The Orlando Magic made things interesting Tuesday evening. They took Game Three of the NBA Finals, topping the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104. It was the first Finals win in franchise history.
The Lakers looked good early. They led at the end of the first quarter 31-27, four points of which came in a rare four-point-play by Kobe Bryant. Kobe started off determined and had 17 points in the first quarter. However, hats off to Orlando’s Mickael Pietrus. He finished the game 7-for-11 for 18 points. More importantly, he was the man who forced Kobe into a fit late in the game. Kobe missed 11 of his last 14 shots. He finished with 31 points, but also the loss.
Magic guard Rafer Alston also played well in this one. Alston started the game 3-for-3 after going 3-for-17 in Game One and Two. Imagine that. Of course, if you know anything about Alston’s play, you might expect it. Alston finished with 20 points on an 8-for-12 night. Skip to my Lou also had a few key assists, but no showstoppers. He was efficient much like the overall offense.
The Magic shot an impressive 62.5 percent from the field and 76.7 percent from the charity stripe. Although they did not exactly shut the Lakers offense down, the Lakers shot over ten percent worse from the floor and 15 percent worse from the line. Besides, when you’re shooting a lower percentage than the other team, you cannot let up on the boards.
Orlando center Dwight Howard dominated the glass at the Lakers’ end of the court, pulling down 12 defensive rebounds, one more than the entire Lakers squad. Superman made second chance efforts nearly impossible.
Forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis remained consistent. Hedo finished with 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Lewis went 3-for-6 from three-point range and continues to hit big-time shots. He is the Magic’s firecracker for this series. Stan, feed that man… the ball.
Unfortunately, the Lakers did not see that kind of contribution. No one really stepped up as the emotional leader in this one. A few other Lakers helped Kobe in scoring. But when Trevor Ariza is the team’s rebound leader and Kobe’s eight assists match the eight contributed by the rest of the team, there are bound to be problems.
Courtney Lee for MVP? Nah.
Before the game, Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson announced that Orlando’s Courtney Lee’s last-second shot attempt in Game Two should have been credited, despite the miss. Jackson said that Lakers center Pau Gasol nicked the rim and net before the shot barreled out. NBA officials backed the call on the court and clarified the only way a goaltending could be called is if Gasol’s contact actually took away from the integrity of the shot.
Although according to Jackson, Orlando could be sitting with a 2-1 lead, the Magic are still in this thing at just one game behind. Orlando plays at home on Thursday and again on Sunday. As I experienced first-hand this season, the fans at Amway are a little more eccentric than most. I see the Magic winning at least one more game at home.
The Other Orlando
The Dodgers had another impressive showing on offense Tuesday night. Several players, including Orlando Hudson managed to take the Padres’ Chris Young yard. Hudson only went 1-for-4 on the evening, but helped his team take down their NL West rivals.
Juan Pierre struggled in this one, going 0-for-4. However, he is still sitting on a .352 batting average despite some slowing in June. And as they’ve done all season, when one Dodger slumps, another steps up. Andre Ethier is having a phenomenal June with a .419 batting average, five homeruns and seven RBIs. Ethier went 3-for-4 with two homeruns and two (2) 2-out RBIs on the evening.
One Dodger particularly grateful for the Dodgers’ offensive production is Chad Billingsley. Billingsley pitched 5.2 innings and allowed eight hits and three runs. However, that was enough as the pitcher improved his overall record to 8-3 (tied for the NL lead). Closer Jonathon Broxton posted another save (17 strikes on 23 pitches) and increased his season total to 14.
The Dodgers won twice Tuesday. They selected Baylor’s Aaron Miller in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The Dodgers took Miller in the sandwich round (between the first and second rounds – 36th overall) as a compensation for the loss of free-agent pitcher Derek Lowe. They did not have a first-round selection due to the signing of free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson.
During his junior season, Miller went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 games (six starts). He struck out 65 in 51.0 innings of work. The 21-year-old also played right field. Most impressive is Miller’s versatility. He batted .310 with 12 homers and 47 RBI in 56 games overall. He logged a .415 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. Miller also showed leadership and maturity when he served as Baylor’s team captain in 2009.
The Dodgers stand at 40-20, eight-and-a-half games ahead of San Francisco.