Since I am 100% in picking winners so far on thesqueeze, I am proud to finally get a finals preview assigment. To say that I am locked in right now would be an understatement. The halftime -2.5 and the halftime/fulltime Orlando-Orlando bet absolutely maximized profits from Game 3. So take out a pen and paper boys and girls and take some notes.
The Magic are now guaranteed to have 2 more home games as they take Game 3 to trail in the series 2-1. It was the first NBA Finals win in Orlando Magic history, can they now reel off two in a row? Looking back at Game 3, a lot of things went the Magic way. While there were many positives to take from the game for the Magic, it is scary how close the game still was. Orlando set an NBA Finals record 62.5% from the field, including 75% in the 1st half, and the Magic even out rebounded the Lakers (although that’s because LA couldn’t get any rebounds due to Orlando making every shot). Orlando was very balanced with five players scoring at least 18 points: their big 3 combined for 60 plus key contributions of Alston and Pietrus. Hopefully Stan Van continues to let Alston get most of the minutes and stop trying to overuse Nelson. While the steady improvement in shooting % is a good sign for Magic fans, it’s not a good sign that despite their record shooting, they only won the game by 4. Orlando also barely held on with some uncharacteristic turnovers and missed free throws by Kobe down the stretch.
So the question for Game 4 becomes: can the Magic sustain such a high offensive output? Will Kobe have a repeat performance of Game 3 down the stretch? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no, so do the Magic still have enough to even this series?
LA has lost 7 straight road Finals games, and has been known to have let downs throughout the playoffs. You would have to think the defensive intensity will pick up (especially having a “coach on the floor” in Kobe). Gasol has been playing well as has Odom, and they need to continue to step up and produce. Kobe, despite scoring 31, needs to be more consistent throughout the game. Andrew Bynum was the only player on the floor for LA in Game 3 that in my opinion was really hurting them (Ed. True story, when Andre Bynum picked up an early fourth foul, JVG said “This isn’t good for the Magic”). The bottom line is that when you let the other team shoot 62.5% from the field for the game, it doesn’t matter what the hell you do offensively.
Orlando needs to look to keep this momentum going. After dreadful shooting in games 1 and 2, Alston and Pietrus stepped up big time (combined 15-23, 38 points). Turkoglu and Lewis played the way they should every game, and Howard was even hitting his free throws. Courtney Lee was a non-factor with only 4 points in 20 minutes, and Orlando needs him to contribute to have a chance.
Orlando needs to continue to utilize great ball movement to free up open jump shots, and hope that they continue to fall, which at home is very possible. Lewis has been money, Hedo is the Turkish MJ, and Alston and Pietrus in the mix also should open things up for Dwight inside. LA needs to show up with some energy on the defensive end and not let the crowd and the Magic feel like they are in control of the game. Common sense would say that the Lakers and Kobe are going to respond in Game 4, and the Magic won’t be able to sustain their ridiculously hot shooting. However, common sense is not what makes you money. If TC teaches you anything my friends, it’s that you always want to be on the same side as Vegas. Right now the Magic are down to -2 (started at -3.5) and almost 75% of gamblers are picking the Lakers. That makes my job easy.
The Pick: Orlando -2