News » Magic can prove their character in Game 5 2009-06-13

Magic can prove their character in Game 5 2009-06-13

Magic can prove their character in Game 5 2009-06-13

Straight shooting

It's absolutely inconceivable that the Magic will sweep the next three games and win the gold rings. In fact, it's impossible. Even so, how they perform in Game 5 is of critical importance for the future of the team.

His defenders claim that his hands are simply too big to release the ball with the proper rotation. But this is nonsense, only because of the many other pivot-bound giants who had better than average career marks from there such as: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (72.1 percent), Patrick Ewing (74.0), Pau Gasol (73.3), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (78.1), Neil Johnston (76.8), Chris Kaman (73.8), Red Kerr (72.3), Bob Lanier (76.7), Moses Malone (76.9), Kevin McHale (79.8), George Mikan (77.7), Robert Parish (72.1), Willis Reed (74.7), Jack Sikma (84.9), and Yao Ming (82.6).

Howard's problem is his form. His shot is almost exclusively propelled by a hard wrist-snap, and therefore lacks the catapult action of his forearm to soften the ball. And since he's well aware that his free throws are not so free, it's only natural that Howard is unable to relax when he prepares to shoot. That's why poor free throw shooters rarely make significant improvements over the course of their careers.

Even worse, Howard's foul-line miseries are contagious.

His teammates understand that Howard will be awarded multiple free throws in any given game, and that he'll miss too many of them. This understanding puts additional pressure of them to compensate for Howard's routine misfirings by trying to be perfect when they're on the line. No wonder they're tighter than they should be. And no wonder that Hedo Turkogul bricked three critical free throws in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

What bigs like Howard, Shaq, Joel Pryzibilla, Emeka Okafor, Erick Dampier, Dan Gadzuric, Tyson Chandler, et al, need to do is learn how to shoot their freebies underhanded.

Much has been made by many critics (including me) about the foolishness of Stan Van Gundy's choosing to play Jameer Nelson so many minutes upon his return to active duty during the Finals. While it's true that his timing and conditioning are not nearly up to par, and that both Rafer Alston and Anthony Johnson have earned to right to extended daylight, there is one other factor that SVG should have considered.

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When a player is not in tip-top physical shape, his game-time concentration will go soft long before his legs do. Especially at the highest level of competition.

That's why the first few minutes of all of Nelson's on-court rotations are more than satisfactory —and why his effectiveness diminishes the longer he plays. The quick decisions that are mandatory in the Finals are simply beyond Nelson's current capacities. And that's the primary reason why he wasn't within arm's distance of Derek Fisher when that gut-wrenching trey was launched.

At the same time, it's foolish to believe that poor coaching and/or poor officiating will enable an inferior team to beat a superior team in a seven-game playoff series — particularly in a championship series.

That's because over seven games, the best team always wins. Always, with no exceptions.

Championship-caliber teams can adjust to the calls of even the most inconsistent refs. And once the ball is alive, a player's instincts and skills can easily trump his coach's poor judgments.

Moreover, championship teams will find a way to win — by capturing a loose ball or a rebound, making a clutch hoop or pass, hitting a critical free throw, setting as solid screen, making a sharp cut or a defensive stop. Whatever it takes.

The sheer talent a team might possess pales in importance to a team's being able to execute — on offense, on defense, and in transition — when a game is on the line.

That's were things like experience, discipline, resourcefulness, confidence, and team-wide trust come into play.

And that's why the Lakers are on the verge of succeeding the Celtics.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: June 13, 2009


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