Monday, June 8, 2009

Lakers-Magic Game Two: Courtney Lee, Meet Nick Anderson

In their relatively short history, the Orlando Magic have had some very good offensive players. The start of Shaquille O'Neal. The prime time of Tracy McGrady. The entirety of Dwight Howard. The prime time of Penny Hardaway.

None of these guys are the Magic's all-time leader in points. That's Nick Anderson.

Anderson, for the benefit of those people who don't remember the 1994-95 playoffs, was the prime scoring option on the expansion Magic team, and a secondary option once the Shaq-Penny team rose to prominence. In Game One of the lone prior Magic appearance in the Finals against the Hakeem Olajuwon Rockets, he missed four straight free throws, leading to overtime and Kenny Smith earning his ring. Eventually, Anderson's 70% rate from the line degraded to 40%, and the team shipped him off to Sacramento to end his career.

Courtney Lee is an inch and five pounds smaller than Anderson, according to the press guide. Despite the size, they really don't have too much in common, since the Association has gotten so much bigger in the past decade. Anderson was a true swingman, and you could live with him at the small forward, because he gave all-around stats and decent rebounding numbers. Lee's more of a useful bench piece, at least at this point in his career; if he's not scoring, he's not that useful.

But after a point-blank miss at the buzzer in regulation tonight with the game tied on a spectaculalrly blown inbounds play by the Lakers, you can forgive Magic Fan (or, at least, the 18 people who have been Magic Fans for more than the length of Dwight Howard's career) for conflating the two.

As for the rest of the game tonight, it was an improbable classic. The first half had one Magic player (Rashard Lewis) playing well, and the rest stumbling around as if the Game One blowout had dictated the rest of the series. In the third quarter, Lewis was (finally) joined by Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, and the fourth was back and forth, with the Magic doing their distributed cluth routine with makes by Turkoglu, Lewis and (!) JJ Redick, while the Lake Show rode Lamar Odom even more than Kobe Bryant, who was much more ordinary tonight than he was in Game One. In the last Lakers possession of regulation, Turkoglu made a fantastic recovery block on Bryant that's going to do wonders to make the Assocation fans think he's an actual defensive player.

But after dodging the Lee miss bullet, there was just a sense that the Lakers weren't going to lose this game, and five minutes of Pau Gasol created seven of the Lakers' 13 in the extra time, and that was all she wrote. I'm pretty sure that the Magic will be able to build on this, maybe to the point of a relatively easy Gane 3 win, but I'm not seeing them winning all three games on their court. But since they really have only played a half of decent basketball, it's not like they deserve more.

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