Those mouse ears, that ogre, that donkey . . . there’s something familiar about this place.
It’s Orlando, home of Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, innumerable other theme parks and the Magic, a thrill ride in its own right, if one in danger of being shut down for the season after the Lakers went up, 2-0, in the NBA Finals on Sunday.
That was pending further developments, of course.
If you missed it, and nobody here did, replays of Courtney Lee going up to miss that memorable layup at the end of regulation in Game 2 showed one other thing . . . Pau Gasol’s fingers brushing the net and touching the rim.
Had it been called goaltending, Lee’s shot would have counted, Orlando would have won, 90-88, and the series would be tied, 1-1.
In fact, NBA director of officials Bernie Fryer said the play was called correctly, since Gasol didn’t alter the flight of the ball.
So, the Lakers lead, 2-0! Are they a team of destiny or what?
Not that they’re expecting a warm welcome tonight for Game 3, under the circumstances.
It’s not just the injustice perceived here; it’s everything, including the traditional Phil Jackson Factor.
I know this is hard to believe, but Phil once sneered at this place, as recalled last week by the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi:
“Phil looked down his nose and said, ‘If you want a plastic city like Orlando that has warm weather and golf courses, that’s fine. But if you want a city that has meat and grist to it, and has a culture, Chicago has it.’ ”
Of course, that was when Jackson lived in Chicago.
Now, living in a city with warm weather and golf courses, Phil may be more favorably inclined toward Orlando, assuming he can handle 80% humidity.
Jackson made his remarks during the 1996 Eastern Conference finals as his Bulls swept the Magic, 4-0. That turned out to be Shaquille O’Neal’s last appearance in a Magic uniform, before the Lakers stole him away that summer.
So, if hate were toxic, the Lakers would be dead one minute into warmups tonight.
Happily for them, as Kobe Bryant said of Jazz fans in the first round, “They’re not going to come out on the court -- I don’t think.”
That was several turning points and wake-up calls back, but the Lakers, who moldered in that series, buckled against Houston and held on by their fingernails against Denver, have it back together, pretty much.
They weren’t great in Sunday’s Game 2, but effort is no longer an issue, nor -- for the moment -- is humility.
If anything, the Lakers tried too hard and wound up pressing in Game 2, after having plowed the Magic under by 25 points in the opener.
Expecting a frontal assault by Dwight Howard, Jackson dropped half his roster into Howard’s lap. Even so, Andrew Bynum, who Jackson hopes can play 25 minutes before fouling out, went to the bench 4 minutes 6 seconds into the game.
Bryant barked at Gasol and Lamar Odom, abandoned the offense and took over every time Orlando got a lead, and sat on the ball like Kobe circa 2005. Happily for the Lakers, their stuff is fixable, the more so with Bryant acknowledging he got carried away. Meanwhile, the Magic’s gunslinger bravado is fading as its struggling shooters find themselves under growing pressure.
They still look scary, as Bryant noted after Game 2: “This is a very loosey-goosey team we’re playing against. You’ve seen some of the shots they hit tonight. Those are tough shots [or] supposed to be tough shots. For them it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Indeed, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, who broke out as the Lakers swarmed all over Howard, are 12 for 25 from three-point range in the series.
Unfortunately for the Magic, their teammates are six for 28. With Howard able to get off only 16 shots in two games, that leaves Orlando a Magician or two short.
Still, there’s reason for hope. It’s only two games and this is a best-of-seven series.
Aside from that, of course, things aren’t looking good for the Magic.
“I’ve seen series turn, as I told [the players],” Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy said after Game 2.
“I was still in Miami not doing a damn thing [after being forced to resign by team President Pat Riley, who took over] . . . in 2006 when they lost both games in Dallas and then were way down in the third quarter in Game 3 at home, came back and won that one.
“Dallas never won another game.”
Actually, the Mavericks were up by 13 points with 6:33 left in Game 3 before collapsing.
Now if only the Magic could play the Mavericks!
Van Gundy’s brother, Jeff, the ABC commentator, likes to say, “It’s a make or miss league.”
So the Magic had better turn its geese loose, or they’re going to get cooked.