Lewis’ numbers not so Magic-al in East finals
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – There might always be pressure from the lucrative contract Rashard Lewis signed with the Orlando Magic, and his statistics through two games in the Eastern Conference finals aren’t making that go away.
Four field goals.
About $18.8 million this season.
The highest paid member of the Magic, Lewis’ series slump is a big reason why the Magic are in an 0-2 hole entering Game 3 at Boston on Saturday night.
And he knows it.
“After we lost that second game on our home court, it’s been tough ever since,” Lewis said following Thursday’s practice. “You don’t point the finger. You don’t want to blame. You just look yourself in the mirror and see what you could do to help this team win.”
The Magic would take anything at this point.
A clutch playoff performer in the past, Lewis has been blanketed by a revived Kevin Garnett and a relentless Celtics defense. Lewis is 4-for-17 from the field, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
Garnett and Co. have often face-guarded Lewis, staying with him no matter where the ball is being passed. The formula, thus far, has all but taken Lewis out of the series.
“I’m just trying to keep a hand up and run him off 3s and make him do things he doesn’t want to do,” Garnett said.
After hitting several game-winning shots in last season’s run to the NBA finals, Lewis averaged 17 points per game in the second round against Atlanta only a couple of weeks ago. That has disappeared against a Celtics team closing fast on Orlando’s shooters.
Lewis heard criticism after averaging 14.1 points this season, the lowest since he became a regular starter in 1999-2000 with Seattle. Some felt the production was not enough for a player who signed a $118 million, six-year contract with Orlando in 2007.
But the converted power forward shot 43 percent this season, the same as when he was an All-Star last season. The difference was, with the addition of Vince Carter and a talent-rich roster, Lewis had almost 400 fewer attempts.
He backed up the contract with stellar shooting in sweeps of Atlanta and Charlotte in the first two rounds. But Lewis has become the symbol of the team’s problems against Boston.
The Magic shot 39 percent in Game 2.
“No pressure on myself at all. I’m playing loose,” Lewis said. “The first two games I thought I played pretty well, just on offense I haven’t gotten very many shots.”
Lewis often spoke about sacrificing individual goals, and he wasn’t discouraged about his numbers dipping. That is, so long as the unselfishness translated into wins.
That hasn’t happened in the conference finals. Boston is devoting many of its efforts on him – not Dwight Howard.
“You can say it’s a compliment, but at the same time it’s frustrating when you don’t win and you want to help your team win ballgames,” Lewis said.
The Celtics have swarmed Howard with four different big men, no longer double-teaming the All-Star center. That’s allowed them to contest shots by Lewis and the rest of Orlando’s perimeter players.
Lewis said he will be more active with offensive rebounding, and he’s been working on putting the ball on the floor and taking a mid-range jumper – something he rarely does. He also wants to post-up more in transition instead of always fading to the corner.
The Magic are making an extra effort to get Lewis going offensively, even designing a few plays in practice.
“I feel like we need to get Rashard some more opportunities,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But the major thing is your team has to be more efficient offensively, with the idea that Rashard can help you do that.”
As streaky shooters go, sometimes it’s just a matter of making shots.
Lewis said that’s part of it, but he also believes he’s not helping himself. The Celtics have forced him to rush 3-pointers, and he said he needs to attack the basket more.
Regardless, the Magic need “Sweet Lew” to find his touch or an unwanted summer break could be starting soon.
“The ball will go in the basket for him. So what if Rashard didn’t have a good first two games?” Howard asked. “Just make Game 3 a better game.”