Friday, June 12, 2009

NBA Finals Game 4

The Orlando Magic could easily be up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. They're down 3-1 instead. The Magic were up by a dozen at halftime Thursday, and held a five-point lead with as few as 31 seconds to go, but shockingly poor defense and two missed free throws by Dwight Howard allowed the Lakers to force overtime, where they pulled away for a 99-91 victory. Game 4 was a dramatic collapse that costs Orlando any reasonable shot it might have had and presents the Lakers with a clear shot at the championship. The Magic built an 87-82 lead on a three-pointer and a tough runner by Hedo Turkoglu, who hit more than his share of difficult shots en route to a team-high 25 points. Turkoglu never made another basket. Rashard Lewis missed a 16-footer with 39 seconds to go, and Derek Fisher, whose greatest contribution to the game was yet to come, grabbed the rebound, and started a fast break that ended with Kobe finding a hustling Pau Gasol for an uncontested dunk. That cut the lead to three, but the Magic were able to get the ball to their best player, Dwight Howard, underneath, where three defenders converged upon him and sent him to the line with 10.4 seconds left. The Magic shot just 60 percent from the line all night, but either one of Howard's free throws would have in essence sealed the game for the Magic. Howard, who was a woeful 6-for-14 from the stripe, missed them both. Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy elected not to foul, and allow the Lakers to shoot for three-pointer if they wanted. Van Gundy didn't tell Jameer Nelson to give his man ample room to take the trey, but that's exactly what Nelson did, laying off of Fisher as the veteran sharpshooter added one more clutch playoff three-pointer to his resume. The stunned Magic had all sorts of trouble getting the ball inbounds for an answer with 4.6 remaining, and a quick leaner by Mickael Pietrus went array as the buzzer sounded. Orlando continued to look rattled in the overtime, scoring only three points, but had the game tied in the final minute. Fisher once more delivered a daggar, with another three-pointer that gave the Lakers a 94-91 lead with 31 seconds to go. Turkoglu missed a three-pointer on the other end, and Gasol got free for another dunk that served as exclamation point to the L.A. victory. The words preceding the punctuation would read, "Thank You," for 19 turnovers and 15 missed free throws from the Magic. The Lakers didn't fail to take advantage of the opportunities laid at their feet, and again were led by the brilliance of Kobe, who had 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza, who scored all of his points in the second half, put up 16 points and nine rebounds. None of it would have gone toward a win if the Magic had not allowed it to happen.

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