Twitter had a few sports-related “Top Trending Topics” last night. “Kobe Bryant” was one. “NBA Finals” was another. Not surprisingly, another topic was atop the list.
The rookie out of Western Kentucky had a decent regular season for the Magic. Lee was fortunate to study under some good guards and a passionate head coach. He averaged nearly nine points a game. He was consistent and shot 45 percent from the field.
Lee even peaked at the right time. He was impressive in the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia. However Lee suffered a fractured sinus in Game Five. Experts speculated Lee would miss the rest of the playoffs.
The resilient rookie returned after corrective surgery – his young face now covered with a plastic facemask (a mini-Rip Hamilton if you will). Magic fans are still waiting for Lee to return full-force. Don’t hold your breath, Orlando.
Lee has yet to retain confidence. With the pressures of the Big Stage looming, the rookie is shaken. This weariness was most evident in Game Two. Lee missed a key lay-up at the end of regulation that could have evened the series at 1-1. Instead, Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol took over and proved too much for the Magic. The Lakers now lead the series 2-0.
Perhaps Lee’s mental state is why guard Jameer Nelson saw so much time in Game One. Prior to his Finals start, Nelson had not suited up since February 2, where he suffered a torn labrum. Neither of the guards appeared effective and the Magic lacked chemistry. Following Game One’s blowout, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy made some necessary changes.
Much like Game One, Lee started and Nelson contributed off the bench. However, Lee did not handle the ball too much. Nelson did not try to do too much. With less guard play, forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis were able to sound off.
Lewis finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. More importantly, Lewis put Orlando in the game with a monstrous second quarter. He scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Hedo helped Lewis keep the game close and finished with 22 points, six boards, four assists and one critical blocked shot. With a few seconds left in regulation, Turkoglu blocked a Kobe jumper to keep the game tied. Turkoglu grabbed the loose ball and managed a late timeout with six-tenths (0.6) of a second left.
The duo did everything they could to win the game. On the play where Lee brought Magic fans to their knees, Lewis set the screen and Hedo inbounded the ball. Like the overall game, things were going as Van Gundy planned until Lee missed the alley-oop lay-up.
The teams head to Orlando for Tuesday’s game. We will see how much Stan has left in his think tank. Orlando may soon be running on empty. Who knows? Stan and company may conjure some Magic at home and keep this series interesting. This is “Where Amazing Happens”.
A Lament for Lamar
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sealed the deal in Game Two. Their play in overtime was classic Lakers. They played together and off of each other. Fans can appreciate their handshake a “No, you!” kind of deal. It was both of you, gentlemen! Hats off to a combined 53 points, 14 boards and ten assists.
Still, my player of the game was Lakers forward Lamar Odom. Odom finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. More importantly, he seemed to show up at the right time. Odom played with an inspiring passion. Apparently Kobe isn’t the only one who wants to be fitted for new jewelry. Poetic.