In trying to solve the puzzle that is Rashard Lewis‘ lack of production in the Eastern Conference Finals (5.5 ppg, 25% FG), it could be a complicated theory of motivation and mental blocks — or it could be as simple as the fact that Rashard has Kevin Garnett guarding him.
Either way, Orlando’s most prolific outside shooter, who averaged 20.4 points in the Magic’s second-round playoff win over Boston last year, needs to get it going if his team is going to avoid getting swept out of this postseason. Coach Stan Van Gundy is working on a plan, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel:
“They are staying home on him,” Van Gundy said. “It’s incumbent on me as far as Rashard. I have to find a way to get him involved. It’s not that he’s playing badly.”
Lewis is averaging 5.5 points per game in the series. His counterpart at the power forward position, Kevin Garnett, is averaging 9.0 points per game.
Garnett has made a bigger impact late in games. His 13-foot fadeaway jumper with 2:45 remaining in Tuesday night’s fourth quarter gave the Boston Celtics a 91-90 lead. The Celtics never trailed again.
“Kevin Garnett is always a difference-maker,” Lewis said. “He’s active. He makes it tough when you’re going to the basket, and he’s one of their main defenders.”
Getting into Rashard’s face when he wants to shoot jumpers is the best way to shut him down, but it’s not like he can’t go to the rim, especially against Boston. In a national TV game earlier this season, Lewis blew past KG on his way to hitting a game-winning layup in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. In Game 2 the other night, he was able to get into the paint off the dribble, but he was just missing when he got there.
Even if Van Gundy has figured out what he wants to do to get Rashard more involved, it’s not like he’s going to tell anyone two days before Game 3 so the Celtics have time to combat his plan. Or perhaps the Magic figure it’s best to keep Rashard in this “decoy” role if it means taking Garnett out of the equation as a help defender.
If you’re coaching Orlando, what adjustments would you make for Game 3?