Finals Game 5 Preview (pt. 2) — The View from Orlando...

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The end is near.

Even through 3 of the 4 games played thus far have been "coin tosses" in the last 90 seconds of regulation, basketball fans across the country are expecting a sudden end to this series, either in Orlando tonight (game time is once again an inexplicably late 5:00 pm PDT), or home again in Los Angeles in Game 6 on Tuesday.

Will Orlando win tonight? Flip a coin.

Regardless, the 2008-09 NBA season is almost over. It has been a long, interesting trip. It's time to reminisce.

Here are some of the highlights of my NBA year and I'd be interested in hearing yours in the comments section. Bear in mind that I have a highly unusual Blazer/Laker dual affinity which will absolutely guarantee that the landmarks noted on my particular road trip are greatly dissimilar than yours.

The Laker calendar starts on the first day of each season, but the NBA year for Portland Trailblazers fans starts on draft day. General Manager Kevin Pritchard, self-described "willing trade partner," lives for draft day machinations and the crafty wheeler-dealer never disappoints. Draft Day 2008 was memorable for KP trading up to get Point Guard of the Future Jerryd Bayless with the pick of the Indiana Pacers and wisely snatching a skinny 19 year old French pro named Nic Batum before the lustful San Antonio Spurs could hook him.

Bayless (called "Rex" by the Bedge faithful for the purportedly short arms which caused him to fall to the #11 spot in the draft as well as for his ferocious disposition) and defensive savant Batum (think: baby Trevor Ariza) were joined by the long-anticipated debut of 2007 #1 overall pick Greg Oden (microfracture surgery) and by highly-touted Spanish Shooting Guard Rudy Fernandez (Olympic silver medal teammate pal of Pau), making a total of 4, count them, 4 rookies among the team's top 11 players.

And Mike Brown was Coach of the Year? — HA!!!

(What the HELL does this have to do with the Lakers?!? Will this Stupid Jackass Blazerfan Idiot ever get to the Game 5 Orlando links?!? Click through to find out the answer to these and other Pivotal Questions...)

Then came the start of the regular season. Portland at Staples against the Los Angeles Lakers, a date marked on the calendar of every Blazer fan in bright yello w highlighter, which was in turn circled with a red Sharpie(tm)(r). The first game of the year was the first exam of the year. How would this new team do against their arch rivals? Expectations ran high.

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Everything seemed even. The Lakers had Kobe, the Blazers had Brandon Roy. The Lakers had Andrew Bynum, the Blazers had Greg Oden. The Lakers had Pau Gasol, the Blazers had LeMarcus Aldridge. The Lakers had Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom, the Blazers had tenacious PG Steve Blake and leaper Travis Outlaw and Rudy and Summer League MVP Bayless. National audience on TNT! This was gonna be fun!

Let me make this perfectly clear: I like the Los Angeles Lakers more than 28 other NBA teams. Not more than 29 teams, mind you, more than 28 teams... On October 28, 2008, Phil's boys kicked that 29th team's asses but good. The Lakers blew the Blazers out. It was not close. It was distressing. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. Oden sprained his foot and was out AGAIN — 13 minutes and zero points. Lakers 96, Blazers 76 [TNT video highlights]. That was the first lasting memory of the NBA Regular Season for me.

2008-09 was the first season that I dropped coin for any of the NBA's "League Pass" gear. That's a memorable experience in and of itself... League Pass Broadband was a boon — now instead of being limited to the 82 game serving of televised Blazers plus random events on NBA-TV and TNT, it was possible to seriously follow the Lakers. I'd watch the wins out of the "archive" on my laptop in bed late at night, losses — not so much.

With the improved access to games not involving a team wearing red and black uniforms, two things became crystal clear with great rapidity: 1. Joel Myers and Stu Lantz were the best commentator team in the NBA, national or local; and 2. the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers were really, really good.

As the Lakers wins started to accumulate, the sting of the opening night crushing of the Blazers started to lessen. The truly memorable statement game for me was the 92-83 Christmas Day thumping of the guano-sucking Boston Celtics at Staples Center. Gee, Celtics, what happened?

If KG could go 0-82 some season, that still wouldn't even out the bad karma in the universe which that phony, arrogant, unsportsmanlike jackass has generated. So it should come as no surprise that some of my other favorite memories are also Celtics- related, such as the Dec. 30 game in which the Blazers — with superstar SG Brandon Roy and starting Small Forward Martell Webster wearing suits on the bench — beat the kelly-clad dicksticks 91-86 at the Rose Garden. Nice!

And let's not forget the Lakeshow's visit to Boston Garden on Feb. 5, 2009 and their exciting 110-109 win in overtime versus the 2007-08 World Champs. All the fat bigmouths in Boston seats got high blood pressure and went home crying... Ha ha!  That's 0-and-2 and we'll see you again in the Finals, Celtics...... OR NOT!!!

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And yes, the Blazers' visit to Boston Garden was also memorable for me, but not for the lackluster performance of the Good Guys... Rather, it was Kevin Garnett showing his true colors, taunting Jerryd Bayless. Trust me, that crap will never be forgotten by Blazer fans as long as that useless fuckin' idiot is playing... 

The other biggies for me were Brandon's Hero-Goat-SuperHero overtime buzzer-beater topping Houston, Hedo's lucky bankshot 3 which averted an Orlando sweep by Portland, the Lakers taking it to the Cavs in their own building on Feb. 8, and the Blazers taking the Cavs to OT without starters LMA or Nic Batum in the same place.

The Blazers' first visit to Oklahoma City and the crushing they sustained there is also memorable in a bad horror movie gone awry sort of way... I can't find video of that one but I'm not exactly gonna knock myself out looking either.. I remember it being about a 20 point margin at halftime, with the Blazers being outrun and outclassed.

I suppose Rudy Fernandez getting binked on a fast break by Trevor Ariza and the hysterics which ensued afterwards merits mention for memorability... If you have a few minutes, compare and contrast the Portland feed of this incident by Mike Barrett and Mike Rice and the more evenhanded treatment delivered by Joel and Stu on KCAL. Oh, by the way, Blazers and Lakers split 2-2 this year — again. I'll remind you all how many straight losses that makes it for the Lakers in the Rose Garden next year, ha ha.

And then we have the playoffs, in which the Blazers had the great misfortune to draw the team that had their number, the Houston Rockets. And also this marvelous Laker run in the playoffs — a middling effort against a hopeless Jazz team, a decent showing against a very good Houston team, an excellent performance against an excellent Denver team, and now this very close Finals series against a worthy opponent.

We all hope this latter ends with the very best of best memories of all very, very soon...

And without further ado, here's today's Orlando linkage for your pre-game entertainment...

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(1)

Win or Lose Game 5, the Orlando Magic's Home Finale will be Sweet for Magic Fans

by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

* * *
Wouldn't it only be fitting in this wild and wacky season of Magic wins and Dwight Howard grins if this team and town experienced the greatest comeback in NBA history?

The Magic, as they enter tonight's final home game of the season at Amway Arena, are down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Lakers — a deficit that has never been conquered in the 62-year history of the NBA Finals. But, then again, has there ever been such a confoundingly and resoundingly resilient team than pugnacious coach Stan Van Gundy's chip-on-their-shoulder Magic?

This is a team that has thrived on doubt and discredit throughout the playoffs. Now they have the Lakers right where they want them. Nobody, except for a few die-hards and the Magic themselves, believes this team can rally back against one of the greatest franchises, greatest players (Kobe Bryant) and greatest coaches (Phil Jackson) in NBA history.

Dwight Howard, the team's dominating, dynamic center, says there is no doubt the Magic will win today. He says it's not a matter of "if" the Magic win and take this series back to the West Coast for Games 6 and 7 — it's a matter of "when."

When a hometown writer asks if he is actually guaranteeing a victory, Howard smiles and says: "I believe we're going back to L.A., and you should, too. You're from Orlando." * * *

 

(2)

Mark It Down: The Orlando Magic will beat Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5

by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel

This much I know:

The Magic are loose.

The Magic are energized.

The Magic will win tonight.

If I'm wrong, spank me with some e-mails Monday morning. Frankly, I'll be covering up, but not in shame. Only sleeping. Zzzzzs. A wonderful thing so I hear. Just haven't had much of it lately, following this Magical Circus on Sneakers to Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

I'm guessing the tents get pitched in Los Angeles one more time before anybody starts breaking out the bubbly and fitting an MVP crown on Mr. Bryant. Or maybe not.

My pesos are still on the Lakers, but I like Orlando's attitude facing a closeout game on its home court. * * *

 

(3)

Ever-Resilient Orlando Magic Remain Cool, Confident Despite 3-1 Deficit to Los Angeles Lakers

by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando Magic are in a position to make basketball history.

It's just an uncomfortable position.

No team has ever come back in the NBA Finals to win a title after trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The Magic can become the first if they win the next three games against the Los Angeles Lakers, beginning tonight with Game 5. It's their last day at Amway, but the Magic believe they'll buck the odds and be taking part in a ring ceremony on opening night next season in the building.

"That's what we're fixing to do, make history," shooting guard Courtney Lee said. "No team's ever done it before, so that's what we want to do."

Lee has a world of confidence for a rookie ... a rookie who is guarding Kobe Bryant in a survival game, no less.

He was jokingly asked if he had packed his bags for L.A., where Games 6 and 7 would be played, if necessary. He thinks they're necessary.

"I'm going to do that when I go home, yeah," Lee said Saturday, straight-faced, not playing along with the gag.

Lee has learned the art of swagger in his first season from a cocksure, slightly cuckoo bunch of teammates and a coach who all refuse to look at deficits as deterrents.

"Right now," small forward Hedo Turkoglu said, "I'm just happy to be in this situation." * * *

 

(4)

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson Fined for Criticism of Refs

by Kyle Hightower, Orlando Sentinel

Just when it looked like Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was going to make it through the NBA Finals without getting fined for calling out the referees, he got one.

The NBA announced Saturday afternoon that Jackson and the Lakers organization were both fined $25,000 for Jackson's criticisms of the officials during the Lakers' Game 4 win.

The fine was levied for comments that Jackson made on-camera between the first and second quarters.

In his brief sideline interview, Jackson said there were "bogus" calls against Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum in the first quarter after each picked up two fouls. * * *

 

(5)

Speak No Evil

by The Orlando Sentinel Sports Staff

Pietrus still doesn't think his flagrant foul in the closing seconds of Game 4 was a big deal, but Gasol had a different view after the hit.

"I think I was going for the ball. I don't think I was trying to make a dirty play," Pietrus said. "I'm smart enough with three seconds to go and they're up 10, why am I going to get a hard foul. No, I was trying to make sure he was going to the free-throw line. I wasn't trying to be dirty. I'm not dirty."

Gasol doesn't agree.

"The intention of the foul was definitely hurtful," he said. " ... There was no way that was necessary to do at that point, but just because I was able to take the hit and hold on to the rim, then it's not punished. If I would have missed the rim, I would have fell on my back and broke my head, then it would have been punished? It just doesn't, doesn't make a lot of sense."

 

(6)

Magic Intend to Turn the Tide on Turnovers in Game 5

by Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel

If you try to pinpoint the moment when Game 4 started to turn against the Orlando Magic, look at what occurred at just under the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. The Magic led the Los Angeles Lakers by 12 points, and Dwight Howard had the ball at the left side of the free-throw circle.

With Lakers center Andrew Bynum several feet away from him, Howard attempted a pass to his right, where Hedo Turkoglu was guarded by Trevor Ariza. But Ariza knocked the pass away, gained control of the ball and converted a fast-break dunk.

The sequence started a 16-3 L.A. run, but it also was emblematic of a larger problem for Orlando. Howard's errant pass was one of 19 Magic turnovers that led to 16 Lakers points. Taking better care of the ball will be a key point of emphasis for the Magic in Game 5 tonight.

"If we keep throwing the ball right to them, turning the ball over, then they're getting easy baskets," said Orlando forward Rashard Lewis, who had three turnovers of his own Thursday. "It's hard to win a ballgame when you're handing them the ball and they're getting layups at the other end of the court."

Orlando has committed 60 turnovers in the Finals, and those miscues have resulted in 71 points for Los Angeles. The Lakers, on the other hand, have made 42 turnovers, which have led to 45 Magic points.

The Magic had averaged 12.8 turnovers a game during the first three rounds of the playoffs, and are averaging 15.0 in the Finals. * * *

 

(7)

Magic PG Anthony Johnson Remains "The Odd Man Out" in NBA Finals

by Andrea Adelson, Orlando Sentinel

The forgotten man still goes through his usual post-practice routine, shooting short-range jumpers, mid-range jumpers and long-range jumpers while teammates mill about or hit the showers.

Anthony Johnson knows there is no way he is going to play in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the L.A. Lakers tonight, but he has got to keep focused, keep his head in the game, or he might drive himself crazy.

This right here was supposed to be his shot to make big contributions in the NBA Finals. The first two times he made it, he sat behind Jason Kidd with the Nets, so his playing time was limited. But here with the Magic, he was the backup to Rafer Alston.

He saw significant action throughout the postseason, averaging 14.7 minutes in the first three rounds, with 3.8 points and 2.2 assists. Played in all 19 games. Had a clutch game against Philadelphia in Game 2 of the opening round, playing a bench-high 25 minutes and scoring 11 points. Had solid series against Boston and Cleveland.

Then the talk about Jameer Nelson started. Would the all-star point guard return from what was considered a season-ending shoulder injury? Johnson wasn't stupid. He knew what was going to happen. He was out as the backup. Nelson was in.

Instead of playing, Johnson has helplessly watched the point-guard situation unravel in the Finals, thinking things might be different if he had gotten the opportunity he feels he deserves.

"I've been through a lot of ups and downs, but this is the toughest thing I've had to deal with throughout my entire career," Johnson said after practice Saturday. "To help your team get to the Finals and not be able to participate and sway the outcome, it's difficult to deal with." * * *

 

(8)

Andrew Bynum says Dwight Howard Frustrated with Team

by Shannon Owens, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog

Andrew Bynum didn't give himself too much credit when I asked him if he was frustrating Dwight Howard in the post Saturday afternoon.

"No, I think he's getting frustrated with his team," Bynum said. "He's open a lot more times than he's getting the ball."

Interestingly enough, Howard had his highest number of attempted field goals in Game 4 with 12 attempts. Before that, he had just six attempts each in Games 1 and 3, and 10 in Game 2. * * *

 

(9)

Most Painful Magic Loss of All Time?

posted by "Blue-Blood" to Third Quarter Collapse

I've been struggling with this question since the moment it was over and I keep going back and forth with my answer to it. After much consternation I have come to the conlusion that our Game 4 loss this series is "THE MOST PAINFUL LOSS IN MAGIC HISTORY" and here's why . . .

The ONLY other loss even in contention (IMO) is of course the "Brick Anderson Missed FTs Game 1 Finals vs Houston Loss" and although that loss still haunts me to this day, the Game 4 loss vs LA is worse due to several factors:

There was only 1 clear-cut goat in game 1 (Nick) vs SEVERAL in game 4 (Dwight-FTs, Hedo-FTs, Stan-Choices, Jameer-Defense, Rashard-Missed Open Shots) so it was a team-wide EPIC FAIL vs an individual one.

  • The Game 1 Loss didn't virtually concede the series like the Game 4 loss did.
  • The Game 4 Loss was a home game.
  • The Game 4 Loss forced us to witness 2 Game-winning/tying 3s by the other team.
  • The Game 4 Loss validated all of the Magic's critics and naysayers doubts about the Magic being able to handle the "Finals Pressure."
  • The Game 4 Loss will probably be the last chance the Magic had at the Finals with the all the Key players from this year's squad intact. (Gortat=gone, Hedo & Rafer=?)

 

(10)

Game Five Adjustments: Lakers-Magic

by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle

1. Don't let this end. If you have been following me on Twitter, you probably noticed that I said the feeling after the Game Four loss was like the five stages of mourning. Just thinking about the game, it is difficult just to imagine this ride ending.

This team has done something amazing to this town. It has gotten people on the bandwagon. Rocked the O-Rena for one (second to) last time. Brought together a community during a very dificult time. They have defied the odds.

It has been fun. * * *

2. Remain confident. There is a lot of gloom and doom in the wake of Game Four. Like the Lakers after Game Three, Orlando should remain confident. In two of the team's three losses this series, the game needed overtime to be decided. That literally means there was a tie.

Yes, Orlando needs to finish these games. That means making free throws. That means executing on offense -- getting the ball to its playmakers like Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu. Those two did not come through in the clutch on Thursday. They must do so the rest of the way.

There probably has not been a 3-1 series that was as close as this one. If there was a time to believe a team could erase a 3-1 deficit, this might be the time. And that might be the fan in me speaking. But it is the belief the Magic must have.

The closeout win is always the hardest. * * *

3. Take care of what you can do. The biggest thing the Magic can do going from Game Four going to Game Five is to take care of the things they control. That is free throws and turnovers. * * *

 

(11)

Various Video Reports WFTV-TV, Channel 9 Orlando

Currently on their spooler are:

News report including interviews with Rashard Lewis and Rafer Alston on the Magic's efforts to be the first to bounce back from a 3-1 hole.

Many Magic Fans Blame Refs for Game 4 Loss. (!!!!!)

RAW VIDEO of Magic players in the locker room commenting on their Game 4 loss.

 

The Bottom Line:

1. This has been fun.

2. Our Magic beat the Celtics in a Game 7 in Boston Garden; winning a Game 5 at home isn't that big of a hill to climb, when you think about it...

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