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A lot is decided by just a little

June 08, 2009|MARK HEISLER

Q: How do you not feel good about Game 1 so you don't come into Game 2 with a fat head?

A: Well, that's not an easy task, obviously. . . .

-- Phil Jackson,

before Sunday's game


The Lakers ride again, however unsteadily.

No, it still isn't over, but they're definitely back to being the Lakers.

Lakers talk the talk, and walk the walk -- well, at least some of the time -- as they did just often enough to edge the Orlando Magic, 101-96, in overtime Sunday night to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

To Orlando's credit, it stopped being all about the Lakers, whose game dropped off from their monster Game 1, while the Magic's came up so far, they almost passed them.

For a moment at the end of regulation, it looked as if it was about to be a 1-1 series, as Hedo Turkoglu's inbounds lob sailed over Kobe Bryant to Courtney Lee, going in for the game-winning layup.

Fortunately for the Lakers, tragically for the Magic, Lee had to reach back, and adjust, and, as Chick Hearn used to say . . .


If Lee had made it, it would have been one of the great coaching moves in Finals history, so maybe Jackson's 9-0 lead in titles over Orlando's Stan Van Gundy isn't that important.

"We warned Kobe that was probably what they were going to come back to, because the first time [before Orlando called timeout and set up a new play] he was helping on a lob opportunity to [Dwight] Howard," said Jackson.

"Honestly, it was just a brilliant play," said Bryant. "It was a very, very smart play that he [Van Gundy] drew up. He knew my eye was more on the shooters coming up and just a hell of a play by a hell of a coach."

And Bryant's thoughts when he saw the ball in the air?

"Shoot," he said, or something like that it.

So what do you have when the ball rolls off the rim on your brilliant play?

A 2-0 deficit.

"We missed it," said Van Gundy, "I don't know what else to say. . . .

"Hedo made a great pass, and we missed it. I don't really know. I'm not trying to be a pain in the butt. I just don't know what else to say about it."

How about, "Shoot?"

A lot is often decided by a little and this was one of those knife's edge moments.

As much of a "relief" as this was for the Lakers, as Jackson noted, they now need one win in the next week to come home one win from the title.

Two wins in Orlando, and they'll come home with the title, and start planning their next dynasty.

The Lakers came into Sunday night with all the momentum in the world, as at least as much as they could generate in their last three games.

"I think this postseason has been about us learning about ourselves and not really so much about who we're playing against," said Derek Fisher between games.

"I mean, Houston pushed us to the brink, the Denver series was really physical and back and forth, but I don't know if it's ever been about the opponent. . . .

"If we just do the things that we practice every day and talk about for ourselves, then we could care less who the opponent is, because if you're operating at your best, the way our team is constructed, the opponent is irrelevant."

Meet a relevant opponent.

As broken as the Magic looked in Game 1, Van Gundy had them ready to play Sunday.

By the third quarter, they had even figured out how to run an offense against the Lakers, with Howard waiting until they swarmed all over him, and then looking for his shooters, Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis.

It's the same adjustment the Lakers used to turn the Denver series around, and it almost turned this one around too.

Unfortunately for the Magic, apart from Lewis and Turkoglu, who combined to go 9-18 on threes, everyone else was 1-12.

Rafer Alston, who complained he was taken out of his rhythm by Jameer Nelson's return in Game 1 -- which Van Gundy called "an excuse" -- played 25 minutes Sunday night, long enough to get up eight shots and miss seven.

So Van Gundy went down the stretch with both Alston and Nelson on the bench, and Turkoglu at the point.

It was daring, unconventional and it almost worked.

What do you get for that?

Two days for Thomas Edison Van Gundy to go home and find something that works before it's 3-0.


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