Saturday, June 6, 2009

Game 2 Adjustments: Magic-Lakers

1) Look to score and attack the basket: The thing that amazes me about this Orlando team time and time again is its ability to make the extra pass to find the open shooter and typically the better shot.

The Magic simply were passive on both sides of the court. As SportsCenter put it on its Twitter feed: "Josh E:The Magic looked happy to be there.The Lakers looked like they wanted to win 4 games in 1 night. And Kobe looked better than them all"

That is all that needs to be said. The effort was sort of there. The aggression was not.

Dwight Howard got the ball in the post and did not look to tear down the basket. Rashard Lewis settled for mid-range jumpers instead of going for the rim. Hedo Turkoglu hit his first couple shots and stayed on the perimeter.

Orlando is a better team when it attacks the basket and everyone looks to score. The 3-point shots are not just opened by Howard's presence in the middle. They are opened by everyone driving to the hole and causing the defense to collapse into the paint.

The Magic looked nervous on the big stage after Kobe Bryant offered his knockout punch in the second quarter. Things were rushed and the team was out of control. But for Orlando to have success in this series, it must look to score and play a fluid offense.

Kobe Bryant had that killer instinct and it was clear he wanted tot ake over the game. Howard needs to do the same and be a leader for his team.

2) Be more physical on defense, especially with Bryant: everyone in the Playoffs has pointed out that the Lakers are not the most physical of teams. Orlando is not seen as a physical team, but it is.

The Magic were scared this game (read above). They did not match the Lakers' aggression level. Sometimes jumpers do not fall... but not like this.

I remember Orlando's first game against Los Angeles. Bryant went off for 41 points, but I came away impressed with the job Keith Bogans did. Bogans was tough and physical with Bryant. I cannot recall Bryant driving to the hoop and getting easy shots at the basket. It was a tough 41 points (and it was on bad shooting).

The Magic are going to be fine with Bryant getting his points (barring 81-point outbursts) as long as others do not get involved -- notice how Phil Jackson pointed this out discretely during the game. But Orlando has to keep Bryant on the perimeter and, like defenders against Howard, us the team's fouls against him.

On the inside, it is OK to take a couple fouls to push people out of the paint. Orlando needs to win the physical battle and that means limiting offensive rebounds. Los Angeles simply outworked Orlando on this end of the court.

3) Bounce back: Orlando has been real good at bouncing back this entire season. This is one game. A 25-point blowout still counts as one win in the series. So this series is still competitive. The Magic cannot forget that.

They must bounce back strong in Game Two. That means a good start. An aggressive effort on both offense and defense. And a quick memory.

Who knows if Orlando is going to win Game Two. But the Magic will give a better effort for sure.

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