night’s 101-96 overtime loss to the Lakers. It’s easy to pin this loss on Courtney Lee’s missed lay-up, and that’s what a lot of Magic fans are doing. But that’s unfair. It would’ve been an incredible shot, and you can’t fault someone for missing an incredible shot. You don’t say “Come on, Tiger, how do you miss that 40-yard chip out of the bunker?” Orlando had some bigger problems in Game 2. The team committed 20 turnovers in an absolutely unsightly display of basketball. There wasn’t a pattern with the turnovers, just overall careless play. They were on intercepted passes, offensive fouls, careless throws out of bounds and Dwight Howard holding the ball too low (a habit that is somehow not fixed at this point in his career). A bulk of the turnovers came in the first half, but the three most crucial mishaps were in overtime, helping the Lakers build a six-point, insurmountable lead. There was more to the loss than turnovers, though. The Magic continued to get little production from their guards. Backcourt players went 1-for-12 from three-point range, which is particularly disturbing because the Lakers are allowing Orlando’s guards to shoot whenever they want. The focus is squarely on Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis — and not one of Orlando’s guards stepped up. JJ Redick had his chance tonight, playing 27 minutes because of foul trouble, and he went 2-of-9 from the field with a costly turnover in overtime. Mickael Pietrus was invisible out there before fouling out after 23 minutes. Courtney Lee played very little, and there’s really no explanation other than that SVG believes Lee is too small to guard Kobe or whoever the small forward is. Rafer Alston (1-of-8, 4 points, 5 assists) and Jameer Nelson (1-of-3, 4 points, 1 assist) are unable or unwilling to take advantage of what was supposed to be a mismatch with Derek Fisher, and neither point guard was on the floor down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Frankly, I don’t blame Van Gundy. So far, the Lakers are outplaying, outcoaching and out-executing the Magic. They’re forcing Dwight Howard to the baseline, where it’s difficult to pass out of the double-team and their guards are slapping at the ball. They’ve all but shut down Orlando’s transition game, staying disciplined with three defenders back at all times (which is part of the reason the Lakers grabbed only four offensive rebounds). They know the tendencies of Redick and Alston — mainly, when they get in the lane they want to dish the ball instead of challenging a big man. The fact is, the Lakers did the bare minimum tonight to win. In the NBA Finals, that’s all that matters. You don’t worry about long-term tendencies, patterns or pace — all that matters are wins and losses. The Magic need four of the former before they get two of the latter. Can they do it against this Lakers team? I don’t know.