I admire Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy’s approach to the NBA Finals.
As I watch him answer questions fielded in by the NBA press in the aftermath of the Magic’s stinging 91-99 overtime defeat that gave Los Angeles a commanding 3-1 series lead, Van Gundy said he doesn’t believe at all in championship experience coming to play for the Lakers.
As a former sports writer, sports slants (on articles) like an experienced team going up against a young, inexperienced one sells (which is what’s happening now in the ongoing NBA Finals) sells.
But Van Gundy was quick to point out that basketball is a game of five players. The game boils down to execution. It boils down to making the right plays and having the proper frame of mind.
Which is why, even though Orlando is the clear underdog talent-wise when matched up against Los Angeles, the Magic play like they’ve been to the Finals every year.
The intensity, the youthful zest, the impeccable shooting in the face of a tough Lakers defense (just take a look against at their Game 3 performance of 63 percent shooting)—all these were extracted by Van Gundy because his basic approach in the Finals is, we can match up against LA.
The biggest difference in the Magic’s Game 4 loss was their inability to hit their free throws (22-of-37 overall), their poor defense during regulation and eventually in the extra five-minute session—all of which cost them the game, and perhaps, the NBA title (should LA win Game 5).
Now, down 1-3, Van Gundy and his rather confused Magic are staring at a deficit that no team in so many years, have ever been able to overcome.
Though history is completely against the Magic at this point, I’m sure Van Gundy will do everything he can to prepare his players mentally and emotionally as they battle it out against the Lakers in Game 5 on Sunday (Monday morning in Manila).
Whatever happens to this Finals series, Van Gundy and his Magic are sure to benefit in the long run because of the battle scars they’ve gained.
And so Boston and Cleveland, better watch out because Orlando will be a dominant squad, a “beast in the East” in the years to come.