Sunday, June 7, 2009

Crucial Game 2 for Both Teams

The results of Game 1 surprised very few. Close out of the gate; Lakers pull away; Kobe puts the game out of reach with a 40 point night. Make no mistake, the Magic came into the game fired up and had every intention of winning Game 1. For most of the team it was their first Finals appearance and they were anxious to get things started. It showed early as the Magic played with great enthusiasm and a strong willed desire to nab home court. They led after the first quarter in Los Angeles against a Lakers team experienced in the Finals for crying out loud!

After a strong start, teams have to watch that they don't get overly confident and shut down a little bit. I think that's what happened to the Magic in Game 1. Hopefully, Stan Van Gundy won't let his team fizzle like they did. And boy did they fizzle after the first quarter.

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What is important for Orlando tonight is, besides winning obviously, to come away from the game with a sense of confidence in their ability to match up against the Lakers. Win or lose tonight, the Magic must go into Game 3 in Orlando with an urgency and killer instinct. Without it, they will be no match for Kobe and the Lakers.

Whoever wins tonight's game will carry with them an enormous amount of momentum. If the Lakers come away with the victory, they will have a 2-0 series lead going into Orlando, and will still have home court advantage on their side. They would need only to grab one game in Orlando and would have two chances to win on their home floor a few days later.

It's important for the Lakers to come away with a solid victory tonight. A close, nail bitter, while it may discourage the Magic momentarily, will give the Magic a lot of confidence that Phil Jackson does not want them to have going into a three game stretch in Orlando. A 2-0 series lead can mean the world to a team about to face a hostile foreign environment for three straight games. Although, the 2-0 lead is not always enough of a cushion to carry a team to victory in the 2-3-2 format. Ask the 2006 Dallas Mavericks.

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Confidence is the key tonight for Orlando. After an embarrassing 25 point defeat on Thursday, the Magic have to let it roll off their back as best they can and come out with fire in their eyes and desire in their hearts. It's really the only way to match up with the always willful Kobe Bryant.

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A healthy defeat tonight will likely be enough to ruin the Magic's chances of coming away with the franchise's first championship. Somebody has to emerge that is going to keep them in the game no matter what just as Dwyane Wade did in the 2006 Finals, just as LeBron James did in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals and just as Kobe Bryant will throughout this year's Finals. All the great teams have that special player who refuses to lose. The Magic must find theirs whether it be the obvious choice of Dwight Howard or another, less obvious, choice. Perhaps Jameer Nelson will come back from his injury to lift his team up when they need it most. Or perhaps we may see an unexpected source of leadership and inspiration emerge.

Maybe it sounds obvious or maybe it's been done to death already, but Game 2 is crucial to both teams. With a win, the Lakers could deal a significant blow from which the Magic may not be able to recover. And in Game 2 the Magic must see the opportunity to pull even with the favored Lakers and steal home court advantage from under their noses. Or at least keep it close to prove to themselves that they have what it takes to match up with the powerful Lakers.

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