ORLANDO - Kobe Bryant has changed his look.
Gone is the teeth-baring scowl that the Los Angeles Lakers star displayed in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The intensity diminished after Game 2, his expression morphing into one of relief and sheer luck.
A botched layup by Magic rookie Courtney Lee is perhaps the biggest reason that these Finals are not tied and that Bryant isn't smiling even with his team up by two games to none. That level of seriousness might be cause for Orlando to grimace.
The Magic nearly returned from Los Angeles with the best-of-seven series tied. Instead, they are in a 2-0 hole, and Bryant has a promise for Game 3 tonight.
"We're about to kick it up," he said. "You'd better believe it. We're close. You see what I'm saying? This is the Finals. We're going to be ready to go."
"We're playing tougher," forward Pau Gasol said. "We understand what it takes to go get the championship."
This is a franchise closing in on its 15th title. It is facing a Magic team still searching for its first Finals victory.
Lee missed a wide-open, alley-oop layup that would have won Game 2 at the buzzer Sunday night.
"We've just got to go home and take care of business," Magic center Dwight Howard said. "The Lakers did a good job of protecting their home, and now it's our turn to do the same thing. We've been in some tough situations. We've just got to fight our way out."
The Magic would need quite a turnaround. Their backcourt has been dreadful. Rafer Alston and former St. Joseph's star Jameer Nelson, who returned for the Finals after being out since early February following shoulder surgery, were so inconsistent that coach Stan Van Gundy benched them for most of the fourth quarter. He used 6-foot-10 forward Hedo Turkoglu at the point instead.
The Magic had 20 turnovers and just 22 assists in Game 2.