NBA Finals 2009: Can the Magic Survive?

by Phil Kehres

It took a nailbiter of an ending for the Orlando Magic to hold onto a 106-104 win in Game Three of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. No doubt the Magic feel good about the win, as they should, but their prospects still don’t look great against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Orlando is looking a lot like the Cleveland Cavaliers did in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are living and dying on last-second shots and misses. They can’t seem to get everyone going at once. Superstar Center Dwight Howard managed to go without a dunk in a Game One that saw Los Angeles dominate 100-75. Game Two slipped away when guard Courtney Lee couldn’t finish on an inbound pass that could have won the game for Orlando. Even after recording the highest team shooting percentage in NBA Finals history in Game Three, the Magic could only manage to win by four – on their home court.

What is it exactly that’s keeping the Magic from looking like the elite team they seemed to be in the Cleveland series?

For one, you have to credit the Lakers. They are more balanced and deeper all-around than the Cavaliers. As I’ve mentioned before, their bigger, more athletic centers and forwards have been causing trouble for Howard, a fact made obvious by Howard’s inability to pull off dunk after dunk as he did against Cleveland. Another thing to consider, however, is that the Magic simply aren’t as good as they seemed to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Against Cleveland, Orlando relied heavily on guard Rafer Alston, a player who consistently maintains one of the worst shooting percentages in the league. Alston managed to get hot and stay hot at the right time, as did backup guard Mickael Pietrus. That, in concert with Howard’s domination, ultimately spelled doom for Cleveland.

Game Three of the Finals saw the Magic start to fire on all cylinders, as Howard came alive with 21 points and 14 rebounds while the rest of the team shot the lights out. Again, though, they only managed to win by four. It would, of course, be silly to say that the series is all but over. If the Magic have to maintain this break-neck pace just to keep up with the Lakers, however, it doesn’t look good. I still can’t imagine this series going more than six games.

(Phil Kehres also is the co-author of Excuse Me, Is This Your Blog? He also contributes to Fear the Sword, a blog about the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Sports Blog Nation.)

(The fourth game in the NBA Finals is tonight, Thursday, June 11. To see the schedule of NBA Finals games on ABC, please go here. To see highlights of Game Three of the NBA Finals, please check below.)

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