I have a confession to make: I was wrong. I was wrong about Fisher, and I was definitely wrong about Phil Jackson. I know, it's shocking right? Me not knowing what's best for the Lakers, who would have thought. Now I know that I was not the only one screaming for more Farmar and UPS, so if anyone else would like to out themselves and publicly apologize, now is the time to do so because come next year, you and I will be criticizing every wrong move yet again. It's inevitable, but it's fine because it means we're fans (it also means that championships are now officially more addictive than crack, unless of course you a Cubs fan).
Speaking of championships, congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers, 2009 NBA Champions!!! I know it's one game premature, but c'mon, this thing is O-V-E-R. The proof is in the pudding. If you're a stat junkie consider this: the Lakers have 3 chances to win just one game, 2 of which are at home. Now, considering that we have the second best home record in the league, have yet to lose two games in a row in these playoffs, and have yet to lose 3 games in a row since Pau joined us last year (did I mention that he is underrated?). I'd say that those are pretty good odds. For those of you who ascribe to more of a Zen Master mind-game philosophy, last night's win was like telling Orlando that not even their own mamas love them. It was the soul-crusher, the dagger to the heart, the realization that despite 5+ chances to be up 3-1 instead of down, they just can't close the Lakers out. As far as Orlando winning 3 straight games, have crazier things happened? Yes, but if you look closely none of them happened with KB24 on the floor.
And for those Orlando fans and MSMers (I'm looking at you Wilbon) who want to say that the Lakers are lucky or that Orlando should be up 3-1 right now, that's a bunch of bull. I'm a firm believer that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and the Lakers are just more prepared than the Magic. Not only that, but when the Lakers have won they have played better. I don't care what the game felt like, when you turn the ball over and miss your free throws, you're asking for a world of trouble. Orlando did neither of these in Game 3, and surprise surprise, they won. A win is a win, and even if it means that the only 2 threes you make all night happen to be the 2 biggest shots of the game, that is earning it in every sense of the word. After all, there's a lot to be said for being your best when your best is needed.
Wait, there was a game last night? Why didn't somebody tell me? And here I've been just been rambling about Zen something and planning where along the parade route I am going to stand. Click on the jump, and I promise that there will be at least 2 sentences about the play in Game 4.
Game 4 started off looking like a hybrid of Games 2 & 3. It began with yet another hideous 1st quarter on both teams parts, followed by the Magic mopping the floor in the 2nd with their drives and our bricks. The front court carosel the Lakers rode in the first half was not as fun as it sounds, but admit it, it was nice to see DJ get some minutes in the finals. One more victory and he is officially better then Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Reggie Miller, technically speaking. As the Magic found out, defending Kobe becomes much easier without a low post presence, so when you see that he missed 20 shots, don't think much of it. I'm not going to lie, at this point I was getting very worried because almost all of the Magic's offense was coming on drives to the hoop, and if the Lakers could not stop that then they would not be able to stop the 3 ball later.
Then came the third quarter, where the Lakers have been money in these playoffs. Last night, it was TAT (Trevor Ariza Time). Get used to that acronym, because we will be using it a lot more provided that he resigns with us. I don't know whether it is Kobe's presence, PJ's influence, or some inner strength he summons, but Ariza has shown the ability to focus himself and play with a level head on the world's biggest stage. There are
Lamar Odoms veterans that cannot do this, but whenever Ariza is playing poorly he just shakes it off and by the end of the game he is performing like nothing was ever wrong. The previous shot or defensive sequence never affects his next one, and I am just in awe that someone so young has already mastered this, the holy grail of consistency. Anyways, after a very poor first half on both ends of the floor, he came out in the third and put up Kobe like numbers, scoring 13 (9 straight) while going back to his bread and butter and shutting down Turkoglu. This got the whole team going and the Lakers turned a 12 point deficit into a 4 point lead going into the 4th.
To be honest, while I was watching the game I never noticed the incredibly large free throw disparity between the two teams. Looking back it seems painfully obvious as I remember the parade of foul shots, but at the time I was so focused on how the Lakers were performing that I just shrugged off each foul, even the bad ones, and just prayed for a response by the Purple and Gold on the other end. I'm not going to say anything more on that subject because the Lakers won so it's a mute point (and in my mind totally different than, say, the way the league has been calling flagrants), and I will leave it to my colleagues to discuss if they so choose, because frankly, they are better at controversial stuff like that. Now on to the Fisher shots. They were huge, they were clutch, and they were classic DFish. 0.4 was nice, but it was ultimately meaningless, so I'm glad that this can be Derek's standout moment in his Lakers career. He proved why he's the starter, he proved why he's the leader along with Kobe, and he proved me dead wrong. I will shut up now.
Just a few random thoughts from the game:
- Phil Jackson is still as crafty as ever. That was a game-saving decision in my book to take the ball out from three quarters court at the end of regulation, and just as important as Fisher's shot. The Magic clearly were not expecting it, and the Lakers executed perfectly by pushing the ball, spreading the court, and creating all the space in the world
- I give the Magic credit for not fouling at the end of regulation. I hate that something like that is even a strategy, just like I hated hack-a-shaq before they changed the rules. It goes against the spirit of the game and takes the decision out of the players hands. I say have some confidence in your players, and just get the stop. To the best of my knowledge the Lakers have never purposely fouled when up by three under PJ, and I hope they never do. If they get burned by a big shot, a la Andre Iguodala, then so be it. I can live with that, because that's someone going out there and just making a great play, as we have seen Kobe do so many times.
- Pau Gasol finally got his tough guy moment. While I'm not happy that Pietrus made such a dirty play, given the fact that Gasol was okay, i'm glad that it happened. Pau has never really gotten angry before. When something happens that he doesn't like, he might stare the person down, but most of the time he goes and complains about it to the refs. However, after Pietrus shoved him, he got up in his face in a hurry and did not back down. Does anybody know how to say F@#k You in Spanish? Maybe Kobe could have translated from Spanish to French, just to make the massage a bit clearer for Mickael. Also, after that play, Kobe broke his Monk-like vow of seriousness and gave Gasol a huge smile on the court. I guess he liked what happened too.
- It was a wonderful sight seeing the entire Lakers bench giving Fish hugs at halfcourt after the game ended. He means so much to this team, and it was nice to see the younger guys appreciate everything that he has done for this organization.
That's it from me. I'll see you all on Figueroa in about a week for one long-overdue parade!
Go Purple & Gold!