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The Series Really Begins On Sunday


Where are we again? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)


Although Phil Jackson never loses a series when his team wins Game 1 --really, it never happens, he's 43-0 -- I'm not ready to hand the Los Angeles Lakers the championship or dismiss the Orlando Magic just yet, based on what happened last night. The Lakers won in blowout fashion, 100-75, over a Magic team that seemed a bit spooked about being on the big stage -- and facing Kobe Bryant, who appears to be auditioning for the role of Jason Voorhees in the next Friday the 13th movie with his determined, menacing scowl.

Last night was a rare Game 1 letdown for the Magic, which opened its series against the defending champion Boston Celtics and the 66-win Cleveland Cavaliers with surprising victories. Orlando started out pretty well through the first 15 minutes, taking a five-point lead early in the second period, but the Lakers outscored the Magic 72-42 the rest of the game.

Orlando looked like a clueless bunch of novices -- which it was -- that had no idea what the Finals are all about. Shaquille O'Neal, the former Magic and Lakers center, even decided to add to Orlando's humiliation by posting on photograph on his Twitter site, THE_REAL_SHAQ, showing what the child of Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard would look like.

I was shocked that it had taken Bryant this long to have a 40-point game in the NBA Finals. I always thought that he topped that during his previous best Finals performance in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals, when that skinny 21-year-old kid with the Afro led the Lakers to an overtime win over the Indiana Pacers after O'Neal had fouled out. I was shocked to see that Bryant only finished with 28 points that night.

But too many oddities occurred in Game 1. First off, I found it quite amusing that at different times last night, Lakers fans chanted, "Magic [Stinks]! Magic [Stinks]!" Did you ever think that Lakers fans would ever say that, considering some guy named Magic led the franchise to five NBA championships and has a statue out in front of Staples Center?

As for the Magic, there were some other things that made me think that this game was a fluke, that Orlando was a victim of the Stage Fright Factor. Howard, coming off his 40-point, 14-rebound game in the series clincher against Cleveland, was only allowed to take six shots. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis shot a combined 5-for-21 from the field.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that Andrew Bynum has the strength, the length and lateral quickness and Pau Gasol has the length and quick enough feet to make Howard work for his shots. Turkoglu and Lewis also don't have the same matchup advantages against Trevor Ariza, Gasol and Lamar Odom that they had in previous series against the likes of Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Brian Scalabrine, Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace.

But the Lakers have proven that they can be a complacent team this postseason, while the Magic is the same resilient team that has overcome deflating buzzer-beaters against Davis and LeBron James. It also bounced back from an 18-point loss to Boston in Game 2 of the conference semifinals to hammer the Celtics by 21 in the next game.

Game 2 will go a long way toward determining what to truly expect from the Magic. Like Coach Stan Van Gundy said, his team is better than it played on Thursday. It's kind of easy to toss aside that sort of loss, blame it on the jitters of Finals newcomers and move on. Orlando will also have two days to get it right after realizing that the intensity has increased even more in the fourth round of the NBA playoffs.

The next game should be better and offer a glimpse of the Real Orlando Magic. If not, the next game could be the last one in Los Angeles this season.

By Michael Lee  |  June 5, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
 
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Comments

My only comment about this series:

That 'Cromagnon, lower jaw jutting, teeth gritting' thing that Kobe does now to show determination looks really stupid.

Can't wait for the series 2 b over so we can concentrate on what's really important...the Wizards draft and summer league participation.

Posted by: original_mark | June 5, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Mike this is great but can we get some Wizards updates...namely what Gilbert is up to and how he's feeling, whether he's got the explosiveness back etc?

Posted by: insanity999 | June 5, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Lakers have the personnel to defend Orlando's two forwards, Ariza and Odom have both length and agility. Gasol may not be able to match up with Howard on strength, but he can dish out offensively. Bynum has the bulk and strength, but coming back from the surgery, he does not move well defensively and is rusty and lacks explosiveness on offensive. I think how well Bynum plays will determine Lakers success in this series. (Of course Odom is always a question mark, since he does not play consistently from game to game.)

Posted by: sagaliba | June 5, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

here here, insanity999.

I'm a Wiz fan first, NBA fan second.

Posted by: original_mark | June 5, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Shaq's picture of baby howard-vangundy is REALLY funny! It's worth the click

Posted by: cballer | June 5, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Keep the posts coming Mike, gotta love NBA finals time.

What is that saying, 'Pressure bursts pipes.'
Someone give Orlando a phone book, they need to call a plumber.

Posted by: CrabHands | June 5, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

the Lakers bigs will play to a draw with Orlando's bigs...but Orlando can not match LA's backcourt...to me its as simple as that. I have a lot of respect for what Orlando has done, but I just think it will be hard to beat the Laker's in a 7 game series... mark my words, this is the beginning of another Lakers' dynasty. they are very good, deep and relatively young. I think the only thing they are missing is the enforcer and that can be acquired for cheap....And that hurts to say, since I'm a wiz fan and I would love to see us grab a ring in the next 2-3 years

Posted by: cedric_lockhart | June 5, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

being a Kobe fan since the adidas,brandy, and afro days i have to say that i hope he succeeds.

people who root for people to fail usually are failures themselves, and this guy has bounced back from the colorado days and has made a superb name for himself. And the face he makes is a face of im not Bs'n i want a title. and i can surley admire that. and i hope his teamates are in that mode also.

Gilbert arenas needs to start makin his face look like that too, instead of playing horse with nick young goofin with andray blatche n what not. I wouldnt b suprised if Gilbert had another surgery... But anyway, Lakers will win the series in 6 and they might get another one next season. against the cavs.

but as for the wizards, until we get a floor leader commited to the defensive end of the court, we will be a one and done playoff team.

Posted by: jasperhneyaolcom | June 5, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The NBA does (and has always done) a terrible job with its playoff scheduling. There's no excuse for the Finals starting just last night. It should've begun on Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. And the next game should be on Saturday, not Sunday. They don't need all these games off. The NHL, for all its mismanagement, does it right. Teams play every other day. They even played back to back a couple of times, which isn't ideal, but does make it fun to watch. (And I know, I know, it's all about the primetime spots and getting the ad dollars. And I'm not comparing how the NHL is run to how the NBA is run because, even though the NHL playoffs are exceedingly more exciting than the NBA playoffs, the NBA is a well run league, and the NHL is not.)

Posted by: CDon | June 5, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

There's no excuse for the Finals starting just last night. It should've begun on Tuesday

-------------

If the Cavs/Magic went to seven games, game seven would have been played on Monday, I believe. So the Magic would have started the finals on no rest.

Posted by: crs-one | June 5, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I, for one, find it odd that there is not a Fri or Sat playoff game.

Posted by: cballer | June 5, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I, for one, find it odd that there is not a Fri or Sat playoff game.

Posted by: cballer | June 5, 2009 1:38 PM


PEOPLE arent home on friday or saturday nights, they are out

on sunday people are home more with thier families.

Posted by: jasperhneyaolcom | June 5, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I find it odd that Game 2 is tonight instead of last night. The 3-day lay offs should have come between sites not between games in the same city. And, they should have been on a Saturday night (both 3-day breaks push the next game to a Sunday.)

Weeknight games might work on the West coast but it's hard to go out for games that don't end until nearly midnight in the East.

Posted by: rmiller19 | June 7, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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