NBA Finals: Game 3 Live Blog
The Magic shoot their way back into the series.
by Ben Osborne
Welcome to Orlando, everyone.
A few years ago I was on this streak that brought be to O-Town like four times in a year: Amare Stoudemire (no accent back then) high school feature, Mike Miller feature (post-ROY campaign; do y’all even remember he won that award?!), Gary Sheffield KING (RIP) Feature and I even think one more. But today marks my first visit since that run of trips, and considering how horrendous the weather in NY/NJ was this morning, I’m very happy to be here (even if MCO here is one big construction zone from what I could tell).
Re. the reason I’m here, I’ve been on record as saying Lakers in 6, and while the Magic could/should have won Game 2, I don’t think they will be mentally defeated to the point of giving up on series. I think they win tonight and Game 4 or 5 as well, and I’ll stick with Lakers in 6. Should you guys listen to me? Who knows? I’ve certainly been wrong about the Magic all Playoffs…
I read our man Peter Vecsey’s column on the plane this morning and I did agree with the bulk of it, which is that Stan the Man’s lineup tinkering has not been helpful to the Magic. Then the radio show that I listened to when I landed featured two guys pretty much bashing anyone who would criticize SVG’s moves at this point (I’m sure Vecsey was one of the writers they were mad at, but they didn’t mention any names. I can’t mention their names ’cause I didn’t really catch them). But I’m with the Viper: Rafer (or “Brick to My Lou” as PV gently calls him) got you here, and he deserved to be treated better thus far. All that said, I still think the Magic come together tonight and get a win that at least extends this thing a little.
What do you guys think?
I’m going to be shutting down the computer soon to take the media bus to the arena, eat and attend a press conference on a joint NBA-NCAA Partnership that former SLAM Associate Publisher Ronnie Zeidel is heavily involved in. I’m curious what it involves and I’ll try and get a story up about it tonight or tomorrow. I’ll also be back on here by tip-off with the liveblog, but for now I wanted to get this post live so all you Finals junkies had somewhere to comment.
Thanks for coming…
Spent the ride to the arena trying to decipher BETCATS comments via my phone and reading today’s Orlando Sentinel. The lead column, by a guy named Mike Thomas, was a sort of predictable small-city-defends-itself-against-big-city’s-jabs piece, but it actually made me laugh a number of times (and I’m a California native!).
Upon arrival at the arena (which was amusing because there were throngs of fans ready to storm the bus for autographs, only to be disappointed to see a bunch of media members instead of NBA players), I do a quick tour and was definitely impressed by the city and/or arena’s liberal open container policy, as the drinks are flowing.
Then, while looking for the media dining tent, I see the Laker bus arrive and the traveling party enter the arena. Amazingly, those dudes got wanded by security much harder than I did. Like Frank Hamblen is going to be packing a bomb?
Cap enters wearing a crisp Dodger fitted. Respect.
After a quick bite, highlighted by something the food server told me was “basically fat,” I come across Steve Nash interviewing Jeff Van Gundy for his Letterman gig. Given the interaction I see, I predict his segment on the show tomorrow night will be pretty funny.
The Laker locker room is quiet; few media members, fewer players. Josh Powell is doing some serious stretching, though, presumably for his sideline cheering.
As I walk out of the locker room, Mike Tirico walks in, with Jon Gruden hot on his tail. MNF practice?
Now sitting in press conference for the unveiling of iHoops, a NBA-NCAA Partnership that sounds promising, if a bit convuluted. I will post a full press release and quotes from it tomorrow. Highlight for me is hearing the aforementioned Ronnie Zeidel announced as “former SLAM Associate Publisher.” Nice.
Second highlight is hearing Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times ask Coach K (a member of the iHoops board) the Kobe-LeBron question. Guess Bill didn’t see issue 129, since Coach K kindly wrapped up that whole feature with just such views…
Missed national anthem but saw end on TV in media room. It was sung by a 6 year old? I need to investigate.
Wow. I guess she really is 7. Gina Marie Incandela. I don’t care what Lang says—I would have preferred Jordin Sparks.
Tonight’s officials: Joey Crawford, Derrick Stafford, Mark Wunderlich. At least Tim Duncan isn’t playing.
Magic -4. Fair line.
I know these fans have been mocked as fair weather, but it is loud to start. And not very corporate-seeming. As in, this place feels filled with real fans. And loads of media, of course.
Pau dunk follows Fish and Rashard buckets. 4-2, L.A.
Courtney Lee misses wide-open 3. Sick Dwight block. Goal tend. Patrick Ewing taught him that one.
Kobe playing facilitator. 8-2, Lakers.
Lee, Hedo get twos. Dwight fouled by Gasol inside. Makes 1 of 2. 8-7, Lakers.
Rafer hits a jumper!!!
Kobe is only player on the floor not to have scored. I wonder how often he’s the 10th starter to score. Elias Sports Bureau, where are you?
And then he hits a jumper…
And a 3…
17-13, Lakers. First TV timeout. Time for some site maintenance. Our man Vince Thomas is about to launch a fresh post that will require some participation from you guys.
Celeb watch: Spike Lee, Ludacris, Tiger Woods. More to come, I assume.
Timeout, Phil. 23-21, Lakers.
Rafer is on fire. Nice to see, honestly. Lakers hanging on, though. 27-25 with :52.9 left in first.
Kobe is even hotter. 16 points in about 5 minutes.
31-27, Lakers, after the first. Kobe smells sweep, but Magic are up to challenge thus far. Nicely played first quarter. Dwight still not getting many looks.
Here’s Vince’s post for the night. Hit him with some good questions and maybe you’ll be part of the post-game press conferences (in a way).
Very surprised SVG is starting Jameer at outset of second quarter.
Magic shot 69 percent in first quarter, and are losing by 4.
Kobe with the short rest.
Dwight dunk. 38-36, Lakers. Loudest since tip-off in here…
until Farmar’s 3.
Kobe is obviously giving Pietrus fits on defense, but MP actually just had a couple buckets. 44-43, Lakers.
Fittingly, it’s a Rafer lay-in that finally gives the Magic a lead: 49-48.
Magic shooting 79 percent. Lakers shooting 60 percent. Dave Hopla is in heaven.
Certainly the Magic can’t keep it up, which has the Orlando fans behind me in the stands very scared. But Lakers will cool off, too.
The above is amazing.
Whistles picking up as half winds down. Chill out, refs!
Lew for 3. 54-52, Magic.
Fish answers with off-balance fadeaway.
Lew for another 3.
Shooting % update: Magic 75, Lakers 60.
Everyone in arena standing. Really good atmosphere in here.
Dwight hits first free throw, and Phil calls a TO. 58-54, Magic, with 9.1 seconds left.
He hits second FT as well, and Kobe misses at other end. 59-54 at halftime.
Magic were an outrageous 24-of-32 from the floor.
Fun first half. I need a drink (non-alcoholic).
See you in a minute.
And we’re ready to keep it going (me and the Magic, based on that half-opening make by Hedo.)
Rafer is balling, though that horrendous lob pass to Dwight was not pretty.
Courtney Lee: from In Your Face to Slamadamonth?
To renewed tough D on Kobe. Definitely playing him tougher than Pietrus tonight. Lee’s dunk made it 65-60, by the way. And Kobe is not taking advantage of his freebies.
HUGELY effective Laker in Game 2? HUGELY invisible thus far tonight? L to the Izzo.
67-64, Magic, with 6:10 left in 3rd. Both teams still shooting well, but not like first half.
Speaking of Izzos, has our man H to the Izzo stopped following SLAMonline? Where you at, AR?
More Rafer, giving hosts a 69-64 lead.
Kobe has cooled considerably from first half.
Pietrus in, but not for Lee (wisely). And just like that, Lee with a nice steal off an inbouns pass headed to Kobe.
This cat Rafer is taking it back to Rucker Park—where he played for the SLAM team on occasion—with some of these runners.
To echo some of our commenters, Orlando should be up by more than 4, especially with Kobe’s quiet second half (thus far; I remember how he started the first half, too.)
Pau and Lamar have 1(!) rebound each.
Tim Floyd is out?! Wow.
Sorry for that digression…
Lewis hits another big 3, as he’s done throughout the postseason, giving the Magic the closest thing they’ve had to “breathing room” all night (77-69).
81-75, Magic, after 3. Orlando is still shooting 65% from the floor for the game.
Other than Odom (4 fouls), no player on either team is in foul trouble.
It’s very warm in here.
Bat Man with a long jumper. 83-75, Magic.
JJ Redick: 0 minutes thus far.
Hedo with a long J, giving the Magic a 85-77 lead and prompting his image to appear on the in-arena video board with the caption, “The Closer.” Tough as he is, I’m not sure he quite warrants that title in a series featuring Kobe Bryant.
Pietrus with a wild fadeaway that goes in. Farmar, who has been quietly effective tonight (effective enough, in conjunction with Fish, that our man Shannon Brown has caught 0 minutes tonight and Sasha Vujacic just 4.
Not sure if ESPN/ABC has taken the long view into where the halftime guys (Barry/Magic/Wilbon/Stu Scott) are sitting, but I literally just noticed that those dudes are basically sitting 10 feet above me.
8:46 left in game, coming out of timeout, and the real closer has been out since third quarter ended. I’m guessing Mr. Bryant re-enters with a vengeance.
For all the (deserved) talk about the amazing field goal shooting tonight, the free throw percentages have been much more pedestrian: 67% for Magic, 60% for Lakers.
Pietrus drive puts Magic up 9, 91-82.
7:13 left in game, Magic up 91-84, and Kobe is coming back in…
93-88, home team, coming out of timeout with 6:17 left.
The Magic mascot looks like he should be on DragonTales. Yes, I have a 20-month-old at home.
Pietrus/Rafer/Hedo/Dwight/Lew vs Lamar/Fish/Kobe/Pau/Ariza
I’d prefer Lee over Pietrus, but both have been good tonight.
Lefty hook from Pau cuts it to 93-90.
A drunk Magic fan one section over is screaming at Jon Barry. Something about JB not washing his hands in the bathroom. Gross all around.
Two FTs for Dwight push it back to a 5-point Magic lead.
Fish answers with a 3; 95-93, Orlando.
Pietrus makes his own bid for a Slamadamonth, rising right over Fisher, but missing dunk while drawing the foul: make/make…97-93.
Ariza tries a facial of his own, and also misses.
Terrible entry pass by Pietrus gives Lakers ball back. Kobe capitalizes with elbow jumper. 97-95, Magic.
Points traded and there’s a TO with 2:41 left; 99-97, Magic. Very good game.
Pau at line coming out of TO: make-make. Tie game.
Pietrus with follow-up dunk off Hedo miss. 101-99, Magic.
Kobe misses three-pointer, Hedo rebounds, Rafer drives and is fouled…make-miss. Magic up 3.
Magic all over Kobe with the double team at other end, leading to a non-shooting foul.
Pau drives for 2. 102-101, Magic.
Rashard Lewis with another (not just meaning another this game, but this series, this month, this postseason) huge 3. 105-101. Wow. He sure has come a long way from that Green Room.
Um, they just changed that 3 to a 2. So it’s a 3-point lead. Looked like a 3 to me but I’m pretty far away.
At other end, Kobe drives and draws questionable foul on Dwight. Kobe at line with exactly one minute to play: miss-make. Dude is a very human 5-of-10 from the line tonight.
Oh, and I’m a little late wth this, but I just noticed a memo on the media scoreboad computer: the Magic’s 75% shooting in the first half was an NBA Playoff record for a half. Incidentally, they’re still at 63.5% for the game. Teams that shoot like that should not lose.
Lewis blocked on awkward drive (stay on the perimeter, Lew). Laker ball. Stolen by Pietrus, who is fouled by Kobe.
Pietrus to the line: make-make. 106-102, Magic with 28.7 seconds left. TO, Lakers.
For the first time all night, “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” comes raining down from the stands. Not the same resonance as inside Boston Garden, but it does have a this-is-the-Finals ring to it that I can appreciate.
Lakers get a bunch of looks but miss ‘em all, until Kobe hits a 2-point putback with maybe .5 seconds left.
Pretty surreal. Scoreboard says 106-104, Magic, 00.0 time left, and there is confetti falling from ceiling (and all over my computer). But something (last-second foul, I think) is being reviewed.
Yes, Rashard is at line with an academic .2 ticks left: make-make.
Magic win, 108-104.
I still say Lakers in 6.
Remember the spread I wrote before tip-off?
Damn, those oddsmakers are good.
Fun game. I’m pretty cooked for now.
Please remember to follow Vince’s post for his question-and-answer session. Then come back tomorrow and the rest of the week for lots more Finals coverage.