ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Orlando Magic, trying to become the fourth team in history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the finals, were feeling better about their chances as they prepared for Thursday's Game 4.
"We've shown we can bounce back," guard Rafer Alston said. "It's crucial that we put Game 3 behind us and prepare for what's to come."
The Magic, who looked overwhelmed in Game 1 in Los Angeles before dropping Game 2 in overtime, were clicking again during their 108-104 win in Game 3. It was Orlando's first finals win in franchise history and one the Magic absolutely had to have.
Orlando is ready for Kobe Bryant to bring everything he's got.
Bryant now understands how dangerous the Orlando Magic can be at home when they're dialed in and raining down jumpers and 3-pointers from every angle. He knows what can happen when Dwight Howard recognizes the double team and kicks the ball out to the Magic's dead-eyed sharpshooters.
Bryant has seen the Magic, who shot an NBA finals-record 62 percent from the field - 75 percent in the first half - in their Game 3 win, turn into a diabolical creature.
Behold the Beast of the East.
"This team can stay hot for weeks. They can get hot and stay hot," Bryant said Wednesday. "When that happens, you're dealing with a monster."
The NBA's pre-eminent closer, Bryant didn't get the job done in Game 3.
Normally, he owns the fourth quarter.
But with the Lakers eyeing a chance to open a 3-0 series lead and with a fourth title that he has obsessed about almost within his reach, Bryant slipped up.
With Tigers Woods, the sporting world's greatest finisher, sitting courtside, Bryant faltered.
The Magic saw it, too. They don't expect to see it again.
"We have to understand," Alston said. "He's not one to let it happen on back-to-back occasions."
Bryant and the Lakers have been bounced back before in the postseason. Pursuing a 15th NBA crown one year after losing to the Boston Celtics, they are 6-0 after a playoff loss. Bryant is usually the one who leads the charge.
After the Lakers lost Game 3 in the first round against Utah, Bryant followed with a 38-point outing. The Lakers lost Game 1 of the Western Conference finals to Houston and Bryant came back with 40 points in Game 2. When L.A. lost Game 2 of the Western Conference finals to Denver, Bryant responded with 41 in Game 3.
"I'm aware of me bouncing back after a tough loss," he said. "Hopefully we can do it again."
Bryant also dismissed talk that he is tired. He looked tired in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, but insists it wasn't because he was fatigued.
Has he hit the wall?
"I didn't, but so what if I did?" he asked. "It means nothing. Because I'll run straight through it."
The Lakers aren't used to Kobe not being Kobe with the game on the line.
"Am I surprised?" center Pau Gasol said. "I guess you could say that because most of the time he is effective and does finish well. "That's why everybody talks about him being a clutch player, which he deserves and earned. The last game really didn't go that well, but we expect the next game to be a different story."
Following Games 1 and 2, it appeared this series matching one of the league's most famed franchises and a relative upstart would be a brief one. The Magic had made their way to their first finals since 1995 on the strength of Dwight Howard's inside game and superior outside shooting. But in L.A., Orlando was just O.K.
However, back on their home floor and in front of their frenzied fans, the Magic shot like no team in 360 previous finals games.
During one stretch in the opening half, Orlando made a remarkable 21 of 24 shots.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy had no explanation for his team's record-setting shooting spree. The Magic shot just 29.9 percent in Game 1 and 41.8 percent in Game 2.
"Our ball movement was good, but I don't care how good your ball movement is and the quality of shot you get," he said. "You're not going to put the ball in the basket at that rate very often. But it's one of those nights, thankfully, that a lot of shots went down."
As Van Gundy concluded his mandatory media interview session, a moderator announced that the Magic's practice would be open for 30 minutes.
"No practice," Van Gundy hollered as he left the dais. "But you can watch them shoot around."
Tuesday, May 23 2017 2:35 PM EDT2017-05-23 18:35:47 GMT
The Nashville Predators, the final team into the NHL playoffs, are headed to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history. They insist they are not satisfied with simply making franchise history, not with...
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