Posted by Neil Paine on June 10, 2009
With the series shifting to their own building for Game 3, the Orlando Magic knew they absolutely had to get a win by whatever means necessary if they wanted to have any shot at the NBA title. The Lakers' defense had ruled Games 1 and 2, holding the Magic below 100 points/possession in each of the matchups at Staples. While Rashard Lewis had still managed to play well, getting Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer Alston, and Mickael Pietrus going offensively would be a must for Orlando in Game 3. So did they get the job done at home, or did L.A. take a commanding 3-0 series lead?
|Los Angeles Lakers||86||104||121.3||125.9|
Finally, an offensive explosion for the Magic, who had been held in check for the majority of games 1 & 2 by L.A.'s stifling defense. Although, strangely for a team whose M.O. is knocking down perimeter J's, Orlando did the majority of their damage from inside the arc -- they drained a Finals-record 75% from the floor in the first half and a record 62.5% overall, but only 22% of their attempts came from the outside and they only made a paltry (by their standards at least) 35.7% of them. So that must mean Dwight Howard got loose, then? Uh, yup... Superman tied Lewis with a game-best 21 points and a +5 plus/minus, snagging 14 boards and recording an incredible 161.0 offensive rating, miles better than the 101.2 & 93.1 he put up in games 1 & 2, respectively. But it wasn't just Howard who shined offensively: just as literally every Orlando player not named "Lewis" suffered through a rough game on Sunday night, every member of the Magic (save for Courtney Lee & Jameer Nelson, both of whom logged less than 20 minutes) was on fire Tuesday. Together, Turkoglu, Lewis, Howard, Alston, Pietrus, and Battie used 86% of Orlando's possessions and combined for an insane 138.4 (!) offensive rating. This time, it was Los Angeles that had no answer for the Magic's offensive onslaught.
Even so, the Lakers managed to keep the game close late. Aside from another pair of rough offensive performances from Bynum and Walton, L.A.'s scorers played well, with Gasol posting his typical monstrously efficient 23 points (on a 163.4 ORtg -- he now has a 139.2 ORtg on the series!) and Bryant leading the way with 33 points produced on 40.5% of Laker possessions when on the floor. Defensively, though, neither team could really shut down the other until the end of the game, when a series of uncharacteristic miscues by Kobe (a missed free throw, one of 5 for Bryant on the game, and a backbreaking turnover on consecutive possessions with under 1:00 to play) marred Los Angeles' chances of eking out a win even in spite of Orlando's historic shooting performance.
So while it was a tough loss for the Lakers, the fact that the Magic only narrowly escaped with the victory at home even while shooting an unsustainably high % from the floor and seeing Kobe Bryant commit a number of out-of-character mistakes in crunch time has to give L.A. confidence that in a 7-game series of attrition, their superior weapons will give them the edge in the end. Congratulations are in order to Orlando for snapping their 6-game NBA Finals losing streak (dating back to 1995), of course, but while they won the battle for Game 3, the odds are still heavily on the Lakers' side in the war:
|Lakers in 5||23.2%|
|Lakers in 6||33.8%|
|Magic in 6||8.7%|
|Lakers in 7||23.2%|
|Magic in 7||11.1%|