Lakers must face demons
It’s an unusual selection, truly, but Coach Phil Jackson has settled on a theme to hammer home the importance of winning the Lakers’ 15th NBA championship.
Jackson is interspersing clips of “Hellboy 2" into video sessions, his message something along the lines of the Lakers reclaiming what is rightfully theirs after losing in the Finals last season to Boston.
Hellboy, the demonic-looking superhero, and his team of ghastly cohorts try to save Earth from falling into the hands of a bunch of miscreants, though the Lakers don’t have to be world conquerors to figure out what happened Tuesday in Game 3 of the Finals.
The Orlando Magic made a lot of shots, a historic percentage of them, actually, as center Dwight Howard finally solved the Lakers’ array of double teams and successfully kicked the ball out to the Magic’s shooters for open shots.
Orlando was hot in the first half, shooting a Finals-record 75%, and finished with another Finals record, 62.5% accuracy for the game.
The Lakers lead the series, 2-1, and still have home-court advantage, but Kobe Bryant acknowledged there was a “little bit of a concern” heading into Game 4 tonight.
Howard had 21 points and sharpshooters Rashard Lewis (21 points) and Hedo Turkoglu (18 points) combined to make 15 of 26 shots (57.7%) in Game 3.
“They’re doing great things to free them up and put them in positions to score and be effective,” Bryant said. “This team can stay hot for weeks. It’s not something that is just a fluke or one game where they got hot. They can get hot and stay hot. When that happens, you’re dealing with a monster.”
The Lakers have lost their last seven Finals road games, a trend they hope to reverse tonight.
They’ll try to keep Howard from getting prime post position, which he did often in Game 3, which meant the Laker who arrived for the double team had to run that much farther out to the perimeter when Howard passed back out to a shooter.
“We can make mistakes on offense, but on defense we can’t really make mistakes,” forward Trevor Ariza said. “They’re too good of a team. They’ve got too many shooters for us to make mistakes on defense.”
If recent history is any indication, Bryant probably will respond in his own way. He has already had a number of strong efforts after a Lakers loss in these playoffs.
After they dropped Game 3 in Utah, he had 38 points on 16-for-24 shooting in Game 4 of the first round. After falling to Houston in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant responded with 40 points on 16-for-27 shooting.
A disturbing home loss to Denver in Game 2 of the West finals? No problem. Bryant had 41 points, six rebounds, five assists and an IV bag as the Lakers won Game 3 in Denver.
“I’m aware of me bouncing back after a tough loss,” he said. “Hopefully we can do it again.”
But isn’t he tired? Aren’t the last three years of an 82-game NBA schedule, playoff runs of varying degrees and international basketball obligations catching up to him?
Has Bryant finally hit a wall?
“I didn’t, but so what if I did?” he said. “It means nothing . . . because I’ll run straight through it.”
Orlando, meanwhile, isn’t exactly claiming anything of substance after beating the Lakers by only four points despite the record-setting shooting night.
“We can’t be relaxed,” Turkoglu said. “It’s just one game that we won. We’re happy about it, but we’re not really satisfied. Two more home games, and we started with a win, so that’s kept us in it, and hopefully another win will even the series.”
Get ready, reserves
Well aware that the Lakers will be playing their third game in five days, Jackson said he would lean on his bench more often in Game 4.
Shannon Brown did not play in Game 3 and Sasha Vujacic had only three minutes.
“We’re going to need them [tonight] at some level,” Jackson said.
Rambis not moving
It will take a stronger offer and better timing to get assistant coach Kurt Rambis to leave the Lakers.
Rambis turned down a two-year, $3-million offer to be the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, hoping for a longer-term deal while trying to turn around a team that finished with the NBA’s worst record. He also preferred not to negotiate while the Lakers were taking part in the Finals, but the Kings hired former NBA and Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal on Tuesday.