Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kobe Gifted Ring

The Magic gave away Game 4 tonight, and the Lakers were glad to take it for a crucial road win, giving them a 3-1 lead.

If I'm not mistaken, the Magic had a five-point lead and the ball with less than 40 seconds in regulation and somehow came away without a win. Bad luck (a tip ball led to a breakaway basket for Gasol), bad free throw shooting (Dwight Howard missed two with less than 10 seconds to go when one would've practically clinched it), bad defense (Jameer Nelson, on Derek Fisher's score-tying 3), and bad offense (the off-balance 3-pointer Mickael Pietrus took on the final play with the score tied--now here would've been the time to get it in to Howard) all combined to allow the Lakers to take it to an overtime, which it won readily.

It's the second time in the series the Magic lost a game in overtime that they should've won in regulation time, and there won't be any more chances, I'm afraid. The win puts the Lakers in a hugely advantageous position, needing only one win from the last three, two of which would be at home.

I suppose we were expecting too much from the Magic in their first real run at the championship. It showed in the little things which win or lose playoffs. On the other hand, they showed they have the potential to come back to this stage for years to come, no matter where LeBron decides to play. For most of this game, they were up to the task, defensively--Mickael Pietrus leading the charge on Kobe Bryant--and offensively (the Lakers can't stop them; they can only stop themselves).

I would urge the team to rise up and smite the Lakers in Game 5, simply for the hell of it. It's a consolation game, with the coronation scheduled for the Game 6 return to L.A.

Speaking of consolation, I see some for Stan Van Gundy, who is sitting on a powerhouse team that just needed more experience this time, and, surprisingly, for Rafer Alston. Rafer, acquired during the midseason from Houston when Nelson suddenly went down, got to be starting point guard on an Eastern Conference championship team (the Magic, this year), but I'm afraid that's as close as he will ever get to being starting PG on a NBA champion. He should accept the fact that Nelson will be the PG for the future, and show that he can work as backup at 1, and at 2 against smaller teams. If he does, Orlando should keep him for the long term, and he will end up having a couple of championship rings.

Meanwhile, playing Nelson in the crucial final minutes of this pivotal game showed him that Stan has full confidence in him, which I believe will be rewarded down the road. At times, it was tough in these games (and ultimately unrewarding), but Nelson showed he can hit the 3 for a high percentage earlier this year, which was all he really needed to complete the package. He's worth it.

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