The series moves to the Florida swamp, and the crowd is hostile from the outset…Still grumpy from the non-calls I suppose. It’s understandable, they weren’t without their chances though, the Lakers left the door wide open with a sub-par showing in game two but behind the post duo of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, the grit of Derek Fisher and the relentlessness of Kobe Bryant the home team held home court. A 2-0 Lakers lead makes this a must win game for the upstart Magic. 27 of 30 teams up 2-0 have gone on to win a seven game series only THREE teams have comeback from an 0-2 hole in NBA playoff history, the 69 Celts over the Lakers (damn those little green trolls), the 77 Blazers and Big Bill Walton over the 76ers and D-Wade and the Heat vs. the soft serve Mavs in 06, but the Magic have been underdogs all year. They gutted out wins over a depleted but still tough Celtics squad. They ended LeMVPuppet and the Cavs dream season in quick fashion but have yet to scratch against the determined Lakeshow. It’s now or next year for Orlando.
Let’s hope the refs let them play a little more than was allowed in game 2. Gasol’s first foul of the game is a vicious chin shot to Dwight Howard’s elbow. D-Fish drills a couple of nice jumpers in traffic but Rafer Alston, fresh off extended pine time last game (though I don’t know why) matches Derek’s effort and knocks down two of his own. Kobe then joins the party and makes his first two shots in Courtney Lee’s plastic covered grill…5 points and three assists already for Bryant…Orlando can’t afford to let him get off to a fast start, he’s not the type that cools off later in the game. 19-14 Lakers at the first break.
Andrew Bynum shows no fear early and rings up Dwight with a nice inside move off glass but misses the free throw. Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston thinks he’s at the Rucker...he’s feeling spry and rings up another trey, but again Kobe answers with an sweet Dr. J finger roll at the hole over the Frenchman Pietrus. So far Rashard Lewis isn’t as hot as last game…he’s bricked a couple open looks…I hope that continues. What looks to be continuing is the snake bite that Kobe is dishing out so far…he has already gone 6 of 7 with several highlight shots…the Magic can’t let him continue to do this….WAIT!…Tony Battie just blocked him and there was a snake charmer courtside with a head wrap and all…maybe …just maybe they can….SCRATCH THAT….The Mamba just beat the clock with a last second three after getting the Frenchie in the popcorn machine and free throw to complete the four point play…Sorry Hadji, Johnny is on a Quest for another ring. A big 17 point 1st quarter for Bryant, a 31-27 Lakers lead has me believing like Steve Perry…The Journey continues.
Nervous time when Kobe sits down to start the second….But Luke’s fake jumper/dish to a cutting Lamar for an easy bucket and one helps to keep Kobe resting. Walton, Farmar and the bench hold the lead for the Lakers until Kobe returns, but the Magic keep coming fast and furious. Yet somehow L.A. is still ahead with Howard dunking and Turk playing string music. The Frenchman ties it up at 41 but there’s Kobe to put in a trey to reclaim the lead. Pietrus carries the ball for a breakaway bucket, Gasol hit’s a rainbow J in the lane and the Turk strikes yet again…Great game so far. Eldrick and Coach K sit courtside to enjoy the show. No letdown by Los Angeles yet…bad news for Orlando. Every time they get close, the Lakers answer. Both teams are playing like it means something…after last game I was starting to wonder. Yes, that WAS a pass to Gasol by Kobe…Someone spiked Frenchy’s latte with an energy shot because Mickael looks like a different man tonight putting the Magic up by one on his 8th point before Trevor Ariza tried to crack the glass on his first free throw attempt but he hit’s the second to tie it at 51. Back to back 3’s by Lewis jack the crowd up and Dwight slapping Kobe’s shot into the stands pumps them up a little more before a home court call puts the man-child on the line. A 75% first half shooting percentage helps the Magic to a halftime lead of 59-54 and Skip to my Lou spouts some gibberish during thinterview that even after replaying I still can’t comprehend. Was he speaking English? Whatever, great game so far.
The third quarter sees Kobe let the rookie Courtney Cox and friends get into his head a bit, Dwight Howard throw bows like Luda and the refs call the game like it’s the Superman show…Oh yeah, then there’s that Rafer situation…He’s having a Fish dinner and skipping all over the Laker D…Phil should put Shannon Brown on him and start force feeding the ball into the paint to Pau, Bynum and Lamar before the refs get into their heads too much…it’s till close despite the favortism by the zebras 74-69 Orlando. Make that 77 on Lewis’ open three. The Magic’s sweet shooting continues, but as long as the Lakers stay within single digits I feel pretty good about their chances. Lamar Odom sparks the Lakers with a nice block and some lay-ups but the Magic pull one trick after another from their hat and keep the pressure on LA on Turkoglu’s back as he hits one tough shot after another…89-81 Orlando. A steal and teardrop lay in by Peitrus makes me think it’s Orlando’s night, but Trevor Ariza follows immediately with a three and the Magic just can’t shake the Lakes, 93-88. An Ariza 3 and Pau’s lefty hook closes the gap to three and the Magic must be wondering what they have to do to shake these guys. Dwight Howard’s free throws fall but Fish’s clutch 3 answers the bell for LA, he then stops Mickael’s dunk attempt with a hack. LO dumps one in the paint to cut it to 2 and the whistles start again. A missed dunk by Ariza, a steal by Odom, a Kobe jumper, more ticky tacks and still the Magic can’t break away 99-97 Orlando and the ride is getting fun….Kobepuppet thinks so too so he jumps into a car. Two Pau charity stripe points tie it up at 99 but the flying Frenchman soars in for a put back jam to reclaim the lead for the boys in blue and I press pause to catch my breath. Gasol bangs one home in traffic, but no whistles tonight for LA, anything they get they earn. The 118 million dollar man Rashard Lewis earns some scratch with a crunch time shot to push it back to 3...104-101...whew.
Kobe’s 5th missed free throw will be the difference…nba is the worst pointed out on the Laker thread that Bryant’s bricks were the difference around halftime…great observation as usual worst. It’ll most likely mean the game and Kobe will be in the gym for hours shooting one after another thinking about this one.
…But the Lakers catch a break when Lewis doesn’t take it hard to the rim and get the ball back, but on the other side Howard gets a hand on Kobe’s crossover and Frenchy gets it….but Gasol gets it back…then Frenchy nabs it on Pau’s pass to Kobe forcing a foul. Kobe shows his frustration on the court and Frenchy hit’s the two gimmes making it a four point lead….I need a drink. On the inbounds play Bryant clangs an open look off the front of the rim, Lamar saves it falling out of bounds and the Lakers call time out still down by four…16.4 About three bricks and three Lakers long rebounds later, Kobe gets a lay-up with 0.whatever on the clock. The game is effectively over, the confetti is already falling even though the game hasn’t been called yet…someone blew it. Despite the loss I now KNOW the Lakers can win here in Orlando. It’ll happen in one of the next two games…write it down.
Credit the Magic for responding to a must win game with a win, but I think we’ll see a Lakers victory in the swamp and an even more determined Lakers squad next game knowing they dropped a winnable game in game 3.
Ladies and gentlemen…we now have a series.