Laker fans today will undoubtedly take solace in the fact that despite their poor defensive performance, and despite Kobe Bryant being unusually ‘unclutch’ in the waning moments of Game 3, they still had a chance to win the ball game.
On the other hand, while Orlando did shoot over 60% from the field, they will be thinking about the fact that they won despite a mediocre defensive performance themselves. Mental mistakes such as bailing out Bryant by fouling him on three point shots and tough fade away jump shots, will be on their mind as missing an opportunity to blow out the Lakers as they were blown out in Game 1. But a win is still a win…
And the story of the night in my view was Rafer Alston, aka ‘Skip to my Lou’. The And 1 Mixtape star came out to play last night. He played solid on both ends, containing Derek Fisher on defense, and shredding the Lakers defense by getting into the paint at will on the other.
There was one particular play in the 3rd quarter where he gave Fisher the most ridiculous playground shimmy, then spun hard at the top of the key making Fisher look like a mere Pylon in a Magic practice. Rafer finished the play by taking the ball all the way through the Lakers defense and hard to the cup. Kissed off the glass just right. What a move from ‘Skip’….
On his way to 20 points on 8-12 shooting, Rafer Alston gave Stan Van Gundy some food for though for the rest of the series. At the end of Game 2 Van Gundy went with a ‘no point guard’ line-up due to the lack of scoring production from Rafer Alston and/or Jameer Nelson. Up until last night Rafer spent far too much time settling for three point shots and hanging around the perimeter. For a guy with probably the sickest handles in the league, it’s about time he started penetrating and exposing Fisher on the perimeter. With the way Rafer played last night, it will be hard for the Magic to keep him out of the game the rest of the series.
Here’s what the other blogs are saying about last night’s Orlando win:
Lakers of Fire – “Well, I’m officially confused. How do you hold a team to 30% shooting and then less than a week later allow that same team to shoot 62.5%? The Lakers defense wasn’t just bad, it was Finals record bad. I thought the Lakers had gotten over this whole lapse of focus problem, but instead it came back to haunt them in spades as they allowed a NBA Finals record shooting percentage in the Game 3 loss. Now the Lakers have to be deeply concerned about whether or not they can fix their defense because this wasn’t just a flukishly good shooting night for the Magic, it was a methodical decimation of the Lakers defensive scheme.”
Ball Don’t Lie – “Bryant, an 84 percent free-throw shooter over the course of his career, missed 5 of 10 freebies in Game 3. It wasn’t just down the stretch, either, as he seemed to have a hitch in his free throw stroke from the beginning of the game. The Lakers missed 10 free throws overall, death in what was essentially a one or two possession game for 48 minutes.”
Slam Online – “Rafer not only played well in scoring 20 points, but took good shots and even pulled out his signature Earl Monroe-like spin with just a bit more mustard on it. Even though I have seen him do that infamous spin move on defenders countless times, it still makes me say “ooohh” every time.”
Third Quarter Collapse – “In contrast, the Magic’s heavy-hitters were more balanced with their shot attempts. Howard had just 6, but his 16 free-throw attempts give a better indicator of his involvement with the offense. Pietrus took 11, Alston and Turkoglu took 12 each, and Lewis took 14. Everyone moved the ball, and it resulted in enough decent looks to make everyone happy.”
Dime Mag – “Rafer Alston finally woke up and played like a starter. “He’s playing like ‘Skip to my Lou’,” Mark Jackson said. Skip scored 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter, and was 8-of-12 from the field with one three. How frustrating is it for Orlando to realize that if they had gotten anything out of Rafer in Game 2, they probably would’ve won?”
What are your thoughts on Rafer Alston and the Magic’s win in Game 3?