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Game 2 of the NBA Finals went just as expected. The Magic’s “role players,” after being smacked in the face by the Los Angeles Kobes last Thursday, took it upon themselves to play the same brand of basketball that carried them into the month of June. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu combined for 56 points on 53 percent shooting. Their efforts, juxtaposed with Dwight Howard’s 17 point, 16 rebound, 4 steal, and four block stat line would surely lead one to believe that series was tied at one game apiece. Hell, even J.J. Redick had five points. Not so fast.

The box score failed to take into account the most important components of this game. These components happen to be the three reasons why Orlando has no chance of winning this series.

1) The Magic’s lack of passing skills – A troubling truth that Stan Van Gundy fails to grasp is that Rafer Alston and Jameer Nelson are not Championship-caliber point guards. In fact, they are sub-par at best. The two are virtually the same player. They are streaky shooters, average ball-handlers, and awful passers. Their incompetence was just masked by their team’s success.The argument can be made that the inside-out offense that the Magic run does not demand a point-guard. However, in any system, especially in one as pass-dependant as the Magic’s, poor passing leads to failure (See games 1 and 2 for evidence.)

Jeff Van Gundy was very quick to point out the glaring hole that Orlando’s terrible passing creates. Perhaps he should let his brother in on that one.

2) Dwight Howard’s neglect of his Alpha Male title- Despite stuffing the stat sheet, “Superman” has disappeared at pivotal moments in the action. His role players shouldered his load. Case-and-point, Courtney Lee should not have to take the two most important shots of the game. Never mind the fact that Howard’s pick freed him for a lay-up that would bring the Magic lead to three. And never mind the fact that Stan Van Gundy scripted a perfect lob-pass inbounds play with .6 seconds left. Howard’s role is to demand the ball at these times. He is Orlando’s first option and creates a mismatch every time that he is on the floor. A combined sixteen field goal attempts in the two most important games of the season is not the mark of an Alpha.

3) The fact that Kobe Bryant is in uniform- More dumbfounding than Howard’s lack of fire (and balls) is the basketball atmosphere when Kobe Bryant is on the floor. The referees wet their pants every time Kobe shows the slightest sign of displeasure and head for the hills when his jutting-under bite-death-stare emerges. It is not that he gets the benefit of the doubt; it’s that there is no doubt. The reflex action when Kobe misses a shot is to blow a whistle.

Simply put, there is not a snowflake’s chance in hell that the Magic win this series, or make it close. Even if Howard decides to find a telephone booth and strap on his cape, the odds are stacked in L.A.’s favor. The best that Orlando fans can hope for are a few lights-out performances from Lewis and Turkoglu, and possibly another token three-pointer from J.J. Redick.

The true question is whether or not the Lakers will have the gaul to visit Disney World after hoisting the trophy.


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