NBA Finals loss rests in Dwight Howard’s hands… or lack thereof

 

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers on their 15th NBA championship.  They remain the winningest professional sports franchise by percentage over the last forty years.  If you don’t believe me, look it up.

 

Despite what might be remembered as a competitive series, the Lakers were simply better than Orlando.  In the end, inconsistent shooting and a lack of experience sealed the Magic fate.  One factor cannot be overlooked: the ineffective play of Dwight Howard.

 

Phil Jackson and his coaching staff had a brilliant game plan for the Magic big man.  Throughout the series, they threw a number of different looks that the 23-year old phenom was unable to figure out.  The Lakers guarded Howard with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and a combination of double-teams to render him ineffective for the series.

 

It’s easy to point to Dwight’s two missed free throws in Game Four as a major reason the Magic lost in five games, but there is one glaring statistic that led to Orlando’s demise: their post presence was counter-productive. 

 

NBA Finals Lakers Magic Basketball

For the series, Dwight Howard had nearly as many turnovers (20) as he had field goals (21).  I’m still waiting for a major sports outlet to report that statistic.  On the flip side, Pau Gasol had 36 field goals and only five turnovers and he’s not even their best player.  That is taking care of the basketball and making every possession count which the Magic in large part were unable to do.

 

As expected, the series boiled down to who could best exploit mismatches.  In the end, it was Los Angeles.  The Lakers converted Dwight turnovers into fastbreak points and major shifts in momentum. 

 

Dwight, the face of the Orlando franchise, needs to bear the burden for this loss.  He needs to stand up and be held accountable.  In no game did he score more than five field goals.  Gina Marie Incandela was a more effective weapon for the Magic.  On the flipside, Gasol never had less than six.  The word unacceptable comes to mind.

 

At 23 years of age, it might be unfair to blame the entire loss on Howard’s broad shoulders but an effective post presence would have meant a different series.  While the long, seven-foot Gasol rarely brought the ball below his waist, Dwight regularly brought the ball down low where smaller guards could rip it from his hands.  Fundamentals.

 

While optimists might argue the Magic were a missed layup and a missed free throw away from being up in this series, the game within the game tells a different story… and the numbers don’t lie.  The Lakers had several different, established scoring options when they desperately needed a basket.  The Magic not so much.

 

So once again, congratulations to the Lakers and their fans for a fabulous season.  For Dwight Howard and Orlando, it’s back to the drawing board.  If he’s determined to become one of the all-time greats, that must start with fundamentals which the young big man clearly lacks.  Dwight’s future is bright and his faith is strong but he’ll have to strengthen his hands if they ever hope to hoist an NBA trophy.

 

 

37 thoughts on “NBA Finals loss rests in Dwight Howard’s hands… or lack thereof

  1. You weren’t too hard on Dwight. But, he is young and inexperienced. I am betting that he will learn from this series and we will see a much more skilled player next season

  2. DB… that’s what makes greatness. NBA Finals appearances are hard to come by. Barkley got one. Ewing got one (I think). Reggie Miller got one. Even Allen Iverson had one.

    Bottom line is, if he wants to make it matter and end up bawling like champions do, he’s gonna have to work on a few things.

  3. Sports Chump….This has been so much fun! My very own basketball lesson post and to think it all started with the Male Role Models for Guys. lol Sorry for the outcome, can’t wait til next season!

  4. Right on! All things being equal, go with experence. This series would be great if you were a manic depressive. Leadership was clearly evident with Kobe
    on and off the court. Forget the drawing board and get back to the free throws.
    Pops.

  5. Isn’t that part of SVG’s job? To recognize his weaknesses and strengths and work on both?

  6. For someone that understands baseball and a little football, your writing is quite informative, may have to keep up with the sweaty fellas in the long shorts next year.

  7. I will completely agrree with you on bearing the responsibility for the loss. Simply because, once you put yourself out there are Dwight did, you have to take the good with the bad because you have declared youself a leader. For making it as far as the magic, I was very disapointed with their lack of Heart last night, because I wanted it to be a little more competitive. The lakers simply wanted it more and Kobe was bound and determined to make it happen. Nice Blog, I like it, keep writing and I promise to keep reading.

  8. I don’t blame dwight Howard for the loss. I blame the entire team because they just weren’t hungry enough. Believe me, I’m a life long Laker hater and I really wanted to see the Magic win it all, but after game 2, I could see that they just didn;r have it. Unfortunately, I feel that their time is up because the Celtics will be back in form next season and Cleveland has been exposed as a paper tiger.

  9. Chris aka sportschump ……..

    About the only gratifying thing one could say about the Magic and this series. It’s at least they won a game and that’s about it. This series was only close in perception and very little else. Cause when it mattered most the team was found wanting !

    Howard’s game was lamentable and he knows that the Superman moniker now needs to be thrown in the trash basket once and for all ! As his form of kryptonite is the mere fact that his game is still weak in a number of very telling aspects. It was so glaring that even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen it !

  10. Not really is becuase of Dwight we got there , blame it to the lack of experience I think that next year we need to get a really strong power forward to compliment Howard on the post so we dont have to depend on the outside shotting so much another big body with Howard will do it. We have good point guards good outside shooting just another strong body inside with Superman .

  11. Ath… Glad I could do my part to pull you into the sport.

    Pops… This series would be great if you were manic depressive? Hysterical! And people wonder where I get my sense of humor.

  12. DB… I really gained a lot of respect for SVG in this series. Aside from the fiasco that was Game Four, he coached his players well this series. I mean should he really have to tell Jameer to get his ass up and guard Derek on the three point line with 7 seconds left down by three? At some point the players are going to have to be held accountable.

    It wasn’t SVG that couldn’t feed Dwight in the post. It wasn’t SVG that couldn’t score the ball when getting it in the post. It wasn’t SVG that couldn’t beat a double team.

    This may sound totally insane but I can easily see, three to four to five years down the road, if Dwight has NOT developed into the center he’s capable of, that the Magic consider trading him and going another way. It’s a business proposition and if their prized pony can’t get the job done, then it might be time to go in another direction.

    And Dwight really thinks college would have done him no good?

  13. Dee…. thanks for the kind words. You’ll be seeing plenty more baseball and football posts on here now that basketball season is over and I now experience my standard two week, post-basketball season depression.

  14. Brotha Midnight… I’m not sure how much you can assess to the Magic ‘quitting’ or them just getting beat down. Game Five’s Lakers team was the team we all expected to see from the getgo.

    I contended throughout that the Lakers did not have to play their best ball to beat Orlando but the Magic had to bring their A game to have a chance in the series.

    I do think the Magic could actually have won that series had they executed up to their potential. But they didn’t and there are a few reasons for that.

  15. Snake… I for one hope KG comes back fully healthy. That Laker team will be tough to beat next year. Not sure what will happen with Odom in the off-season but the Kobe-Gasol combination is a solid one.

  16. Tophat… Lamentable. Very well put.

    I didn’t expect the Magic to win the series but they actually could have stolen some games. Games 2 and 4 were perfectly winnable.

    That one charge that Gasol drew on Howard last night said it all. Dwight’s gotta work on his post moves. You can’t go through the guy in basketball. This isn’t football.

    Develop a spin move, some pump fakes and keep the ball above your head. I mean, Patrick Ewing is coaching this kid, isn’t he?

  17. Angel… I totally agree with you on the power forward. Turk and Lewis are both tall but they’re perimeter players. They’re both essentially small forwards and can’t rebound worth a damn. Dwight does have to do it all in the post and that’s a little unfair. Heck, he’s so damn broad there might not be ROOM for another player down there.

    It will be interesting to see what they do with Turkoglu in the off-season. He played a good series… offensively, but was a liability on the defensive end. Kid could not double team in the post then get back to cover his man. Ariza killed us with wide open looks.

  18. Chris aka sportschump ….

    Earlier in the regular season we were all heapinng praises on Howard . And the analogies were there for all to hear. The best big man in the game. A truly well polished player. Well those things were nothing more than aberration. Dwight’s still got a lot to learn and the first thing should be to get rid of the friggin’ Superman cape. As he’s not impervious to a speeding bullet.

    Hell my dead grandmother could show him a few friggin’ moves. He’s nowhere near as athletic as first thought and his stamina is has also got to come into question at this juncture.

    If he wants to be viewed as a leader of this team then it’s time for him to man up and act like it once and for all !

    Alan aka tophatal …

  19. I don’t think we should overlook the fact that the Orlando Magic overachieved. Nobody expected them to get this far so the season should be considered a huge success.

    Turkoglu opting for free agency was not a huge surprise. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Magic don’t re-sign him. He’ll get much more money elsewhere. Detroit is rumored to be in the sweepstakes.

    He’s money. I love him. As should most Orlando fans forever regardless of what happens. He’s clutch and has bailed the Magic on countless occasions.

    That being said he was a defensive liability all series long on those double teams. He never got back to cover Ariza in time and paid for it dearly.

    Lewis, Turk and Howard are a nice 3-3-5 weapon but it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t re-sign him, move Lewis to the 3 spot and go after a true power forward.

    I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

  20. I blame Kobe. And that little girl who sang the anthem. Just kidding. No Hedo next year…this could get interesting.

  21. I don’t know that the Magic can, or will, re-sign Hedo for top dollar.

    Some team might offer that much but it likely won’t be a contender.

    He’ll forever be a fan favorite in Orlando. As he should be.

  22. I put more blame on the Hedgehog than on D How.

    Nothing worse than the fuggin Laker fans finally be right about something…LOL

  23. The line of the month HAS to come from your dad: “This series would be great if you were a manic depressive..” Nice…

    Infrequently, you’re off (Manny AllStar) but most times you’re on. Your Magic critique is right on. You called it from early in the playoffs when you texted me about Howard continually getting stripped of the ball. Howard played as well as his inexperience and poor post game would allow. I blame Patrick Ewing who’s sole purpose is to make Dwight Howard one of the best centers to ever play the game. Patrick has not yet earned his paycheck. Howard bringing the ball below the waist and his predictable and extended post moves are issues that should have been corrected in summer camp; at least partially. Howard has become the most intimidating defensive presence in the paint but his post game hasn’t changed in the 2 years that Ewing has been coaching him. Dude, I texted you a while back and said that the Magic shouldn’t have gotten rid of Cliff Ray who is responsible for Howard’s meteoric rise as a defensive presence and now is responsible for Kendrick Perkins & Big Baby’s improvement in Boston. Doc Rivers is no fool and snapped him up with the quickness..

    In any case, I thought it was a great series.. Time for my medication..

  24. DC…

    This is the same man that’s gave Steve the Beave his name, came up with the nickname the Don Calvino, paused before questioning you the definition of pulminary fibrosis and preaches to always go back to the original unit. He’s come up with some gems.

    You’re right on about Ewing and GREAT call on Ray. This is the kind of insight that sportschump digs from its readers. Ewing looks like he’s spending more time at the local Crazy Buffet than he is teaching Dwight valuable post moves. Let’s just put it this way. While Brother Midnight lifts his shirt up at the local jazz club, we find it comical. If Ewing were to do that, he’d block out the sun.

    Safe travels, bra.

  25. Chris aka sportscump ……

    Who hasn’t been a defensive liability for the team during the postseason and in particular these NBA Finals ? The burden and the blame can be viewed as a collective one ! And it ought to include Van Gundy and the coaching staff for some of the schemes and blunders made during the finals.


    Below I’ve provided a link to my most recent pieces.

    Be Careful What You Wish For …..

    This piece was on the weekend welterweight bout between Joshu Clottey and Miguel Cotto .

    Everyone’s A Winner Baby Especially In LA .. !

    Alan aka tophatal ….

  26. Chris aka sportschump ……

    It’ll boil down to the cap space and how much it’ll rise. If it’s in line with the perceived $68-$70m envisioned . Then in all likelihood they may seek to go elsewhere and choose another option. There’s talk that ‘sheed of the Pistons could be the guy they’ll go after.

    Make of that what you will ?

    Alan aka ….. tophatal

  27. They’ll be in the running. Just depends on who’s out there and what’s being offered.

    I do believe Turk would take (a little) less money to stay with a contender and I do think the Magic will contend again next year.

    Regarding Magic defense, I drew a blank when trying to come up with the player that played the best D in the playoffs. Pietrus maybe? He did have the toughest assignments after all.

  28. Chris aka sportschump ……

    He might be the only player that one might acknowledge had an above average postseason altoghether. He proved to be the catalyst as and when needed when the frontline quintet were hardly doing anything of merit. That being said he shouldn’t have to be the one upon whose shoulders the task of defending Bryant ought to have been solely.

    Is it not meant to be a collective thing working together as a team ? Or was it somehow not taught to them by Van Gundy ?

    As I’d mentioned earlier Joey has now expanded the site. And with it, it’ll now co-exist americansportsblog.wordpress.com. The site itself’ll be devoted to all things sport’s oriented . It’ll cover the other three mainline sports as well as college sports as well. I’ll be doing feature pieces on MMA , Boxing, Soccer (MLS) , European Champions League , NASCAR , IRL, F1 , Moto GP and whatever else they may want to assign to me.

    http://americansportsblogwordpress.com

    The following two pieces have been placed within the new site by me. One is on the welterweight bout that took place between Cotto and Clottey over the weekend. And the other is on the Chicago Cubs .
    In order to view just click on the text below.


    The Cubbies’ll Always Be Lovable , Win, Lose Or Whatever ……..

    Be Careful What You Wish For ……

    Alan aka tophatal……

  29. I saw that. Ask him if I need to change the URL, and description of the site, in my blogroll.

    I keep harping back to Dwight’s best game of the playoffs which was clearly Game 6 against the Cavs. He was unstoppable. 40 points, 14 rebounds (or was it 16?) Man’s game.

    Of course, the Lakers interior defense was far superior to that of Cleveland, but I can’t help but wonder, had Dwight really asserted himself, how the series would have been different.

  30. The Magics should have thrown to Howard a lot more than 2 times during the game. The only team that’s won a championship without a decent big man was the Bulls. You need a center who can make some easy shots inside the paint in order to win. Anyway, thanks for the comment on my blog. Would love to exchange links if you’re willing.

  31. Jean Luc Richard… email me a link to your site and I’ll glady trade attention.

    Congrats on being the first to correctly mention that the Magic ALSO featured a player who could consistently get Dwight the ball when and where he wanted. It’s a double-edged sword.

    Kenny Smith has repeatedly preached the difficulty of the entry pass. Credit the Lakers for adequately defending it but as anyone who has ever played the game knows…. it ain’t that difficult a pass when you have a guy who demands the ball.

  32. Chris …aka sportschump

    The 40pts by Dwight was impressive ! But in all honesty beyond that was there really anything else that he achieved in the series that was actually memorable ?


    Alan aka tophatal ………….

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