Orlando lights up Lakers in breakthrough win
By Tom Withers
ORLANDO, Fla. ó Missing for two games, Orlando found its Magic touch.
Making easy shots and tough ones from everywhere, the Magic won its first game in two visits to the NBA finals as Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis scored 21 points apiece in a 108-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 to pull within 2-1.
Orlando shot a finals-record 63 percent ó including a record 75 percent in the first half ó to snap a six-game finals losing streak and avoid falling into an 0-3 hole that 88 previous teams in postseason history have been unable to escape.
“Well, it was going in the basket. That always works,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That formula’s always tried and true.”
Kobe Bryant scored 31 points for the Lakers, but the superstar had just 10 points in the second half and went only 4 of 15 from the field after the first quarter. He also missed five free throws.
Game 4 is Thursday night, and Game 5 ó now necessary ó will be at Amway Arena on Sunday.
The Lakers, going for their 15th title and looking to redeem themselves for losing to Boston last season, have lost their stranglehold.
“This is a tough team, not a cupcake team,” Bryant said. “Extremely well coached, execute well and we’ve got our work cut out.”
With its season 48 minutes from all but disappearing, the Magic, hosting its first finals game since 1995, had five players score at least 18 points. Rafer Alston, who was just 3 of 17 from the field in the first two games, had 20 points. Hedo Turkoglu and Mickael Pietrus had 18 each.”We’ve got to play like this,” Howard said. “When guys are attacking, we’re tough to guard.”
Pau Gasol scored 23 points but had just three rebounds, and the Lakers were only 16 of 26 from the line.
For a while, it appeared the Magic, which shot just 36 percent while dropping Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, couldn’t or wouldn’t miss.
From 20 feet, swish. From 10 feet, nothing but net. Layups, runners, banks, pull-ups, didn’t matter. You name it, if it went up, it went in.
Orlando made 24 of 32 shots in the first half and only cooled off a little in the third quarter as it entered the fourth at a 65-percent clip and clinging to an 81-75 lead.
Bryant sat out the first 4:47 of the fourth. When he finally subbed in, the Lakers were still down by five.
Lewis hit a late jumper to put Orlando up 104-101, and Bryant split a pair of free throws. The Lakers then got the ball back.
Bryant crossed over to get past Pietrus, but Howard made like a point guard and tipped the ball away. Pietrus was fouled and made both free throws for a 106-102 lead.
Bryant did score on a putback with .05 seconds left, but it was too late.
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