Maybe Stan Van Gundy's decision to play Jameer Nelson instead of Alston for major minutes in Game 1 wasn't as big of a difference as first thought. Alston, who didn't have a great Game 1, had an even worse Game 2, hitting only 1-of-8 shots for four points. His ineffectiveness caused Van Gundy to go with a big lineup for much of the second half.
This grade could have been an A if Lee had connected on an open lay-up on the inbounds lob pass from Hedo Turkoglu at the end of regulation that would have given the Magic the win. As it is, his shot was off the mark and Lee, who also missed another lay-up with 10 seconds left in regulation, finished with only two points and was ineffective on both ends of the floor.
After a poor showing in Game 1 where he had just one field goal, Howard was slightly better in Game 2, connecting on five shots and grabbing 16 rebounds. The problem with Howard is the Lakers' bigs are giving him trouble at both ends, making it hard for him to score and hard for him to defend as he tries to stay out of foul trouble.
The Magic can't ask much more of Turkoglu, who was their second-leading scorer in Game 1 and had 22 points in Game 2. Turkoglu's 14 points in the fourth quarter were more than he scored in all of Game 1 and gave the Magic the lead in the fourth quarter. His clean block on Bryant's last-second shot in regulation would have been that much nicer if Lee had finished of Turkoglu's perfect inbounds lob pass seconds later.
What a difference 72 hours makes. Lewis had 8 points and 5 rebounds in Game 1 and exploded for a game-high 34 points and 11 rebounds in Game 2. He exploded in the second quarter, scoring 18 of the Magic's 20 points. His three-pointer in overtime quieted the Staples Center crowd in overtime before Odom hit both his free throws to put the game away.
Orlando got contributions from five different players, but none of them scored more than five points. Mickael Pietrus did an admirable job defending Bryant before he fouled out and J.J. Redick's three-pointer tied the game late in regulation. Jameer Nelson is clearly not himself out there, scoring only four points in his second game back after missing four months. It will be interesting to see how the bench plays with the series now switching to Orlando.
Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach
Give Van Gundy credit. While most of the country was thinking sweep after the Lakers' 25-point Game 1 win, Van Gundy made a few adjustments (going with a bigger lineup and playing Redick earlier and longer) and very nearly stole home court from the Lakers. The inbounds play he drew up for Lee that nearly won the game in regulation probably deserves an A on it's own.
After struggling for most of the playoffs, Fisher is showing off his Finals experience, coming up with big plays down the stretch. He hit a three-pointer to tie the game with less than a minute left in the third quarter, made a driving lay-up to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and hit two big free throws in overtime to give the Lakers a three-point lead they wouldn't relinquish.
This is the biggest difference between beating Kobe's Lakers and LeBron's Cavs. The Lakers can still win a game if Bryant only has 16 points in the first three quarters. Bryant was more of facilitator in Game 2, getting at least 8 assists for the fourth straight game and looking for his teammates while getting double-teamed. That changed in the fourth quarter and overtime, when Bryant scored 13 points.
It's not really Bynum's fault that he?s getting into foul trouble against Howard, but the Lakers would love to see him get some extended minutes since he has had some success when he's on the court. He scored all five of his points and had two assists in six minutes in the second quarter.
It looked as if Ariza had found his shooting touch early after only hitting one shot in Game 1, but he hit just 3-of-13 in Game 2 and wasn't able to slow down either Turkoglu or Lewis, who combined for 56 points and nine three-pointers.
He began the game just as slowly as Bryant as he only had 14 points to start the fourth quarter, but Gasol came up big in overtime, scoring seven points and grabbing two rebounds to put the game away. He also hit a fadeaway to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and made a lay-up to tie the game at 88-88 with 33.5 seconds left before it eventually went into overtime.
This is a tricky grade because Lamar Odom, who had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 block shots, gets an A but the rest of the bench gets about an F as the only one other than Odom to contribute was Jordan Farmer (four points). Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic need to give the Lakers more than donuts if they're going to win in Orlando.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
It is clear that Jackson is coaching each game of the Finals as if it's a must-win game, keeping Bryant and Gasol in the game longer than he normally would, especially at the beginning of quarters and shortening a bench that had 10 players getting serious minutes before the Finals.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.