LOS ANGELES – Given their rich heritage, the Los Angeles Lakers can’t really view Game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight as anything more than just another big night out.
On the other end of the basketball spectrum, the Orlando Magic can actually make franchise history at Staples Center.
And maybe they’d better.
The Magic are still looking for their first Finals victory in club history.
Sure, they’ve played in only one other title round while the Lakers are making their 24th Finals appearance.
The Magic are 0 for 5 in the Finals, having lost Game 1 to the Lakers 100-75 on Thursday and having been swept in 1995 by the Houston Rockets.
They could use a breakthrough win, not solely for historical purposes, of course. But because a split in L.A. swings the momentum the Magic’s way heading back to Orlando for three consecutive games.
“I think it would be great for us as an organization,” Magic center Dwight Howard said. “Our goal wasn’t to make it to the Finals and win one game. We want to win the whole thing.
“We believe we will win it.”
The big question is whether they have enough rebounding and defense, and whether coach Stan Van Gundy has to beef up at power forward for the first time since Rashard Lewis moved to the position from small forward.
“We really struggled on the glass and we struggled to defend the paint,” Van Gundy said. “If that continues to be a problem, then I think we’ve got to look at being able to play a little bigger.”
He might, at some point, have to use more of Tony Battie and/or Marcin Gortat. The Magic have been able to play Lewis, 6-foot-10, 230 pounds and primarily a 3-point shooter, at the 4-spot since they signed him. But Lakers power forward Pau Gasol is 7-0, 250, and armed with a vast offensive repertoire.
Van Gundy already has tinkered at point guard, bringing back Jameer Nelson off the injured list to relieve starter Rafer Alston. He said he would stick with that rotation, but not play Nelson for a 12-minute stretch as he did in his first game back since Feb. 2.
The Magic obviously have to do the dirty work, but mostly they have to hit shots. It’s what they do. It’s who they are.
They shot a paltry 29.9 percent in Game 1. L.A.’s sound and sizable defense limited dribble-penetration, preventing kick-outs for wide-open 3-point shots.
The Lakers, to a man, don’t expect the Magic to misfire as badly again.
“We’ll have to face many games in this series where they shoot lights-out,” Kobe Bryant said. “This is a team that can get blistering hot, and we know that. We’ve just got to get ready for that.”