The Lakers were playing like crap, shooting poorly and failing to defend with intensity. It was bad. It was ugly. Team Purple was down by 12 at the break. Hall of Famer and TV analyst Ervin "Magic" Johnson later opined that the deficit was caused by the Lakers "shooting a lot of jumpshots." Sounds right to me.
But then things changed. Boy, did they change. This game turned, as have so many other Laker contests this season, in the 3rd Quarter, in which Kobe's Krew delivered a 30-14 smackdown on the Magic.
The 3rd Quarter opened with a 16-3 Laker run, in which the 5 starters pounded hell out of the Magic's big 5. Who was it that delivered the big blow? No, it was not Kobe, not Pau, not Lamar... This lead-erasing run was powered by Small Forward Trevor Ariza's 11 points, which included two hits from beyond the arc. That's really the story here in a nutshell — the former member of the Orlando Magic nailed some big, big, big shots to equalize this game.
During this catastrophic interval Stan "Captain Panic" Van Gundy returned to form — and there was much rejoicing in Lakerland. SVG gave the hook to his rookie Shooting Guard Courtney Lee in favor of swingman defensive whiz Mickael Pietrus at the 7:58 mark. Lee never returned again. A 4th personal foul at the 7:11 mark also forced Crazy Stan to yank his 6'10" star SF Hedo Turkoglu in favor of ...................... wait for it ............................ J.J. Redick.
By the end of the quarter, the dangerous streak-shooter who had led the team to victory in the previous contest, Point Guard Rafer Alston, was also soundly ensconced on the bench in favor of rusty and serially unsensational Jameer Nelson. Alston never saw the hardwood again, with Nelson playing all of the 4th Quarter and all of overtime.
Starting guards Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee were dumped in a pile like soiled laundry in favor of noticeably inferior replacements. Chemistry, shmemistry, confidence schmomfidence... Captain Panic proved in Game 3 that he learns from his mistakes — but he sure forgets easily.
Who was it that was playing the sagging, 6 foot gappy defense on Fisher when he hit the money 3 with 4.6 seconds on the clock to force overtime? Hmmmmm? How about the guy who was playing off Fish instead of on Fish when he hit the wide open dagger 3 in the extra stanza? Do you remember, Stan?
I'm sure that inside of two seasons Super Stan will be out of coaching and will be released into his natural element, sitting next to his big-mouthed brother at the announcers' table. (At least SVG has that to fall back on, unlike "Coach of the Year" [sic.] Mike Brown...)
In the post-game interview, the portly Magic maestro of moronicity was quite crabby when it was suggested that experience and mental toughness had anything to do with the outcome of this game. "It's a basketball game!" Stan snorted, noting that everyone on the floor had played hundreds and thousands of basketball games before.
The thing is, Captain, there is something called pressure in the NBA Finals — an emotional and physical tension which causes some to thrive and others to choke.
Dwight's two HUGE missed Free Throws at the 11.1 second mark?
That was pressure, that was a choke.
Need another example of a choker?
Buy a mirror.
(Click through for the Orlando coverage of their Armageddon...)
Before we get started, it is my duty as a citizen of North America and a missionary of the gospel of greatness to urge you to join me in watching 20 more minutes of The Greatest Thing in the World, THE BASKETBALL JONES, Episode 454. Thank you.
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
They've taken their fans on a wild, wondrous journey since October and defied the kind of odds this postseason that gets you in Ripley's and makes Vegas blush.
The Orlando Magic now will have to top their own comeback act, dipping deep into the well of improbability to drink in a championship.
After falling to the Los Angeles Lakers 99-91 in a bitter overtime loss on Thursday night at Amway Arena, the Magic trail 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
The Magic not only must buck history heading into Game 5 on Sunday - no team has ever rebounded from this deficit in the Finals to win the title - but they must get past perhaps an equally formidable obstacle.
Can they beat Bryant three straight times and stop the Lakers from putting on a 15th title parade?
The Magic will have to win to send the series back to L.A. If they wind up starting the summer without a trophy, the chance to win a championship might have come down to two critical areas in Game 4:
Dwight Howard's poor free-throw shooting and the team failing to foul while leading by three points in regulation. * * *
by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
t least they aren't going to get swept.
Isn't that's all you can really say now?
All of the celebration and anticipation.
All of the excitement and euphoria.
All of the hope and hype after that historic Finals victory two nights ago.
And now this.
It's all been relegated to one mournful rallying cry:
At least they aren't going to get swept.
Are the NBA Finals officially over after the Magic's 99-91 loss to the Lakers in Game 4 Thursday night? No, not officially.
Remember the confetti that rained from the rafters after the victory Tuesday night in Game 3? On Thursday, the only thing that rained down was a disgusted fan who threw his beer cup toward the court as the victorious Lakers walked toward their locker room.
The Magic are down 3-1, and let's be honest. The chances of them winning three of the next three the final two in L.A. are slimmer than an L.A. supermodel. * * *
by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel
* * *
Admit, it. We need an NBA title more than they do.
And what do you do? You spank us in overtime, all but popping the champagne corks to celebrate another title.
Can't you cut us a break, city slickers?
You've got all this cool stuff already. Fancy cement ponds, shining stars of the stage and screen, big-time rockers with their crazy tattoos and restraining orders.
Orlando is rich in Boy Band history, which is cool until you reach puberty. Joey Fatone was working a pre-game show at Amway Arena before Tuesday night's game. That's what happens to Boy Band People when they start growing facial hair. The gig's up, unless your name is Timberlake.
Not picking on Joey, but that's how Orlando rocks in musical history.
We have "Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)" as our historic soundtrack.
They've got "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas & the Papas, "California Girls" by the Beach Boys, "I Love L.A." by Randy Newman, "California Love" by 2Pac, and "Californication" by Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
They even lured one of this region's native sons - Don Felder — away from Gainesville to play guitar for a rock band. They called themselves the Eagles. Felder wrote the iconic opening rift to this song. You may have heard of it. "Hotel California." One of the greatest rock songs of all-time.
Did I mention we have "Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)"?
L.A. also lured away some other people you may know. A certain Big Fella from the Magic. I won't even say his name.
But that's how it is. They are Big Fish. We are Little Pond.
They are the Playboy Mansion. We are Hooters. * * *
by Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
Kobe Bryant has likened the Orlando Magic's strategy to defend against him to throwing a "kitchen sink" in his direction. A little bit of everything — and everyone — gets hurled his way to try to stop him. Even for a superstar such as Bryant, that's about as pleasant as cleaning a bunch of dirty dishes.
One-on-one defending, double-teams and denying Bryant inbounds passes — Bryant faced it all in Thursday night's 99-91 Los Angeles Lakers overtime victory over the Magic.
The Magic kept him in check until overtime. In the extra period, Bryant scored four points and had the key assist on Derek Fisher's 3-point shot that put Los Angeles ahead 94-91 with 31.3 seconds remaining. In all, Bryant finished with 32 points and eight assists, but he made an abysmal 11 of 31 shots from the field.
"For me, it's just getting the ball in position to operate," Bryant said. "I've got too many eyes on me. I've got to get that ball on the block and try to go to work, and if they double, try to get it out."
Orlando started as it normally does when it faces Bryant: with rookie Courtney Lee drawing the Sisyphean task of defending Bryant one-on-one. Mickael Pietrus took over the assignment when Lee drew his second personal foul just over three minutes into the game.
All game long, the Magic sent a second defender over from the weak side to help out when Bryant had the ball with his back to the basket.
Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy had to alter his plan with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter when Pietrus committed his second foul. Unwilling to keep Pietrus in the game or send Lee back in, Van Gundy subbed out Pietrus for J.J. Redick, who is known as an average defender. Bryant finished the first quarter with 13 points, and it looked like he could do more damage in the second.
But Bryant couldn't take advantage of the opportunity. He started the second quarter on the bench, and in almost eight second-quarter minutes, with Redick on him most of the time, he made just 1 of 5 shots and scored only three points.
Bryant still finished the first half with 16 points. * * *
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog
Jameer Nelson hadn't played for four months before returning to play in the Finals, so naturally the play of the game Thursday — perhaps the play of the Magic's title run — came down to Nelson.
Lakers guard Derek Fisher drilled a 3-point shot over Nelson to send the game into overtime. And instead of the Magic holding on to Game 4 and squaring the Finals at 2-2, L.A. won in OT and can wrap up its 15th title on Sunday.
Coach Stan Van Gundy said he made the decision to bring back Nelson from the injured list for the series, and continued to stick with Nelson in crunch-time in Orlando's biggest game of the season.
And the theme of the Nelson experiment continued: It probably should have remainined in the lab.
Nelson, 5-10, couldn't catch up or get close enough to the 6-1 Fisher on the play. "I should have pushed up on him more," Nelson said.
Magic fans will forever question whether a rusty Nelson ever should have been put in that situation.
Meanwhile, starter Rafer Alston collected cobwebs on the bench in another move by Van Gundy that will be second-guessed forever, right along with his unwillingness to foul Kobe Bryant or somebody to prevent Fisher from taking and making the game-tying 3-pointer.
Alston cooled off after a hot start, and Van Gundy turned to Nelson, who played the last 18 and a half minutes of the game, including all the fourth period and OT.
"I was ready to go,'' Alston said. "I ran through nine hot packs (to keep him warm) but just didn't get the call. That's not my decision. We were right there ready to win, whether I was in the game or not." * * *
posted by "The Stan 'Stache" to Third Quarter Collapse
* * *
Last night was extremely difficult for me and the Magic community. There was such a tension Downtown — a buzz I have never encountered. Derek Fisher fizzled the buzz .
We went home disappointed.
But, Dwight Howard grew up some last night. I'm not sure if it was on the court, after the game or on the podium during the post-game press conference. Dwight failed last night. He admitted he missed his free throws. Dwight lost on the NBA's biggest stage.
I know I am pointing out the obvious — and I apologize for doing so — but this was a big step in the right direction. Not motivationally (I have never questioned Dwight's motivation) but mentally. I continually question his mental toughness. Dwight has grown in front of our eyes, from a goofy teenager into the league's best center. But, in the NBA finals, his athleticism will not/have not overcome his mental mistakes. There is something about defeat that makes humans hungry. He'll be hungry in Game 5.
I don't disagree with Stan Van Gundy often. But he was wrong last night. We were outclassed but a team who has been there before. This is an experience issue. He said "It's still a basketball game." True — but it's the biggest games of these players careers and the biggest games in Orlando since '95. So, simply, it's just a game. But a really, really big game. Experience has to factor in.
Now it's about respect (cliche I know). But the national media hasn't respected the Magic all playoffs. If the Magic don't play their hearts out, this series will look like a choke job/fluke (depending on what side of the fence you sit). I watched every game this year- I know how good our Magic are — but this is the Finals. This is what they will be judged on. * * *
by Woody Wommack, Orlando Magic Daily (True Hoop)
Following one of the toughest losses in Orlando Magic franchise history, it was tough to saunter into the Lakers locker room following Game 4.
As expected, the Lakers players were feeling good after all but clinching their first NBA championship since 2002, and the praise was being spread pretty thick all around.
Trevor Ariza drew high marks for his second half performance, Pau Gasol got some love and Kobe is Kobe, but almost every single Laker brought up one man's name -- Derek Fisher.
After all, it was Fisher's shot with less than five seconds left in the fourth quarter that tied the game up, and another huge three in overtime that sparked an 8-0 Lakers run to end overtime.
"After that big shot we just thought that we go this far, we didn't come this far to lose," Ariza said. "They gave us an opportunity to win the game and that's what we wanted to do."
Before Fisher's two clutch three's he was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc in the game.
"I have a responsibility to my team that if I'm going to be on the floor then I have to make a difference," Fisher said. * * *
On Thursday night Fisher silenced his critics by doing it on both ends of the Floor. Magic point guards Rafer Alston and Jameer Nelson scored a combined 13 points in 52 minutes. * * *
by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily (True Hoop)
* * *
I don't recall too many specifics, but I do remember going through complete anguish. It felt like my insides were being twisted. My heart-rate skipped up and down with the flow of the game.
As a sports fan, it was like going through some type of traumatic episode — my mind is protecting me from remembering something so agonizing.
I remember a few key moments — both of Fisher's threes, Dwight's missed free throws, Turk's big jumpers in the final minute. But they're a bit fuzzy.
How — HOW?!?! — do the Magic blow a five-point lead with 30 seconds left and the ball? How many times has that big of a meltdown happened in an NBA Finals game at home (Oh, wait)?
The Magic stormed ahead in the final period, scoring on several key possessions and forcing Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into 4-for-14 shooting in the final period. They had outscored the Lakers 24-15, and the team's confidence was going to be at an all-time high heading into a two-day rest period.
Instead, in the blink of an eye and the clank of a rim, the Magic were tied at 87-87. And forget everything you've heard about the home team having the advantage going into the extra overtime. The Magic had no momentum tonight. It was dead. All 18,000-plus were stunned and silent. * * *
by Maxwell Effort, The Puns are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
First the thrill of victory. The Magic are up by 3 with 11 seconds left and Dwight Howard is fouled. Knowing he has been pretty darn good in late game free throw situations I think to myself we only need one. Magic up by at least 4 and we are on our way to a tie series and home court for Game 5.
Then the agony of defeat. Howard steps up to the line and misses both free throws which obviously means the Lakers are within 3. The Magic do a fantastic job of denying Kobe the ball and Ariza hits Fisher streaking up the court who pulls up and sees Jameer is playing way off him and knocks in a clutch game tying 3.
Pietrus rushes his shot and shoots an awkward jumper and we go to overtime. Though this team has shown tremendous fight all playoffs long I think to myself there is no way they are going to recover from blowing this game down the stretch and we are looking at 3-1. * * *
Even if this is over on Sunday the big picture tells me this team was not supposed to be in the Finals and will grow tremendously from this experience. The other part of me wonders if this team has three more fights in them to pull of the impossible. Logic says no but my heart so badly wants to say yes. * * *
by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle
Dwight Howard toed the line with about 20 seconds remaining in the game. The old reliable is not the best free throw shooter in the world, but in this series he had come through. And in this game he had come through in a big way defensively, turning in one of the great defensive performances in the NBA Finals' history.
Howard, just announced as the cover boy for NBA Live '10, needed only one foul shot to go in to give Orlando the four-point cushion it needed to survive any Lakers' late-game heroics. Hedo Turkoglu ensured that, scoring five straight points in the minute and 30 seconds before then.
His first free throw... no good.
His second, same result.
Lakers ball with 11 seconds left.
That deep sinking feeling every Magic fan had in the Amway Arena started to develop. Orlando did a good job keeping Kobe Bryant from handling the ball, but Derek Fisher caught the inbounds on the run stopped at the 3-point line and with a Jameer Nelson hand in his face, buried it to tie the game and force overtime.
Once there, Fisher took advantage of some space given by an inadvertant elbow from Bryant to Nelson to bury a second three that gave Los Angeles a 94-91 edge with 30 seconds to play. Turkoglu's semi-desperation 3-point heave was no good. And unlike the Magic, the Lakers hit their free throws down the stretch for a 99-91 win in overtime.
As Turkoglu said, this one slipped out of Orlando's fingers and simply was no good. What could have and should have been a 2-2 series is now 3-1, with the Magic needing a desperation win on their home court to force a Game Six and two desperation wins at the Staples Center to win the title. * * *
by Mike from Illinois, Orlando Magic Blog
Fifteen missed free throws and nineteen turnovers absolutely doomed the Orlando Magic in Game 4, as the Magic could not hold a five point lead in the final minute of regulation as Los Angeles scored five points in the final 32 seconds to send the game into overtime where the Lakers scored 12 of the final 13 points in a devastating loss for the Magic.
The Magic led 24-20 after one quarter, and extended their lead to 51-39 at the half. The Lakers had a monster third quarter, outscoring the Magic 30-14, with Trevor Ariza scoring 13 of those points by himself, to take a 67-63 lead into the fourth quarter.
It was an unbelievably tense and exciting final period, as the Magic found themselves trailing 73-67 with 8:12 remaining, but went on a 20-9 run to take control of the game at 87-82 with 1:34 remaining. Pau Gasol's dunk made it 87-84 with 32 seconds left, and Dwight Howard was fouled with 11 seconds remaining. He missed both free throws, and Derek Fisher's three pointer with 4.6 seconds left stunningly tied the game. Mickael Pietrus's jumper did not come close at the end of regulation.
Rashard Lewis, who had an awful night with just six points, made a three pointer to give the Magic a 90-87 lead to open the overtime. The Magic would miss their remaining six shots while the Lakers would come back and pull away. * * *
How to Shoot a Free Throw in Basketball
link ironically provided by "Kwik10z" on Magic Madness message board for future reference of his team...
posted by "Vinnie" to Magic Madness message board
How many chances did they have there, that was their 3rd opportunity I think? Was there any question if that three was going down. You can't give a team that many 2nd chance opportunities. We choked big time fellas. CHOKED!
posted by "Vinnie" to Magic Madness message board
Goat horns....let's line them up.
3. Jameer Nelson, how do you give Fisher that kind of look?
2. Stan Van Gundy, for even having Nelson in the game that long and in crunch time down the stretch.
1. Dwight Howard, because the bottom line is you have to hit your free throws. Just ONE would have iced it.
"Team Coverage" by WFTV Channel 9 Eyewitness News, Orlando
There is probably other video material related to the game on the spooler on the WFTV.com front page.
by Eddie "I'm Not In Denial Because that Would Indicate I Accept the Magic Aren't Actually Up 3-1, Which They Should Be If the Refs Weren't Crooked and the Lakers Didn't Cheat and the League Allowed Orlando a Fair Chance To Win, Which They Won't Do Because They Love L.A. So Much (And Did I Mention The Magic Should Be Up 3-1?) and We Don't Do Game Summaries Here When We Lose" Rivera, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)
* * *
I thought the ranking was fair. Middle-of-the-pack is where I would have placed the Orlando Magic, as well. Having followed the franchise since its inception, I consider myself blessed to experience the numerous peaks and valleys of the team.
Think about it. In 20 years, the Magic have had two franchise centers (Dwight Howard, Shaquille O'Neal), two exciting but troublesome wing players (Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady), a fallen superstar (Grant Hill), and more. Who can forget Orlando's first-ever draft pick Nick Anderson, most infamous for The Steal and The Four Missed Free Throws. Who can forget the Heart and Hustle group, led by Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and others. Who can forget the plethora of draft picks gone wrong, like Johnny Taylor, Jerryl Sasser, Steven Hunter, and others.
Talk about, you know, peaks and valleys. * * *
As of 2:30 pm EDT, when this column was finished, Third Quarter Collapse still had not posted a summary of Game 4. Check their site for that later, they might eventually...
The Bottom Line:
1. We're not saying it's over...
2. ............ but it's over.