Orlando Shoots Its Way Back Into NBA Finals

Now that looked like the Orlando Magic that shot their way past the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Actually, this Magic was better than that Magic — Tuesday night they shot 75 percent from the field during the first half and 62.5% for the game (both are NBA Finals records). And the Magic used their mojo to hold on to win 108-104 in the second game in a row that came down to the final plays.

The win was the first Finals victory in Orlando’s franchise history. They were so excited someone prematurly dropped confetti when there  .2 seconds remained on the clock.

Orlando had five players with at least 18 points in a very balanced attack, one that was both aggressive on the drive and even on passing. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy noted his offensive schemes look a lot better when guys were hitting shots.

“The ball was going in the basket,” Van Gundy said. “That always works.”

Despite the hot shooting, Orlando could never really pull away from the Lakers. At first that was because Kobe Bryant would not let them — he started the game 8 of 11 from the floor and had 17 first-quarter points.

But then he cooled down — in part due to good, physical, harassing defense by Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus. Bryant was 1 of 8 through the second and third quarters. In the fourth he had some good plays but also a key turnover when he tried to split the double team and Dwight Howard knocked the ball away. Kobe even struggled from the free throw line — the career 84% free throw shooter was 5 of 10 from the charity stripe for the game.

"My rhythm was off at the free-throw line,” Bryant said. “I just shot poorly from the free-throw line. It was a bad night."

The Lakers also got 23 points from a very efficient Pau Gasol (he was 9 of 11 from the floor) and Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar each had 11 of 4 of 6 shooting.

But the Lakers shooting was nothing compared to Orlando’s.

The leader of that parade was Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston. He finished with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting and blew past Derek Fisher at will all game.

After the game, Lakers players did not seem too worried. Their confidence remained high. They took the attitude that Orlando just threw its best punch, shot better than any team ever had in the Finals, and still barely beat the them. They acted like a team that knows if it can win just one of the three games in Orlando they will be fine.

They may not feel that way if Orlando’s hot shooting carries them to a game four win Thursday and ties the series.

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