- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES | Judging by the final score of the Orlando Magic’s 101-96 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, it would appear the Eastern Conference champs did a much better job in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy begs to differ.

The Magic scored 26 more points Sunday than they did in a blowout loss in Game 1, and they got 73 points from their frontcourt of Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard. But taking into account the entire body of work, Van Gundy struggled to find signs of encouragement.

He said his Magic were no closer to putting together the winning combination needed to defeat the Lakers for the title than they were in that 25-point drubbing Thursday.

“No, I didn’t see [strides of improvement],” the coach said. “If the formula was 20 turnovers and 41 percent shooting, it’s not a very good formula.”

Though Van Gundy conceded Orlando did a better job of executing its offensive strategy of getting the ball to Howard to open up the perimeter, the Magic made only 10 of 33 3-point attempts. And while Lewis (34 points) and Turkoglu (22) were more effective, the ills that plagued them in Game 1 seemed to have been passed to their guards in Game 2. The six Magic guards - Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick - combined to make just six of 26 shot attempts.

Turkoglu and Howard accounted for 12 of their team’s 20 turnovers.

“Turnovers was the reason we lost the game,” Lewis said. “We had 20 turnovers, and I can’t remember the last time we had that many. We’re usually pretty good at taking care of the ball, but that most definitely was the outcome of the game.”

The Lakers took advantage, cashing in those 20 turnovers for 28 points and winning despite trailing much of the game, getting outrebounded 44-35 and struggling from the perimeter. But Kobe Bryant said he doesn’t “think we dodged a bullet” in Game 2.

“I think they played extremely well, and we played well enough to win,” said Bryant, who had 29 points on 10-for-22 shooting, eight assists and seven turnovers. “They bounced back like we knew they would, played extremely well, and we got out of here with a win.”

Bryant did agree with coach Phil Jackson’s assessment that he didn’t play in line with his MVP-caliber standards. Jackson said at times Bryant tried to do too much on his own rather than waiting on his teammates to get up the floor or looking for an open man. Bryant started off deferring to his teammates but went away from that in the second half.

“I didn’t read the coverages as well as I did, and we still managed to win the game,” Bryant said. “It’s on me to make adjustments, make those reads, and I’ll come back in Game 3 ready. We’re about to kick it up. You better believe it. We’re close.

“You see what I’m saying? This is the finals. We’re going to be ready to go.”

Orlando’s players remain stuck in neutral, and as they head back to Orlando, the challenge is to guard against falling prey to discouragement and rolling over at home. In NBA history, teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead have gone on to win it all more than 94 percent of the time. The Magic hope they can be the exception to the rule.

“I was frustrated [Sunday] and in the first game,” Howard said. “But being the leader of the team, I can’t let my teammates see me frustrated. I’ve got to play through all kinds of situations and learn from them. … The Lakers did a good job taking care of their home, and now we’ve got to do the same thing.

“We’ve been in some tough situations [before]. We’ve just got to fight our way out.”

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