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Orlando Magic News & Notes: Magic Win Finals Rematch

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In front of a wild crowd at Amway Arena, the Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 96-94.

Vince Carter was excellent for the Magic on Sunday.

"Vince Carter resembled the dynamic playmaker the Magic traded for last June on Sunday, getting to the free throw line early and knocking down big shots late in the game. He had 25 points on five of 10 shooting and 13 from 14 from the free throw line. Carter was irked at himself for missing a free throw down the stretch that could have made it a three-point spread, but he was happy that the Magic thrived in a nasty type of game that had all the feeling of a NBA Finals showdown.“It was a battle, but these games are fun to play,’’ Carter said. “It was very much a playoff atmosphere out there. It was two great teams going at it. But the funny thing about it was it wasn’t even a playoff game. You could just see it on everyone’s face and everyone’s demeanor that they wanted to win this game.’’Orlando survived despite 34 points and seven assists from Bryant. He woke up sick Sunday morning, struggled with his shot most of the day, but came alive in the fourth and almost rescued the Lakers. L.A. lost a third consecutive game for the first time since January of 2008, a span of more than two years."

John Denton shares his postgame analysis here.

Matt Barnes defense and toughness helped the Magic get a key win.

"“You hate me if I’m against you, but you love me if I am with you because I got my teammates’ back,” Barnes said, “I respect everyone but I fear nobody.”That includes Bryant. They mixed it up with a little bit of playground spice. They drew double technicals after one spirited exchange in the third quarter. There were other forget-me-not bouquets in the afternoon: Barnes almost whacking Bryant in the face on an out-of-bounds play. A couple of elbow shots by Bryant. An inches-from-a-head-butt retort by Barnes."

George Diaz has that story here.

With wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers in the last three weeks, Brian Schmitz wonders if the Magic are a better team than they were last year.

"Sure, you can get a temperature reading on the Magic by listing their latest, greatest victims: They’ve beaten the Boston Celtics (twice), Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers while going 18-5 in the second half of the season.But attaching a face to the Magic evaluation makes it even more meaningful, if not credible, especially when it’s Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s.“I think they’re as good, maybe better, a little better than they were last year,” Jackson said."

You can find that story here.

The Lakers lost their third straight game but Kobe Bryant was happy with their effort.

"That’s all Kobe Bryant wanted of his team when he cursed them out on Saturday afternoon, demanding more effort than he saw in consecutive losses to Miami and Charlotte.That’s why even though the Los Angeles Lakers (46-18) dropped their third consecutive game on Sunday to the Magic (43-21), even though Bryant missed a game-tying jumper in the final seconds, he was happy with his team’s effort.“In Miami, we didn’t play hard enough; Charlotte, same thing,” Bryant said. “[Today] we competed. I think we have to take this mind set, take this attitude and push it forth for the remainder of the season and [understand] that if we play with this effort it’s really, really hard to beat us four times.”"

Tania Ganguli has that story here.

Dan Savage and Josh Cohen take a look at several of the storylines from Sunday afternoon’s game as they go “Around the Amway.” You can find that here.

Alex Kennedy was in attendance and offered up some interesting and funny news about Matt Barnes.

"Matt Barnes and Kobe Bryant got into it a few times during the game and the Lakers didn’t have many kind words to say after the game. Lamar Odom likened Barnes to a wrestler who acts tough and puts on a show to get the crowd involved. He said that someone should have brought him a cape and tights and also compared him to Ric Flair. When asked if Barnes was getting in his head, Kobe Bryant laughed and said that Matt was “entertaining.” Howard, on the other hand, coined the phrase “Matticality” because of the physicality that Barnes brings to the team."

Read his courtside blog here.

Philip Rossman-Reich also offered praise for Barnes.

"It was Barnes who followed a Bryant miss with a wide open 3-point hit with 1:10 remaining to give the Magic a six-point lead. It was Barnes who got into a shoving fight with Bryant earning the two technical fouls for the effort. It was Barnes who was constantly shoving and playing mind games with the Black Mamba throughout the day to throw him off his game.It was Barnes who ultimately was defending Bryant as his fade-away two-pointer clanged off the rim no good, allowing the Magic to survive with a 96-94 win at Amway Arena on Sunday afternoon, avenging in part last year’s loss to the Lakers in the Finals.Barnes never does too much that stands out in the box score. But it was hard not to notice him in this one. He was jawing with Bryant all game and doing everything he could to throw the superstar off his game."

You can read his recap here.

Mike Medina of the LA Times breaks down the Barnes-Bryant altercation here.
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Just a few days ago, I took a look at what Matt Barnes brings to the Magic. You can read that story here.

Ben Q. Rock is rarely critical of officiating, but he feels Sunday’s game deserved it (and he’s right).

"I do think, though, that some were truly unique and rare, and not the result of mental error on the Magic’s part. Carter got whistled for traveling while trying to throw an inbounds pass from the right sideline. Fisher drew an iffy offensive foul on Rashard Lewis simply by running into his back and falling down. Most puzzlingly, Bennett Salvatore negated Barnes’ alley-oop dunk connection with Pietrus on a side out-of-bounds play, ruling offensive basket interference although the ball had clearly traveled to the other side of the rim–as in, it was not above the cylinder–before Pietrus stuffed it home. Now, the Magic caught some breaks as well. My point is not to criticize the officials, but rather to point out how singular some of those turnovers were. I’m fairly confident that a Magic inbounds passer won’t get called for traveling again for several seasons."

You can read his recap here.

Forum Blue And Gold looks at the game from a Laker point-of-view.

"On defense, the Lakers couldn’t contain dribble penetration by Orlando’s guards/wings and didn’t rebound as well as they needed to on the defensive glass. Again, familiar themes. On Orlando’s P&R, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter were able to get into the paint and either draw fouls or finish at the rim. And when they didn’t get the whistle or the bucket, they compromised our interior defense and created easy offensive rebounding opportunities. Orlando had 15 offensive boards and those rebounds often led to finishes in the paint or more fouls that resulted in FT’s for the Magic. But it didn’t even take the P&R for the Lakers to give up angles to the rim off the dribble as Nelson and Carter were getting into the lane even without the aid of a Lewis or Howard screen. And even though Bynum and Gasol finished with a combined six blocked shots, Orlando still got into the paint far too frequently which compromised our team defense, got Bynum in foul trouble that plagued him the entire game, and got our help defenders into scramble mode. Overall, this wasn’t a poor defensive game for the Lakers as they held the Magic to an offensive efficiency a full 4 points below their season average, but it was a performance that was eerily familiar to us that watch the Lakers play on a nightly basis."

You can find that here.

Chris Shellcroft of Lake Show Life notes that the “Pau Gasol streak” has come to end.

"The King of Clutch nearly delivered another miraculous moment as KB24 dropped 18 of his game high 34 in the final frame. As we’ve come to expect, Kobe shouldered the burden when the game was in the balance hitting big shots but never delivering the dagger. One foot on the three point line here and a missed jumper at the end of regulation there. The only Magic in Amway Arena was being coached by Porn Stash Van Gundy."

You can find that story here.

"Good hustle from Lamar Odom earned the Lakers another try. He moved the ball back to Artest, now completely alone along the right wing above the arc. Again, Artest gathered, rose, and fired, holding his follow through as the ball made it’s way towards the rim.Clang. Front iron. At the other end, Jameer Nelson moved niftily through a trap high up the floor and found Matt Barnes slicing through the paint for a layup.Call it a five point swing.I note this sequence not to blame Artest for L.A.’s 96-94 loss to the Magic Sunday afternoon in Orlando- sure, Ron’s hair had a lot more flair than his game (two of 10 shooting with some problems defensively, too)- but because it was perhaps the most day-glo obvious example of the way in which the Lakers squandered too many open opportunities along the perimeter. Orlando, like a lot of teams the Lakers see, were intent on gumming up the paint, sending bodies, hands, and arms after whomever and whatever L.A. put in the post."

The “Pau Gasol streak” Shellcroft spoke of got it’s name because the Lakers had previously not lost three straight games since they acquired Gasol back in 2008.

Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles has that story here.

Broderick Turner of the LA Times thinks the Magic made a stand.

"Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy summed up his team’s 96-94 victory over the Lakers Sunday at Amway Arena the best.“I thought we battled them toe to toe,” he said.From the Magic perspective, the Lakers would push and shove, but Orlando refused to back down.If it meant that Barnes got a technical along with Bryant when the two became entangled early in the third period and began to talk trash, so be it, the Magic said.If it meant Howard’s throwing an elbow at Pau Gasol that was an unwise foul just to make sure the Magic center held his turf, so be it, the Magic said.“We won’t back down from anybody, no matter how physical it gets out there,” Howard said after scoring 15 points and collecting 16 rebounds. “It could be the best team in the league, the best player, whoever it may be. We’re going to keep going at you. Sometimes you can’t worry about fouls or technicals. You just got to play and know that it’s going to be a physical game.”"

You can find that story here.

The Lakers did give a better effort during Sunday’s game.

"The effort was substantially better than a pathetic offering two days earlier in Charlotte, but it didn’t stop the Lakers from getting swept on a three-game trip for the first time since 2004-05, the last time they failed to make the playoffs. Nor did it prevent them from incurring their 18th loss, one more than they had all last season.Getting to the postseason is an obvious non-issue this season, but holding on to the top spot in the Western Conference suddenly isn’t such a given. The Lakers (46-18) are only three games ahead of hard-charging Dallas, which has won 11 consecutive games.And yet, there wasn’t a hint of alarm after Sunday’s loss.“We didn’t win the game, but I saw what I wanted to see,” said Kobe Bryant, who acknowledged he “cursed [teammates] out” in a Saturday practice session. “If we play with this kind of effort, it’s going to be hard for a team to beat us four times in a series.”"

Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times has that story here.

In fact, Elliott Teaford of the LA Daily News says the Lakers get an “A for effort.”

"“It’s not like (the losing streak) is something to worry about,” Ron Artest said. “It’s just that when we came into the season, we all had one goal (winning a second consecutive title).“There are some things to fix, probably, but we’re hungry.”Kobe Bryant said the result wasn’t what the Lakers wanted but their effort and intensity were vastly improved after their losses to the Heat and the Bobcats.“If we play with this type of effort, it will be hard for a team to beat us four times in a (playoff) series,” he said. “Here, we competed. We have to take this mind-set and this attitude and push it forward to the rest of the season.”"

You can read that story here.

Otis Smith expects interest in J.J. Redick this offseason.

"Smith said before Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers that he’s been impressed with Redick’s improvement since the club drafted him in 2006, but added, “I’m not going to bid against myself” to retain Redick.Smith said he would — “for the most part” — handle Redick the way he has previous free agents, basically matching or not matching any offer the player receives.“We know how he’s done over the last couple of years,” Smith said. “I think that J.J.’s on the incline. We like him on our team, but you have to evaluate everything.”"

You can read that and other Magic notes here.

Dwight Howard shares his Charles Barkley imitation here.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).