Thursday, June 11, 2009

Orlando Game 3 thoughts

Well, that was not the greatest example of fluke shooting that I've ever seen, that would be Villanova in the 1985 NCAA championship game. But it is the second greatest fluke shooting exhibition I've ever seen, which makes it the greatest NBA fluke shooting game (and, certainly, half) I've ever witnessed.

Not much you can do about that, as it will never happen again. There are no moral victories in the Finals, so while the Lakers making this a flip a coin game into the last minute speaks well to their heart and to their fundamental fitness in this matchup, that is ultimately inconsequential. All that matters is that they came here with three chances to get the road win they need, and one of those chances is gone.

First quarter:
* Rhyner is right - the lights in this arena SUCK! A 10 foot wide glare near midcourt running the entire length of the court (from the standard TV angle, but I'm sure all spectators have to endure it on some substantial portion of the court from their vantage points)...seriously?

* Pau with two early dunks to get us off to an 8-2 start.

* Fish is 2/2, and it's 12-9.

* Now Alston is 2/2 and they lead 13-12.

* Kobe hits a 2 and a 3 to make it 17-13 LA, then another shot to make it 19-14.

* Drew with the and-1 on Howard, but he misses the FT; 21-16. And he's staying out of foul trouble himself.

* Rafer with a 3 to cut it to 21-19, both offenses are on fire here. As Kobe makes a shot to make it 23-21 LA they shooting is Orlando 64%, LA 61%.

* Rafer is now 4/4, cutting it back to 25-23. It's not bad defense, they have been inviting him to shoot (and right so) all series. It's just that tonight he is making them, as he will do once every few games, but it helps you many more games than it hurts you.

* And Kobe is 6/7 for 13, giving the Lakers back the lead at 27-25. Did I mention that the offenses are playing well?

* Pau picks up his 2nd at 1:03, the first bad news of the game.

* Rafer now has 11 in a 27-27 game, and the shooting is now Orlando 69%, LA 62%,

* Kobe with a 3 pointer with harm that turns in a 4 point play, giving him 17 on 7/10 shooting and giving the Lakers a 31-27 lead. Which they take to the end of the quarter.

Orlando has the 6-2 FT edge (+3 points), but the Lakers are up 2-1 in made 3's (+3). Orlando outshot LA 69-58% but turned it over 3 times to LA's 1. The Lakers won points in the paint 12-6, underscoring how well they are shooting from outside.

Second quarter:
* Sasha misses a shot, commits a foul, and is posted up by Pietrus for a score to make it 31-29. Sigh.

* Lamar for the and-1 off a great feed from Luke to make it 34-29.

* Orlando is shooting 74% (!), but trails 38-33 to the 57% shooting Lakers.

* An alley oop to Howard gets them to 75% shooting (15/20) and to within 38-36.

* Farmar hits a 3, but Turkeyglue hits one right back; 41-39. Good thing they didn't let him shoot from 2 point range, where they are 14/15 as a team!

* Make that 15/16, as Pietrus ties the game at 41 and they are now at 77% (17/22).

* Kobe hits a 3 and has 20; 44-41.

* Good lord, Pietrus committed the most obvious double dribble in the history of basketball on a fast break and somehow nobody saw it, the dunk cuts it to 44-43. Like their hot shooting asses really need the help.

* More shots, two by Hedo and one by Rafer give them a lead at 49-48. I'm not sure of the exact stat but I think they are 357/359 shooting so far. Alston has 5/5 for 13 points.

* They are shooting 78% to our 58% but we lead 50-49 (until they bring the ball up and score again).

* Alston misses! Yes, that's worth a bullet point.

* Lewis hits back to back 3's to put them up 57-54. Their pick and roll is killing us but not because of the roll action, it's just an incredible fluke shooting exhibition, somewhere John Thompson is cringing.

* 59-54 at the half, their 24/32 for 75% is the best shooting half in Finals history. Duh. Even more amazing, they are 20/23 on 2 point shots. LA is staying in by shooting 22/41 (53.7%) themselves.

Kobe has 21 on 8/15, but only 4 in the quarter as he finished with 4 straight misses. Orlando has the 10-9 FT advantage (+1 point) but made 3's are 4-4. They have a 14-10 rebounding edge, the 24 total is remarkably low and I'm not sure how we got to 10 with so few chances (Pau has 0). Orlando has 4 guys in double figures and another with 8, everybody's hitting.

Third quarter:
* If I miss something that happens this quarter, it's because I was temporarily blinded by Brian Shaw's white suit. But if I'm looking for a high end hooker I know who to call!

* For some reason, Lee crowded and reached into Kobe 28 feet from the basket with the shot clock running down, allowing Kobe the easy swing through for a three shot foul. But he hits only one, and we trail 65-61.

* Ariza with a steal that turns into a 3, cutting it to 65-64.

* Kobe picks up an offensive foul 5 1/2 minutes in, his third. Should not be a problem, he plays well with fouls most of the time.

* Rafer is 7/9 for 17 points as they stretch it back to 69-64.

* Odom also picks up his third, at 4:23, but should be OK.

* Kobe misses another free throw, and is now 4/8, and we are down...4 at 71-67.

* Pau has 16 on 7/9, he's great if we would just get him the damned ball more; 73-69.

* Ugh, Howard shoves Pau down to get an offensive rebound, causing Lamar to have to take his 4th at 2:52.

* Trevor misses an open 3, and Lewis makes one on the other end to give them their biggest lead at 77-69.

* Another missed free throw, this time by Pau, and we are 9/16 in a 77-70 game that should be much closer.

* Kobe hits a 3 to cut it to 77-75.

* Howard makes a pair then hits one of those swooping hook shots to put them back up 81-75.

And that's where the quarter ends. They are shooting 65.3% still, FT are tied at 18 (Orlando +1 point) and made 3's are tied 5-5. The unreal two point shooting is the difference.

Fourth quarter:
* Orlando is shooting 67% for the game. In the 4th quarter. I have never seen that in an NBA game. IN related news, they lead 85-77.

* Farmar now has 7 off the bench as the lead is cut to 87-81.

* Lamar's 1/2 gives the Lakers 9 missed free throws, and it gets worse as Farmar rebounds the miss but thorws it right to Pietrus for an easy breakaway layup; the swing play makes it 93-85.

* Ariza drills a 3 to get it back to 93-88.

* And Fish with one of this own to cut it to 95-93, and the natives are restless. The Lakers are 7/7 in the quarter.

* Kobe hits a J at 3:57 to keep the deficit small at 99-97.

* Hedo fouls Pau in the post at 2:41, great recognition by the Lakers there to exploit the mismatch after a switch. Pau ties the game by making them.

* Pietrus gets a weakside putback dunk to give them back the lead at 101-99.

* Awful Kobeball, as he settles for a bad 3 instead of moving the ball, when the offense has been rolling all quarter.

* Alston is fouled at 1:54, but only makes 1/2, and their lead is 102-99.

* Kobe is fouled when he's crowded on a double team and splits it. Risky move but it worked this time.

* Pau dives for a layin and gets no call despite a lot of contact, 102-101 Orlando.

* Lewis makes a tough bomb with his foot on the line right at the end of the shot clock; 104-101 with 1:06 to play.

* Kobe drives the lane and gets a foul call on Howard at 59.8. Replays showed that it should have been a jump ball, lucky one for us, but he only makes 1/2 and it's still 104-102. Kobe is now 5/10 from the line with a couple of the makes of the rollin variety, he has really looked out of rhythm there.

* Excellent defense culminating in Lamar blocking Lewis at 37.6.

* Oh my God...Kobe drives into a double team and dribbles it away, but Pau recovers on the floor in traffic. And...doesn't take tome out, instead trying to flip it back to Kobe, who drops the hot potato and then has to foul Pietrus at 28.7.

Huge gaffe by Pau, we had a full and a 20 and you will only need at most one more TO to advance the ball (and that only if the clock is almost gone), you just have to stop it there. A boneheaded play by our headiest player looks like ti is going to ruin a great chance to steal one and put this thing away.

Pietrus nails them both and they have the two possession lead at 106-102.

* A series of missed desperation 3's (Ariza, Kobe, Fish) and offensive rebounds ends with Kobe in the lane and forced to lay it in at 0.5. The inbounds to Lewis takes it down to 0.2 and that will do it even if he misses one (as he should on purpose). Instead, he makes them both to make the final 108-104, and we have a series again dammit. So close.

Orlando ends up with a 30-26 free throw advantage (+7 points), but that counts 4 on intentional fouls late so it is really even. Then again they had a lot fewer shots so their free throw rate was still huge in their favor, 0.47-0.33. I've pretty much given up on the Lakers getting a fair shake from the officials this postseason, whether by random chance or because the league is hypersensitive to perceptions of bias in favor of glamor teams, it just ain't happening and I don't see it changing at this late date.

LA killed themselves with 10 missed FT (16/26), even with all of their shooting heroics we still win that one if we make out freebies.

And it's not like it's because they pounded it inside and LA shout outside; LA won points in the paint 40-36.

The Lakers actually win made 3's 8-5, an unexpected +9 points. Both teams again shoot reight around average, neither has yet to shoot either well or poorly from distance in this series even even once.

But the story is Orlando's 62.5% shooting (40/64), as you would expect it is a Finals record. That includes a truly remarkable 35/50 on 2's, a 70% mark that I doubt has ever been matched except by the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. LA shoots 51.3% themselves, normally that will give you nice advantage.

The Earvins shot 15/26 (57.7%) on long 2's, the worst shot in basketball, including a silly 10/13 in the first half. They had been 3/19 (15.8%) in G1 and 7/17 in G2. If they keep throwing up 26 of 64 shots from that range we will be champs in short order, you can't win that way.

The previous highs were 61.7% by the 1991 Bulls and 61.5% by the 1987 Lakers.

Orlando was +2 in rebounding (29-27) and the 56 total was the second least in Finals history. Gotta have a miss to get a rebound, the Laker front line only had 4 by Drew, 3 by Lamar and 2 by Pau. And it's not because we rebounded poorly, we pulled down 76% of their misses and 38% of our own, both very good totals.

Turnovers and points off were dead even.

This was the Lakers' 7th straight road loss in the Finals (tying the 1955-56 Fort Wayne Pistons for the record), and of course ended Orlando's 0-6 overall record in the Finals (the record is Baltimore/Washington's 9 in 1970/1975/1978). We need to end ours on Thursday.

Howard has 20 double-doubles in the playoffs, behind only Barkley's 22 in 1993, Duncan's 22 in 2003, and Shaq's 21 in 2000.

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