|Kobe Bryant (Bob Rosato/SI)|
1. We have a new twist in the point guard debate for the Magic.
The question over which point guard -- incumbent starter Rafer Alston or returning All-Star Jameer Nelson -- should play the majority of the minutes for the Magic was asked thousands of times in hundreds of different ways in the last 48 hours. But with both Alston (four points on 1-for-8 shooting) and Nelson (four, 1-for-3) struggling from the perimeter, Stan Van Gundy washed his hands of both in the fourth quarter, inserting J.J Redick into the game for Nelson with just under nine minutes remaining and making Hedo Turkoglu the primary ballhandler.
"We were just searching for somebody to be able to make a shot," said Van Gundy. "Obviously, we didn't find anybody. Our guards were 6-for-26. For the most part we just couldn't knock anything down. That was the only thing, we were just trying to see if we could get somebody out there who would make shots off of the double-teams and off the pick-and-rolls and things like that."
The Turkoglu-as-playmaker lineup was reasonably effective: the Magic trailed by three when Nelson came out and rallied to tie the game at the end of regulation. And with the offense stalling early under Alston and Nelson (Orlando scored just 15 points in the first quarter), Van Gundy may go back to that lineup in Game 3.
"I'm not sure I got another lineup to throw out there that you haven't seen," said Van Gundy. "Unless I'm going to play like Dwight [Howard], Marcin [Gortat], Tony [Battie], Rashard [Lewis] and Hedo. I don't have another one now. We played with no point guard, we played conventionally, we had Rashard at the three, and we played Hedo at the one, two and three. We played Rashard at the three and four. We played big, we played with no point guard. What do they say, just keep throwing stuff at the wall and hope something sticks."
2. We said before the series that Lamar Odom would be the key. Well, he is.
Calling a player an x-factor is like saying you need 100 percent effort or to take things one game at a time. It's overused and generally doesn't mean very much. But in Odom's case, it's actually appropriate. The 6-foot-10 Odom is that rare type of player who is comfortable on both the perimeter and on the inside and can create mismatches on virtually every possession. He did that again in Game 2, torching the Magic for 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Odom is in constant pain -- his back requires heavy treatment before games -- but he continues to be one of L.A.'s most consistent players and his two free throws late in overtime sealed the game for the Lakers.
"I know the offense," said Odom. "I know how to find my way through the offense and get those shots and make them when they count. All I have to do is get the defense leaning to me and then Pau (Gasol) and Kobe (Bryant) get it going. There's going to be some nights I just have to be efficient. I got nine shots. I want to make eight. It was just one of those games. I've got to just take advantage when my opportunity comes."
3. OK, we know Kobe is locked in. But is he trying to do too much?
It's a legitimate question and one Phil Jackson has brought up several times during this series. Lost in Bryant's epic 40-point effort in Game 1 was the fact that he had to toss up 34 shots to get there. Jackson has implied that the Lakers don't need Kobe dominating the game to win and Bryant seemed to get the message in the first half of Game 2, taking only five shots as the Lakers went into the locker room with a five-point lead. But he took 17 shots in the second half and went one-on-four on the last play of regulation and had his shot blocked while an open Trevor Ariza and Odom waved in his direction.
"I didn't think Kobe had a good game at all as far as his standards go," said Jackson. "They double-teamed him, they trapped him, they came on all his drives, and we didn't adjust to it immediately."
Telling Bryant not to shoot is like telling Buzz Bissenger not to write or Wolfgang Puck not to cook. But the Lakers are more successful when Bryant is choosing his spots and using his ability to draw the entire defense to get his teammates involved.
Play Of The Night
Bryant-to-Gasol will never be mistaken for Stockton-to-Malone, but Kobe's bounce pass to a cutting Pau with less than two minutes to go in overtime resulted in a three-point play that capped a 7-0 Lakers run and effectively put the game out of reach.
"I thought they were struggling during the ballgame," said Jackson. "They kept communicating during the course of the game about how they're going to react to the actions that Orlando was defending, how they're defending it. They finally found a way at the end of the game to come through with some of those plays."
Van Gundy's white boards have become legendary for the amount of information Van Gundy can cram onto an approximately 4' x 6' board. That board is usually up before the game in the locker room and many media members pause to take note of the Magic's game plan. But before Game 2 the board was conspicuously absent from the locker room, a sign that the Magic might be wary of too much information leaking out before a game. ... The NBA announced that the 2011 All-Star game would be held in Los Angeles. An NBA source said only a few cities were competing for the right to host the '11 game, which was last in L.A. in 2004. ... A few SI reporters were approached by Lakers assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's publicist to let us know that the king of the Sky Hook was now Twittering. Anyone interested in reading Abdul-Jabbar's thoughts can check him out on Twitter at kaj33.
The Magic can take some comfort in the fact that despite a roller-coaster performance lowlighted by 20 turnovers and 33.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc, they were still able to push the Lakers into overtime on their home floor.
"It's amazing to me that this was an overtime game," said Van Gundy. "I can't quite figure out how it was looking at these numbers."
But Orlando needs to find some consistency. The Magic shot 32.4 percent in the first half and if not for Rashard Lewis (who was 8-for-12 in the first 24 minutes) it would have been in the low 20's. Orlando's guards have been brutal from the outside, especially when you consider the Lakers aren't paying much attention to them on the perimeter. Without solid guard play, Orlando can't hope to send this series back to LA next week.
"I don't think it's much trouble to get our guards shots," said Van Gundy. "They're not guarding them. They're only guarding three guys, so it's not very hard to get those guys shots."