Sometimes in sports it’s not about what one team did to win the game. Sometimes it’s about how the other guys let it slip out of their grasp, like an ice cube on a hot summer day.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals, in which the Los Angeles Lakers escaped from the Orlando Magic in overtime, 101-96, to preserve home-court advantage, was the ice that melted in Orlando’s hand.
“This is most definitely heartbreaking when you feel like you had a chance to win this game and you let it slip right out of your hands,” Rashard Lewis said after his near triple-double performance (34 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) on Sunday night.
After their 25-point blowout in the series opener, the Lakers appeared to come back down to Earth in Game 2. Either that or the Magic must have risen from their Game 1 ashes.
“They played extremely well and we played well enough to win,” Kobe Bryant said.
Orlando played extremely well? Perhaps compared to its opening-game output, but the Magic all but handed Los Angeles a 2-0 series lead as the teams now travel cross-country to Orlando for Games 3, 4 and 5, unless the Lakers can close it out in the first two.
Sure, Orlando topped Los Angeles in rebounds, assists, three-point makes and points in the paint. But it was the under-pressure stats that prevented the Magic from knotting the series up at one.
Like turnovers, of which Orlando committed 20, including seven from Dwight Howard and five from Hedo Turkoglu.
“If you turn the ball over against a good team like the Lakers,” Lewis said, “they’re going to take advantage of it.”
And they certainly did, in the form of 28 points and 12 steals.
Free-throw shooting was also problematic for the Magic, who missed seven of their 27 gimmes. The Lakers, meanwhile, missed only four of 28.
But it was the last play of regulation – a lob pass from Hedo Turkoglu to Courtney Lee for an alley-oop layup with 0.6 remaining and the scoreboard reading 88-88 – which symbolized Orlando’s gift that didn’t stop giving.
“I caught it, got a good look at the backboard [and] tried to get there as quick as possible,” Lee said, recalling the play that, if successful, would have given the Magic their first-ever Finals victory.
Los Angeles never looked back after it entered the extra session. Pau Gasol led the way with seven of the Lakers’ 13 overtime points to supplement his double-double effort (24 points, 10 rebounds).
“We understood that we had to get this done no matter what,” the Spaniard said. “However we could do it, we did it.”
Now headed for Orlando, Los Angeles needs to do it just twice more.
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Written by Josh Hoffman