Opening Credits 6/12/09

Do you remember the feeling we had after Game 4 last year?  Knowing we blew a great opportunity to make it a real series, instead signing our own death certificate.  The Celtics were too good lose three games in row.  They took Game 4 from us, and although we won Game 5, we never recovered.

Last night, the Magic helped hand it to us, but we took Game 4 from the Magic.  Like last year, we are too good to blow it, and this loss will sting Orlando for a year (or more).  This is a win that you will remember ten or twenty years from now.  Not the 25 point win in Game 1, nor the record setting 62.5% FG the Magic had in Game 3.  We'll all remember how these Lakers showed true Championship grit and professionalism, erasing a 5 point lead with less than a minute to go, overcoming Fish's early misses and relying on him in the biggest of moments.  Twice.

The links will explain the rest, so here are today's Lakers Links:

Recaps:

Game 4 Recap: Lakers vs Magic - Silver Screen and Roll (Recommended)
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.

20 Second Timeout: Clutch Three Pointers by Fisher Lift Lakers to Commanding 3-1 Series Lead
(Recommended)

Orange County  Register

ESPN

Lakers.com BasketBlog

LA Daily News

The New York Times

dEDGE

The Washington Post

Click on through for more Links after the jump...

Derek Fisher:  Best Supporting Actor

Forum Blue And Gold " Faith Rewarded
In the end, it’s about faith. Faith in yourself. Faith in your teammates. Faith to persevere. Faith that you will bounce back after adversity. Faith that when the game is on the line and in overtime you will execute. It’s about faith rewarded. The Lakers did execute when it mattered, and Orlando was 1 of 7 in the OT. The Lakers played through the fouls on them, the fact they got zero free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. Orlando complains about the calls they didn’t get. The Lakers had faith in what they could do. They had faith in their experience. Faith that the hard lessons learned last Finals and beyond would carry them through. Their faith was rewarded. There is the faith in Fisher that, frankly, many of us Laker fans are guilty of having lost. But not Phil Jackson.

Derek Fisher's key three punish Dwight Howard, Magic in Game 4 - Ian Thomsen - SI.com
Others would have been celebrating the two biggest shots of the postseason's biggest game. They would have jumping-jacked their way around the floor and looked for someone to hug. But Derek Fisher acted like he'd been in this position before, and it was no act.

Big Fish: Lakers' Point Guard Comes Up Clutch - SportingNews.com - The Baseline
That leadership, that intangible quality Fisher brings, has been a big boost to the Lakers and their development into a championship-caliber team. But Fisher, truth be told, has gotten a little tired of being boosted for leadership and professionalism. He’s still a basketball player, after all. "You know, I have a responsibility to my team that, if I’m going to be on the floor, I have to make a difference," Fisher said. Safe to say, he did.

Fisher adds to Laker legend with key 3s - FOX Sports on MSN
The shock would have been if Derek Fisher had missed.He had taken five 3-pointers and missed them all. Throughout the postseason, his once faithful shot had betrayed him He had, however, done enough. He had missed shots all night, but he made the ones he had to. This wasn't a surprise. It was typical.

Old Man Shows Superman How to Win -- FanHouse
It was a night when a veteran dismissed as old and inept proudly turned back time, a night when a man-child with 21 rebounds and nine blocked shots was the goat, a night when the well-coached team won and the team that executed horribly in critical moments lost. Sometimes, the slim difference between a champion and a wannabe funnels down to savvy, character, IQ, experience, all the traits that never seem cliche when it's past midnight in overtime and the studs are separating from the frauds.

Derek Fisher is Mr. Big Shot for Lakers - Los Angeles Times
Somehow, some way, the "0.4" shot is no longer the most memorable of Derek Fisher's career. In fact, it might be a distant third place.

Giving Lakers' Derek Fisher his space: Bad idea - Los Angeles Times
It was more poetic justice that Fisher, still their Little Engine That Can, was the hero after being written off as washed up when he struggled, as the Lakers struggled, in the second and third rounds. With the Lakers inbounding the ball, down 87-84 with 11 seconds left, Fisher brought the ball up with Orlando's Jameer Nelson giving him so much room, Fisher let it fly and hit the new biggest shot of his career.

Derek Fisher cements status in Lakers lore with nothing but class - Los Angeles Times
Typical Fish. At the end of the most indelible game of his enduring Lakers career, Derek Fisher disappeared.He was swallowed by the long limbs of Lamar Odom, the long embrace of Andrew Bynum, the long hair of Sasha Vujacic.His bald head was hidden in somebody's warmup jacket. His short arms were wrapped in somebody's giant ones. After both tying and winning a game that will propel his team to an NBA championship, he was immediately enveloped not by camera lights but teammates, lost not in glamour but love, the most unassuming Laker never even having a chance to pump a fist.Typical Fish.

SHELBURNE: Lakers guard Fisher goes from over-the-hill veteran to legend - LA Daily News
The moment hung in the humid Florida night, waiting to be seized. The game, the championship, floating high above the court, waiting to be claimed. The sweat dripped from all their brows. The pressure as stifling as the heat.

Daily Dime: Fisher's big shots help Lakers win Game 4 - NBA - ESPN
Trevor Ariza had his time at the podium, giving way to Derek Fisher, and by the time the press conference moderator announced that Kobe Bryant would be next, it seemed, strangely, like an afterthought. Oh yeah. Him. Game 4 of the NBA Finals was a night when the likes of Fisher, Ariza and Pau Gasol outperformed Bryant down the stretch. They saved him, even, from having to answer questions about another night of cold shooting when he's supposed to be cold-blooded. They served as a reminder that championships are a collective effort, that there are more storylines here than Bryant's drive to lead a team to a title on his own.

Trevor Ariza:

Trevor Ariza comes on strong for Lakers - Los Angeles Times
Lakers forward Trevor Ariza was scoreless in the first half Thursday. He was playing as poorly as the Lakers, who trailed the Orlando Magic at halftime, 49-37. Then came the third quarter.

A whisper motivated Ariza -OC Register

Trevor Ariza Finds Some Sweet Revenge -- NBA FanHouse
The Magic traded Trevor Ariza to the Lakers early last season because they didn't think he was a good enough outside shooter for the kind of team they were trying to build. Ariza came back to haunt them Thursday night, shooting them right out of the NBA Finals.

OCRegister.com
Trevor Ariza did not score in the first half. He missed all six of his attempts from the floor and never approached the line. It was unusual for a guy averaging more than 10 points during the postseason. Phil Jackson must have sensed something was amiss and pulled his reserve forward over before the start of the third quarter and whispered in his ear. Whatever Jackson said motivated Ariza, or at least got him moving.

 

NBA Fanhouse:

Lakers Take Insurmountable Finals Lead
ORLANDO -- No team ever has won the NBA Finals after trailing 3-1, and the Orlando Magic won't be the first. History says no way.

Clearly, Lakers Possess Champion DNA
This is what true champions do. Somehow, when it matters most, they forget their recent ugliness, and they remember their past glory. Mostly, they discover ways in a hurry to overcome their opponents and themselves. So the eternal doubters of these Los Angeles Lakers should consider this: Even before they make it official against the Orlando Magic, either on Sunday at Amway Arena during Game 5 or next week inside Staples Center for a possible Game 6 or an unlikely Game 7, these Lakers are true champions.

Kobe Brant's Elbow and Jameer Nelson's Chin Get Acquainted
Let's face it, Kobe has a history of sending messages with his elbows -- just ask Ron Artest, or Shane Battier, or Manu Ginobili, or Marko Jaric ... Did the referees swallow their whistles simply because it was late in the game? I've watched the replay at least a dozen times, and (unlike most of the examples I linked above) I'm absolutely convinced the contact was incidental -- Nelson rushed in just as Bryant picked up his dribble and raised his arms to pass. If anything, Nelson was just as responsible for contact as Bryant, not that it makes him feel any better. From ESPN's Chris Broussard: "I doubt that [Kobe] did it on purpose,'' Nelson said. "My ears are ringing right now. But the ref's not going to call that.''

Magic Point Guards Still Struggling
The whole idea behind suddenly activating point guard Jameer Nelson after a four-month absence was that maybe he could spark the Orlando Magic to victory at the NBA Finals – rust and all. The whole idea has failed.

ESPN:

Suddenly, it's 2000 - TrueHoop By Henry Abbott
Stan Van Gundy brushed off the notion that Finals experience means much of anything, pointing out that basketball is a simple game and every player on the court has the benefit of having played thousands of games. The rules don't change in the Finals. It's an enticing point. But consider the position of the Lakers here. With nothing more than one more tremendous effort, they can probably win the title they have craved for more than a half-decade on Sunday. Or, they can play with fire, as they did in 2000, and lose to a devil-may-care opponent, and roll the dice in Games 6 and 7. I don't know what's going to happen in Game 5 -- but with memories of 2000's Game 5 vivid in the memories of Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Mitch Kupchak and others in the Laker organization, I'd be shocked if the Lakers don't arrive 100% motivated on Sunday. Call it experience, professionalim, or anything else you want ... it tends to work.

Two Possessions That Will Keep Magic Fans Awake - TrueHoop By Henry Abbott
The Orlando Magic don't have an unstoppable one-on-one player who can manufacture points out of thin air. When they want something, they have to execute. And for the better part of eight months, they've demonstrated a singular ability to do that. Orlando has mastered the art of finding the open shot, and it was the league's most efficient defensive team in the regular season -- all of it predicated on execution. That's why the final 10.8 seconds of regulation in Game 4 were so tragic for Orlando. On two consecutive possessions -- one defensive, the next offensive -- the Magic had a chance to ice the game, and all that it required was basic execution, the sort of fundamental basketball Orlando has made a living at this season. Leading 87-84 with only 10.8 seconds remaining, the Magic needed to deny the Lakers a 3-pointer.

NBA Playoffs: Why did Van Gundy skip over Alston in fourth?
Conventional wisdom says there had to be a beef. An argument. Some bellyaching. A philosophical divide. Something. Something had to happen between Stan Van Gundy and Rafer Alston during the second half of Game 4 Thursday night. Why else would the Orlando coach sit his starting point guard for the last 18 minutes, 28 seconds of the Magic's 99-91 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers? But apparently, there was nothing, nada, no disagreement at all. Apparently, Van Gundy's coaching instincts just told him to stick with Nelson...But the move was another example of how Van Gundy has mishandled his point guard situation throughout the series.

Crushed by loss? Time will tell for Magic
He sat alone at his locker, his back turned away from everyone, barely saying a word to anybody for 10 minutes, then 10 more, then another 10, and then a few more. Finally, when the Orlando Magic locker room had been cleared of all but the final stragglers, Dwight Howard rose slowly from his chair, walked over to a large mirror covering almost an entire wall, and looked into it. Silently. Back to his locker he went to retrieve his light yellow dress shirt before he doubled back to the mirror, walked to within inches of it, and stared himself in the face. Whatever he was thinking, whatever he was saying to himself, he kept to himself. "Gonna be able to come back from that?" he was asked ever so gingerly when he returned to his stall.

Intro to all-time NBA franchise rankings - ESPN
John Hollinger ranks all 30 NBA franchises. Let the debate begin.
NBA Franchise Rankings: Los Angeles Lakers No. 1 - ESPN

(As if we didn't know.  I'm sure Celtics fans will complain, but 13 of theirs came in a glorified mens league.  6-8 teams?  Whoopdy doo.)

Sports Illustrated:

Three Observations - NBA - SI.com
1. This is why the Lakers have Derek Fisher. 2. Nick Anderson has some company now. 3. The Lakers win when the Kobe Show shuts down.

Stan Van Gundy fails as Magic coach in crucial Game 4 of Finals - NBA - SI.com
NBA Finals Report Card: Game 4

SLAM Online:

Up by 3, to Foul or Not to Foul?
That’s the question Stan Van Gundy and his coaching staff had to answer as they clung to a three-point lead late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Van Gundy picked the wrong answer, as he elected not to foul the Lakers on the inbound play, and the rest as they say, is history. Derek Fisher calmly dribbled up the floor, raised up for the game-tying three, and added yet another chapter to his postseason legend.

Video: Pietrus Gives Gasol The Hulk SMASH!
You may have made up your own name for Pietrus’ flagrant foul on Pau Gasol by now: The Flying Double Fists. The Double Axe Handle Fist Smack. The Donkey Kong Super Barrel Gold Banana Smash. I have my own: The Hulk SMASH!

Fox Sports:

Magic lost because Van Gundy hit panic button - FOX Sports on MSN
I'm not blaming Dwight Howard. No way. His missed free throws and seven turnovers hurt, but his 21 rebounds, nine blocked shots and Bill Russell impersonation carried the Orlando Magic for an entire evening. The Magic more than likely threw away an NBA title Thursday night, but only the blind and foolish would blame Superman. Stan Van Gundy is responsible for one of the greatest choke jobs in NBA playoff history. If he had any pride, he'd resign today and let Patrick Ewing coach Game 5 on Sunday. We all owe Shaq O'Neal an apology. Van Panic crashed Game 4, hand-delivering the Lakers a backbreaking overtime victory and a 3-1 series advantage.

Young Magic still have far to go - FOX Sports on MSN
Dwight Howard choked. While we're at it, Stan Van Gundy also choked. Meanwhile, savvy veteran Derek Fisher stepped up. Kobe Bryant's legs are starting to look a good bit older as the playoffs progress, but his will to win helped make up for it Thursday down the stretch. ORLANDO - Dwight Howard choked. While we're at it, Stan Van Gundy also choked. Meanwhile, savvy veteran Derek Fisher stepped up. Kobe Bryant's legs are starting to look a good bit older as the playoffs progress, but his will to win helped make up for it Thursday down the stretch. ORLANDO - Dwight Howard choked. While we're at it, Stan Van Gundy also choked. Meanwhile, savvy veteran Derek Fisher stepped up. Kobe Bryant's legs are starting to look a good bit older as the playoffs progress, but his will to win helped make up for it Thursday down the stretch. "It's just too cliche that it's all about Finals experience,'' Orlando coach Van Gundy said of a suggestion that Los Angeles' experience and the Magic's lack of it was pivotal as the Lakers won 99-91 in overtime to take a 3-1 NBA Finals lead.

Delayed entry: Bad NBA idea is getting schooled - FOX Sports on MSN
If the NBA Finals have taught us anything, it's that attending college to learn how to play basketball is somewhere between vastly overrated and downright stupid. Exhibit A: Dwight Howard Exhibit B: Kobe Bryant.

Best ever? Jackson makes a strong case :: Sports :: Post-Tribune
With his Lakers up 2-1 and Jackson edging closer to a record 10th NBA title as a coach, maybe it's time to start thinking of Jackson in a different way. Maybe it's time to begin recognizing him for what he really is. The greatest coach in NBA history. Perhaps the greatest coach ever in any sport.

Behind the Box Score, where the Lakers put the hammer down - Ball Don't Lie... - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
The question now is whether or not the Magic struggle with their confidence, heading into the rest of a series that has likely been decided, or if the Lakers struggle to overcome common sense. Common sense that tells them that the series is already theirs, whether they play just as desperately in Game 5, or not.

Basketbawful - 2009 NBA Finals: Worst of Game 4

X’s & O’s of Basketball: Brian Shaw on Kobe and the Pecking Order

Magic Missing That Certain Something - The Baseline - The Sporting News
"That had nothing to do with any of it," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said when asked about the value of experience in The Finals. "Nothing." Well, then, nothing looks a whole lot like missed free throws and blown defensive rotations. Nothing looks like poor shot selection and lazy defense, and a failure to seize the moment and close out a game. Nothing sure looks like something. At some point, the hot shooting and instant energy and confidence that carried Orlando to this point runs out. That’s when you dig down, running on fumes, and make it happen late in the game. Or you fold like a cheap pup tent.

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