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Game 2 News and Notes

Game 2 News and Notes

Orlando isn't an illusion: Expect Magic to levitate

Well, I think it’s safe to say the Orlando Magic quickly learned the differences between their last opponent and their current. The matchup advantages Stan Van Gundy’s squad enjoyed against the Cleveland Cavaliers were not there against the Los Angeles Lakers.

That still doesn’t mean Magic backers should write off their futures ticket and go hang out on a deserted island with Evangeline Lilly for the next week or two.

Many people expected some opening-game jitters from Orlando, but we didn’t see that in the first quarter. The Eastern Conference champs seemed comfortable in their sets, going to Hedo Turkoglu early in the pick-and-roll offense.

Unfortunately for Magic fans, their club couldn’t equal the Lakers’ intensity when Kobe Bryant pulled a Nigel Tufnel and turned his amplifier up to 11.

Bryant was feeling out how the Magic would defend him and quickly found out that he would have room to get his perimeter shot off whenever he wanted.

While Bryant was hitting his shots, Orlando went ice cold. Normally, the club responds by pushing the pace and nailing run-stopping 3-pointers. But Los Angeles’ defense excels in transition. Its big men run the floor like gazelles, swiftly challenging spot-up shooters. And when the Magic did get clean looks, they didn’t cash in.

Van Gundy has some adjustments to make.

He’ll have to do something about Pau Gasol’s passing in the high post (the Spaniard found open cutters for easy lay-ins too often) and Courtney Lee might as well be a pylon when guarding Kobe Bryant.

The Magic coaching staff have to make a decision on which point guard to give the bulk of playing time. I don’t think it’s a good plan to split the minutes between the returning Jameer Nelson and Rafer Alston.

Nelson was impressive in his first game back since February. He wasn’t afraid of contact and took the ball into the teeth of the Lakers’ defense several times. It was apparent, however, that he isn’t confident in his 3-point stroke yet and that could be a problem.

The Magic’s offense only works when it has four capable and willing shooters beyond the arc to deter opposing defenders from collapsing on Dwight Howard.

And don’t get down on D-12’s Game 1 numbers. He was doing the right thing passing out of those double teams and trusting his teammates to make their open looks.

Rashard Lewis has to play much better than his performance in Game 1. If he’s not contributing offensively, he’s useless to his club. And there’s no legitimate alternative to him in the Magic’s lineup at the power forward. (Did you see how it was 4-on-5 whenever Tony Battie came into the game? Gasol was just letting the Orlando reserve take whatever shot he wanted – and rightfully so).

Despite all these issues for Orlando – this series isn’t close to being over.

It really pisses me off when I see ESPN’s Jon Barry dismissing the Magic as some fluke Finals club that’s overly reliant on the 3-pointer and will never be able to play with the Purple and Gold.

Orlando will start hitting its long distance shots and this series will be closer. I originally said the Lakers would win in seven games and I’m not going to jump of that prediction after one blowout.

And don't forget how good of a road team Orlando has been this season (26-14-1 against the spread in the regular season). Van Gundy's boys have bounced back from numerous tough breaks and let downs in the postseason. They are not easily jarred.

Total players should be careful too. Just because Game 1 was a bricklayers’ convention doesn’t mean we should expect more games in this series finishing with 175-point totals.

The over/under number opened at 203.5 and has already moved down to 202. I liked the under in Game 1 (set at 206.5) but I think the over has a lot of value – especially if it drops any farther.

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Re: Game 2 News and Notes

Lakers-Magic, Game 2
By Brian Edwards

If you listened to any sports radio or watched ESPN’s Around the Horn, the worst show in ESPN history, on Friday, you had to be floored by the outrageous and seemingly unanimous thought process that these 2009 NBA Finals are over after just one game. I know I was stunned.

Contrary to popular belief, the only thing that’s over is L.A.’s dominant 100-75 win in the series lid-lifter Thursday night at Staples Center. The Lakers easily covered the spread as 6 ½-point home favorites.

Kobe Bryant was sensational, scoring a game-high 40 points with eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocked shots and merely one turnover. Pau Gasol added 16 points and eight boards, while Lamar Odom produced a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Dwight Howard had 12 points and 15 rebounds, but he was just 1-for-6 from the field. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis weren’t much better. Turkoglu finished with 13 points, but he was 3-for-11 from the floor and committed more turnovers (four) than assists (two). Lewis was held to only eight points, going 2-for-10 from the field.
Orlando made only 29.9 percent of its shots and the pedestrian 75-point output was its lowest since losing 82-73 to Denver way back on Feb. 11. Perhaps the surprising appearance of Jameer Nelson impacted the Magic’s offensive rhythm.

Nelson, who has made a remarkable recovery from a shoulder injury that was believed to have ended his season, looked just fine when he gave his team a spark early in the second quarter. Nelson knocked down his first shot, a 12-foot baseline jumper, and then dished out several nice assists of off dribble penetration.

But Stan Van Gundy seemed to stick with him a little long in the second stanza and consequently, starting point guard Rafer Alston never got back in the flow of the game in the second half. Alston had six points, one assist and no turnovers, but he missed all four shots from 3-point land and played only 25 minutes.

In 23 minutes of play, Nelson had six points, four assists, two boards and one turnover. But Nelson was just 3-for-9 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc.

For Sunday’s Game 2 at Staples Center, Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Los Angeles (78-23 straight up, 53-48 against the spread) as a seven-point favorite with a total of 202. As of Saturday afternoon, most books had the Lakers as 6 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total at 202 ½. Bettors can back the Magic to win outright for a plus-250 payout (risk $100 to win $250).

Obvioulsy, the oddsmakers aren’t overreacting to the Game 1 result like the national media has. I’m not surprised by that but veteran handicapper Mark Franco is.

Franco, who is on a 6-3 run in the NBA Playoffs, told VI, “I felt like there would be more of an adjustment for Game 2 after the Lakers destroyed Orlando in Game 1. But it’s only Saturday so the public could still push this line higher then seven. I’ve seen first hand the flocks of bettors from Southern California that travel to Vegas on the weekend, and they always have their money on L.A.”

Although Franco expected the Lakers to be a little more ‘chalky’ for Game 2, he agrees with me in that this series is far from over. Franco said, “I don’t believe this series is over after one game and we’ve seen the Lakers have lapses in these playoffs. They have a propensity to just play when they want too. The Magic disappeared in Game 1 and I think they have too much talent to go up in smoke early in this series. We’ll see if the Lakers get complacent.”

Remember, Orlando won both regular-season encounters, including a 109-103 triumph at Staples Center on Jan. 16. The ‘under’ is now 2-1 in the three head-to-head meetings between these squads this year.

The ‘under’ is 57-45 overall for the Magic but is just 26-26 in its road assignments. The ‘over’ is 5-2 in Orlando’s last seven outings in the postseason.

The ‘under’ is 52-48-1 overall for the Lakers, 27-25 in their home games. The ‘under’ is on a 9-2 run for L.A. in its last 11 games regardless of venue. L.A. has watched the ‘under’ go 16-5 in its last 21 home outings.

Orlando owns a 32-20 SU record and 31-20-1 spread record on the road this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers are 45-7 SU and 26-26 ATS at home this year.

Tip-off on Sunday night is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets** has already released its future odds for the 2009-2010 NBA season. The Lakers are the plus-250 ‘chalk’ (risk $100 to win $250), followed by the Cavs with plus-300 odds. Other contenders include Boston (+500), Orlando (+700), Denver (+1200), San Antonio (+1500) and Houston (+1500).

Per LVSC’s recommendation, the adjusted series price is the Lakers minus-500 with the Magic plus-350 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $350).

Orlando’s blowout loss was the worst Game 1 defeat since 1992 when Chicago destroyed Portland at the old Chicago Stadium. That was the game when Michael Jordan hit six 3-pointers in the second quarter and after draining his sixth, turned to press row and gestured as if he didn’t know what was going on with all these treys at a time in his career when he had yet to master that aspect of his game.

According to BoDog Sports Book Manager Richard Gardner, bettors backing Bryant’s points to go ‘over’ 31 ½ easily cashed tickets. The offshore website was forcing ‘over’ backers to lay a minus-175 price (risk $175 to win $100). Gamblers backing Bryant in a points matchup with Dwight Howard (Bryant was favored by 7 ½ points) also turned a profit.

Phil Jackson teams have never lost a series in which they prevailed in Game 1.

Orlando is making its first Finals appearance since it was swept by the Rockets in 1995 (think missed free throws galore by Nick Anderson). After the Game 1 loss, the Magic are now 0-5 in five NBA Finals games.

L.A. has lost two home games in the playoffs – Game 1 vs. Houston and Game 2 vs. Denver.

I left my house at the end of the first quarter of Game 1 to drive to Smith’s Olde Bar for the rest of the game. During the drive, I had the privilege of hearing the ESPN Radio call from Mike Tirico, Dr. Jack Ramsay and Hubie Brown. Now I love Jeff Van Gundy as an ABC analyst, but I’ll take that radio crew over the TV guys every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Brown and Ramsay haven’t lost a step in their analysis even though they are way up there in age. Brown had Howard pegged perfectly early in the second quarter when he said, “I don’t like Howard’s body language at all right now. He’s got to be motoring down the court, making himself available and demanding the ball in the lane. He doesn’t have the look intensity-wise that you have to have out of your leader on the road in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.” Again, those were Hubie’s thoughts early in the second quarter. Obviously, he was dead on.

Ever heard of NBA ref Eric Lewis? According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach Police have.

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Re: Game 2 News and Notes

Game of the day: NBA Finals Game 2
By David Chan

Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers (-6.5, 202)

The betting line

If you blinked, you probably missed it.

The Lakers opened as 7-point favorites for Game 2 but were quickly bet down to -6.5.

That's a half-point higher than we saw in Game 1 and two full points higher than in the Magic and Lakers regular season meeting in Los Angeles.

The total opened at 203.5, but currently sits at 202.5 at most books. If you're looking to bet the over, you might be able to find a 201.5 or 202 before tipoff.

Where have you been?

"I just want it so bad, that's all."

That was Kobe Bryant following the Lakers 100-75 thrashing of the Magic in Game 1.

Now, I'm not saying that Kobe had been a no-show up to this point, far from it. It's just that we saw a much different guy wearing No. 24 Thursday night.

Kobe was aggressive from the opening tip, taking 34 shots en route to a 40-point night. But it's not as if he was selfish. He also dished out eight assists and grabbed eight rebounds.

If he brings that same level of intensity the rest of the way, this series is going to be over in a hurry.

On the rebound

The good news for the Magic is that they've shown the ability to bounce back from losses time and time again in these playoffs.

Orlando is 6-1 straight-up and 4-3 against the number following a loss.

They've split the first two games of each of their first three playoff series.

Dwight Howard believes there's plenty of room for improvement heading into Game 2.

“We’ve never had a shooting night this bad,” he told reporters. “We’ve just got to come out and play a lot harder than we did tonight.”

Kobe Bryant expects to see a different Magic squad on Sunday.

“This is a resilient team,” Bryant told the media. “They’ve been through a lot of adverse situations before. This is nothing new to them. We’ve got to forget about this and move on.”

Bad timing

Did Jameer Nelson's return have a negative impact on the Magic?

I wouldn't go that far, but there's no question he showed some rust, hitting just 3-of-9 shots including two misses from beyond the arc.

Nelson acknowledged that fact.

"I felt good. My rhythm was a little off, but it was good to be back out there," said the diminutive point guard. "There's always room for improvement, and the next two days individually - and as a team - we need to improve on some things."

The Magic lead the game 24-22 at the end of the first quarter, before Nelson entered at the start of the second. He played just over 23 minutes in the game and Orlando was outscored by 19 points with him on the floor.

History lesson

If recent history is any indication, the Lakers have the inside track in Game 2.

The home team has won and covered the first two games of the NBA Finals in each of the last four years.

Interestingly enough, the last team that failed to do so was the Los Angeles Lakers. They split the first two games against Detroit in 2004, eventually losing the series in five games.

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Orlando (12-8 SU, 10-10 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (13-6 SU, 11-8 ATS)

The Lakers resume their pursuit of a 15th championship when they host Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center against the Magic, who will attempt to bounce back from a blowout loss in the best-of-7 series opener.

Los Angeles hammered Orlando 100-75 in Game 1 Thursday as a six-point home chalk, winning and cashing for the third straight contest behind a defense that allowed just 34 points over the middle two quarters, while the Lakers scored 60 in that same stretch. Kobe Bryant racked up 40 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, Pau Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Lamar Odom came off the bench and notched a double-double of 11 points and 14 boards.

Mickael Pietrus had 14 points and Hedo Turkoglu 13 for Orlando, but star center Dwight Howard made just one field goal in six tries and was held to 12 points -- almost 10 below his playoff average – to go with 15 rebounds. The Magic shot a dismal 29.9 percent from the floor, while allowing 46.1 percent shooting from the Lakers, and they got clobbered on the boards 55-41, giving up 15 offensive rebounds.

Orlando, which won and covered against the Lakers in two regular-season meetings, is still 4-2 ATS (3-3 SU) in the last six clashes in this rivalry. Additionally, the underdog remains on a 6-1 ATS run, and the road team has cashed in five of those seven meetings.

Los Angeles is 45-7 SU (26-26 ATS) at home this season, including 9-2 SU (6-5 ATS) in the postseason. Orlando is 32-20 SU (31-20-1 ATS) on the road for the year, but just 5-6 SU and ATS in the postseason. Also, the Magic are now 0-5 SU all-time in the NBA Finals, having gotten swept by Houston in 1995.

Furthermore, L.A. has claimed 16 consecutive playoff series when winning Game 1, and Phil Jackson-coached teams are a whopping 43-0 in playoff series when winning Game 1.

Along with their current 3-0 SU and ATS run, the Lakers are on positive pointspread streaks of 4-1 overall, 8-2 after a two-day break, 5-2 at home and 9-4 against the Eastern Conference. However, they are still just 2-10-1 ATS in their last 13 NBA Finals starts, and they carry additional ATS skids of 3-9 after a SU win and 3-10 against the Southeast Division.

Despite Thursday’s ugly defeat, the Magic remain on ATS upticks of 7-2 overall, 17-8 as a road ‘dog, 20-8 against the Western Conference, 37-14 after a SU loss and 41-20-1 following an ATS setback.

Game 1 fell miles short of the 205½-point posted price, and the total has now stayed low in five of the last six Staples Center meetings between these squads. Additionally, the under for Los Angeles is on rolls of 9-2 overall, 6-0 at home, 28-9 when favored, 8-0 with the Lakers a playoff chalk and 5-0 against the Eastern Conference. Finally, the under for Orlando is on runs of 5-0 against the West, 8-2 after a non-cover, 7-2 after a SU loss and 16-6 when playing on two days’ rest.


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Orlando has to cope with Kobe
By Doug Upstone

The great thing about the NBA Finals is no matter how magnified a blowout win or loss is, it only counts for one game. The Los Angeles Lakers showed in Game 1 against Orlando why they were favored to win the NBA title, with conclusive 100-75 mauling. This was the third consecutive full team effort from the Lakers, who might be finally matching everyone's expectations.

If Kobe Bryant continues with the "mean face" he might land a few minor acting roles as villain or thug. The way he played in the series opener, he might be on his way to MVP after scoring 40 points, while dishing out eight assists and snaring the same amount of rebounds. It was rather evident, Bryant was setting the tone for the Lakers intensity and anybody wearing a gold uniform that wasn't going to play hard, might as well grab some bench or face the wrath of Kobe the Terrible.

The Los Angeles defensive game plan was brilliant, holding Orlando to 29.9 percent shooting. The Magic are unlikely to shoot as woefully again in the series, nonetheless the difference between how Cleveland defended Orlando's long range shooters and what the Lakers did was clear. The Cavaliers defense is more structured and is not as good straying 20 feet away from the rim. Los Angeles, when focused, has the athletes and length to contest three point shots and when Orlando players give ball-fakes and drive to basket, a number of tall Lakers are part of the greeting committee.

That was the Lakers first cover of a NBA Finals game in last dozen tries (1-10-1 ATS) and it does not guarantee they will cover the 6.5-point spread at for next contest. Since 1997, the last 20 teams that won by 10 or more points are only 12-8 and 10-8-2 ATS in next contest.

You have to chuckle about what teams say about injuries. Jameer Nelson was either "definitely out" or "will not play under any circumstances", yet a guy wearing number 14, with "Nelson" on a back of deep water blue Orlando jersey played better than 23 minutes in the opening contest. Coach Stan Van Gundy may have opened the Pandora's Box in letting Nelson play so much, as Rafer Alston was rendered useless. Alston is smart enough to know Nelson is a better shooter, probably a better playmaker, but it was he who took over the squad at the point guard and helped bring the team into the Finals.

Nelson was immediately effective upon hitting the floor, however after about the six minute mark of playing; he was ineffectual like the rest of his teammates. Van Gundy has potentially hazardous situation to workout.

The Magic got away a little too quickly from the big man in the middle, when the game was still within reach just before the midpoint of third quarter. Dwight Howard totaled six shots, with ONE make and was 10 for 16 from the charity stripe. Orlando offense works best most nights when they play inside-out, giving the touches the broad-shouldered one has requested. The Magic are 15-4 ATS off a road loss and 14-3 against the spread if it is by double digits.

Orlando complained outwardly about not being mentally ready, but what they were really saying they weren't ready for was Kobe and the Lakers actually prepared to play 48 minutes. The Magic have had two days of preparation to make adjustments and forgettable loss is easy to shake for a team that is 13-5-1 ATS who about 71 hours between assignments.

Phil Jackson will presume Howard will see the ball with a higher frequency and be more aggressive in taking it to the hoop. His players might need to be a few inches even closer in second encounter, with Orlando likely hitting more of their shots. Offensively, keep attacking the Magic off the dribble and have motion that sets up Lamar Odom and Luke Walton for interior baskets. The Lakers also are very solid off two days of rest with 8-2 ATS mark.

The total has been reduced to 202 and L.A. is 12-2 UNDER as a postseason favorite. You have to figure the Magic bunch can't play any worse and are 20-11 UNDER when the total is greater than or equal to 200.

The start time Sunday for Game 2 moves up an hour to 8 Eastern and Hedu Turkoglu and the guys will have to bring more game if they expect to improve upon recent 7-2 ATS run.

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