It took overtime for the Lakers to find the same effort they’d put forth in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but at the end of a sunny Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, the home team managed to seal a five-point win that secured a 2-0 series lead, a luxury the Lakers didn’t have against either Houston or Denver in the West.
“We just drove ourselves through the game,” said Phil Jackson, whose team trailed by two heading into the fourth quarter and nearly lost at the buzzer. “I didn’t think Kobe (Bryant) had a good game at all as far as his standards go (but) we had other guys contribute. Lamar (Odom) had an outstanding game … He came through in a big way for us.”
That “almost lost” came after Bryant appeared to get hit on the arm with 0.6 seconds left on the clock before his attempt at a game winner was blocked, allowing Courtney Lee a chance to convert an alley-oop off the inbounds pass at the other end as regulation time expired, but he missed.
“There is a sense of relief because they played very well,” said Jackson. “However, we had the ball at the end of the game with nine seconds after making a really good defensive play. We didn’t get a good shot … But (that) disappointment didn’t weigh us down going into overtime.”
Though Orlando never led by more than three points, L.A. was able to respond to the adjustments the Magic made in no small part because of Odom, as alluded to by his coach.
While Bryant led the way with 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting plus eight assists, L.O. was fantastic in chalking up 19 points, eight boards, two assists and three blocks on 8-of-9 shooting in 45 minutes off the bench with Andrew Bynum in foul trouble all game. Odom made shots from all over the court to get his eight field goals, but it was two clutch free throws with 22.1 seconds left in OT that turned a three-point lead into a five-point edge and ultimately sealed the deal for L.A.
“Lamar just had a great, great game, particularly in the fourth quarter,” said Bryant after Odom scored eight points with three boards in the final regulation quarter.
The home team, who’s still undefeated this season while wearing its Sunday white uniforms, needed every one of Odom’s points as Orlando sent consistent double teams at Bryant, which worked for the majority of regulation as his non-Odom teammates struggled to hit shots. Most notably, a 4-for-11 start from Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza’s 3-for-13 didn’t help. But in the overtime, in stepped Gasol and Derek Fisher.
First, Gasol drew a foul off Fisher’s penetration and hit both from the line (10-of-11 in the game). Next was a tough Kobe jumper over Hedo Turkoglu, and then a huge defensive play from Fisher, who stepped into the passing lane to intercept a JJ Redick pass before drawing a foul and sinking both foul shots at the other end to put L.A. up 94-91. If that wasn’t the game’s biggest play, then Gasol’s and-1 layup off Bryant’s dish was, as it gave the Lakers a 6-point lead that Orlando couldn’t overcome despite finding its three-point shooting stroke.
“The three-point shooters seemed to flourish tonight,” said Jackson, noting Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu’s combined nine triples. “It kept them in the ball game.”
What hurt the Magic, on the other hand, were 20 turnovers, resulting in 28 Lakers points, because L.A. knew the Magic were going to shoot much better than the 29-percent-effort in Game 1 of the Finals, and they did, netting 41.8 percent of their looks. The knew the general effort of Orlando would be much better, and it was, shown through a 44-35 edge on the glass that limited the Lakers to only four offensive boards. Furthermore, the Lakers mustered just 28 points in the paint after going off for 56 in Game 1, but they simply fought their way to a victory.
“They played extremely well, but we played well enough to win,” concluded Bryant.
Dwight Howard’s 17-point, 16-board double-double and 56 combined points from Lewis and Turkoglu were leaps and bounds better than the threesome’s Game 1 performance, but it wasn’t quite good enough.
“We wanted to win this game just to keep the pressure on them,” said Odom. “Both teams want this. It was is tough for us last year, getting embarrassed in Boston. I guess with this win, we kind of kept that pressure on. But we still have to take care of business, just focus on each possession.”
In two days, they’ll get a chance to do just that.
Until then, a few numbers:
Shot taken by Courtney Lee before he found the ball in his hands with consecutive chances to potentially win the game in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter. He missed both looks from close range as L.A. sent the game into overtime.
Threes made by the Lakers in the first half, one more than was made in the entire Game 1.
L.A.’s biggest lead in a closely-contested ball game that saw the Magic have no higher than a three-point advantage.
Points in the paint by the Lakers in the first half.
Shots missed by Orlando’s guards on 26 attempts, including Rafer Alston’s 1-of-8 and JJ Redick’s 2-of-9.
Shots made by Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis on 38 attempts, including nine of Orlando’s 10 three-point makes.
Orlando’s third quarter scoring output on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-6 from Hedo Turkoglu, which turned a 5-point Magic deficit into a 2-point lead heading into the fourth.
L.A.’s free throw percentage on 24-of-28 makes, including 9-of-9 in the overtime.