Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals is hard to watch for many reasons. It was a loss, for one thing. But far more painful is the memory of a confident, exciting group of guys who did a lot of things right. I would not go so far as to call the Magic in 2009 a team of destiny, but I would certainly say that my excitement after 2009 was through the roof thinking about the potential the Magic had of stringing together multiple championship seasons.
Now, after a couple of years, we can only look back fondly (even at the losses) in 2009 and wonder where that team of destiny went.
Dwight was not quite ready
He did so many things right. He attracted the double-team, got to the foul line (sometimes), passed the ball with precision (for the most part), and rebounded like it was going out of style. What was missing for me was that takeover hunger that Kobe Bryant had throughout the entire game and series. Yes, Dwight demanded the ball, but he did not command the paint. At times he struggled to make good decisions like going left instead of right, or spinning for the lob instead of trying to back Gasol down. You can’t point the finger at Dwight, but you can safely say that he was not ready to win a championship. This was not Shaq, nor was it Tim Duncan. He needed another year or two to develop (which he did). The sad thing is that 2009 team did not stay a 2009 team with him. They dwindled as his game got progressively better. It is one of the more painful memories Magic fans have. Dwight was great, he was even terrific, but he was not ready in 2009 to win a championship.
Rashard Lewis: “I really thought Dwight was going to be my chance to win a ring.”
After Game 2, Dwight Howard probably thought Rashard Lewis was going to be his chance to win a ring. Lewis was unconscious, and posted one of the biggest double-doubles of his career. Through all five periods, he looked like the perimeter juggernaut we all thought he would be for a long time. He stepped up and hit big shots, drilled from the outside, crashed the boards hard, and helped create for a Magic team that lacked a point guard. This quote speaks volumes for the mindset that Lewis had coming into this series. He felt he was a part of something special, which evidently sparked greatness. It’s just a shame it wasn’t enough to get a ring.
Big game Turk brings back bittersweet memories
It’s this series, and really this game that lingers in our memories when we watch Turk now. I’ve tweeted it, Eddy has tweeted it, and everyone has thought it. “Why can’t Turk be the 2009 Turk that we remember?” It was too good to be true. Nelson was playing minimal minutes, and the Courtney Lee/Mickael Pietrus combo was not getting things done on the offensive side. Turk stepped in as the ultimate facilitator. All offense went through him, and his confidence and ability to create was indeed something special. What stood out most was Turk’s step back jumper, so smooth and evasive. For some guys in the league, you can’t give them a foot. In this game, you really couldn’t give Turk even six inches. He’d make you pay.
Stan Van Gundy had this Magic squad in total trust of their own ability both individually and cooperatively. The offensive scheme in Game 2 was to use Dwight as a decoy, making sure he got all of his touches, but ultimately looking to strike from the outside. The way Dwight delivered the ball was only matched by the confidence from guys like Rashard and Turk who calmly stepped into big three-point shots and delivered daggers throughout the entire game. This is a confidence we haven’t seen in Orlando since 2009. The confidence to play through bad calls, turnovers, and missed shots. Rashard and Turk in particular played as if everyone already knew the ring was theirs.
Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus each picked up some early fouls, as did Bynum. It was a strangely officiated game, and each player on the court took their turn expressing distaste for a lot of the officiating. However, since tensions were high, and bad calls were made against both teams, I’m willing to leave this one alone. One thing I will say, though, is the looks on the faces of Lakers players after they are whistled is probably the most obnoxious thing in the world. I used to think the Celtics were the most incapable of accepting the fact that they fouled someone, but after reviewing Game 2, I give those honors to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Howard’s 8 rebounds in first quarter outweighed by 8 turnovers
Let’s face it. It was not just a first half problem. The Magic could have closed this game out a bunch of times. Turnovers killed them, and even though they cleaned it up in the second half, they should not have lost this game. The team that outrebounds their opponent should win. Dwight’s rebound victory was essentially neutralized by the turnovers that the Magic guards committed.
Howards first dunk of the series. Who cares?
I’m not sure why the announcers, particularly Jeff Van Gundy, made such a big deal about Dwight’s first dunk of the series coming six quarters in. Sure, dunks get these guys excited, but aren’t they professional enough to not be bogged down by the lack of a dunk? It got mentioned about four times in the game. I was just taken aback by that. How about talking about his assist to turnover ratio or free throw percentage down the stretch? Those seem like more important talking points.
What a bummer it was for Magic fans to have to endure a hot night from the candy man, Lamar Odom. Over and over, when Bynum went to the bench with foul trouble, Odom would appear and make life absolutely miserable for the Magic. His outside shooting was sharp, and his post moves were scary. Odom is an enigma, and if I wrote for the Lakers I would probably have put down thousands of words about his inconsistency and potential. Well, the Magic saw him at max potential in Game 2, and it’s too bad, because by all measures, Orlando did a great job quieting Kobe.
Courtney Lee is not who you want taking your big shot (twice)
He sat on the bench almost the entire game, he’s wearing a facemask, and he is in his first year in the league. So please tell me why Courtney Lee gets not only one, but two chances to win the game for Orlando on the road? His first chance was off a great move to get to the paint, but why did he have an isolation on the perimter in the first place when you have Turk and Rashard and Dwight Howard in the game? Then, to make matters worse, you get six-tenths of a second on the clock and go back to Courtney Lee in a sideline alley-oop! I just don’t understand the logic. Get your stars the ball at all costs. Would Shannon Brown take a game winner for Los Angeles? No. A higher percentage shot — no matter what — is Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, or even Trevor Ariza. Bad play calling to get Courtney Lee the look.
Turk does a better job than anyone else on Kobe
In the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, Turk took over on Kobe Bryant and did a heck of a job on the Black Mamba. I can’t help but wonder if he could have done that for an entire game. Pietrus did a nice job on him too, but it seemed like the matchup meant more to Turk, and it helped spark him on the offensive side too. This goes back to confidence, which Turk was overflowing with. Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but I might have put Turk on Kobe more often throughout the game to disrupt the flow.
Kobe should have been T’d up after his turnover in OT
I’m only saying this because the Magic were down four, and Kobe threw a fit right in front of a ref which this year would have been a quick technical foul. That would have given the Magic a free throw and the ball, which means they could have tied it or brought it to a one point game with less than a minute to go. I don’t nitpick technical fouls, but this to me seemed like an automatic.
Biggest loser: J.J. Redick
Talk about an awful game from a guy who could have really lifted the Magic. He missed all but one of his attempts from the field, and really did not provide much else. Usually Redick is a defensive specialist who can give you an added threat off the bench. He might as well have not showed up for Game 2, though. I felt bad for him watching this game. As a shooter, you start salivating when you see kick out passes and cross court bump passes that leave you wide open from deep. He just didn’t have the stuff, though. It was painful to watch.
Jameer Nelson and Marcin Gortat missed four straight free-throws before Turk hit one of two in the fourth quarter. The Magic didn’t shoot for a terrible percentage from the line, but they missed some big ones that could have shut the door on the Lakers. No two ways around it, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win championships.