- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 6, 2009

LOS ANGELES | The morning after they opened the NBA Finals with a 100-75 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic insisted there is no panic within their ranks.

Instead, they have written off the drubbing as an off night and said they know what adjustments need to be made before Sunday’s Game 2.

Throughout the regular season and playoffs, the Magic have proved to be resilient and capable of quickly making adjustments. In the opening round of the playoffs, Orlando rebounded from a 2-1 series deficit against Philadelphia to win three straight. Then against Boston, they rebounded from a 112-94 thrashing in Game 2 to win Game 3 by 21 points. Two more defeats followed, but Orlando rebounded with back-to-back wins to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

After Cleveland rendered Orlando center Dwight Howard ineffective in Game 2 of that series, Howard called for coach Stan Van Gundy to feed him the ball more - and sure enough adjustments were made and Howard resumed his spot as the focal point of the offense. The Magic’s inside-outside attack paved the way for an upset.

Aware of his opponent’s track record, Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said Friday he’s bracing for a different foe in Game 2.

“There’s two days off between these games, so it’s a big opportunity for them to reset themselves and get themselves back in form,” said Jackson, whose teams are 43-0 in playoff series after winning Game 1. “For us as a coaching staff, we always think the team that has to make the adjustments has the advantage. We have to find a way to anticipate what they’re going to come back and do against us.”

The first adjustment Van Gundy and his players said they must make is bringing better effort and energy. Howard, who is averaging 21.7 points and 15.4 rebounds in the playoffs, took only six shots in Game 1, and part of that has to do with the Lakers’ help defense. They forced him to go baseline, and as soon as he would turn, another defender would meet him, so he often opted to give the ball up.

Van Gundy said Howard can’t let the Lakers dictate his play.

“The thing that people can never match with Dwight when he’s really going after it is… his combination of athleticism and strength,” Van Gundy said. “[On Thursday] night, he did not play with great energy; he did not run the court. … He played as sort of a walk-to-the-block, set-up-down-there, low-post guy. So when they double, they can take away a lot of his effectiveness. He’s got to get on the move more.”

In Game 1, Howard routinely zipped the ball to teammates on the perimeter when he met opposition. But Orlando’s top shooters - Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee - rarely capitalized, combining to shoot 8-for-31.

“You have to give credit to the Lakers,” said Lewis, who was 2-for-10. “We took a lot of bad, contested shots instead of moving the offense around.”

Van Gundy also must find a way to balance the minutes of point guards Jameer Nelson and Rafer Alston. Nelson was having a career year before tearing the labrum in his right shoulder in February - believed to be a season-ending injury - so the Magic acquired Alston from Houston, and the former streetball star made a seamless transition.

But Nelson showed enough in practice to persuade his coaches to bring him back. Nelson scored 55 points in two games against the Lakers this season - both victories - and Van Gundy believed bringing him back was worth the risk of disrupting the lineup.

Alston started, but Nelson came off the bench to play the entire second quarter. After four effective minutes his production stalled, but Van Gundy stuck with him and the Lakers closed the half on a 25-10 charge. Alston said sitting out the entire second quarter threw his rhythm off; he only recorded two points in the second half.

“We knew things were gonna change but didn’t know just how drastic,” Alston said. “You just have to deal with it and do what you can do with your minutes.”

That would keep the Magic from dwelling on their shortcomings so they avoid falling into a 2-0 hole.

“We know what adjustments we have to make, and now we need to do it and not think about that loss,” Turkoglu said. “We’ll play much better Sunday.”

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