Friday, June 12, 2009

Magic About to Be Gone Fishin'

The game was in his massive hands. With 11.1 seconds left and the Magic holding a three-point lead, Dwight Howard stepped to the free throw line to ice the game. These are the moments that Shaquille O'Neal, the former center for both the Lakers and Magic, a notoriously atrocious foul shooter, referred to when he said, "I make them when it matters."

If only Dwight Howard could have made one when it mattered. Instead, he clanked both attempts. The Lakers grabbed the rebound, called timeout and set up their offense. Then Derek Fisher, who had struggled shooting the ball all night, hell, all postseason, hit a three, tying the game. Just another huge playoff notch to add to his belt.

Jameer Nelson, known as a gritty, tough, talented and, most importantly, smart basketball player, made a boneheaded play. Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson properly criticized Chester's favorite son. Jameer should know better. He usually does. In no way should he have let Fisher get off such an easy look from three. Yes, he contested, but he shouldn't have even let him get it off. It's a shame, because Nelson was having a strong fourth quarter, facilitating the Orlando attack, but in the end, his defense cost his team.

After Hedo Turkoglu hit dagger after dagger and Mickael Pietrus made Kobe work as hard as he ever has, the game was there for the Magic. This series was about to be tied. But poor free throw shooting and a mental lapse on defense were all the Lakers needed.

In overtime, Kobe took over, making the first two baskets and then finding Fisher again, wide open for three, to put an end to Orlando's hopes. Sure, the elbow to Jameer's chops helped free up space, but Kobe still made the right play, even if he got away with a foul.

That was all she wrote. Hedo missed a three, and Rashard Lewis, who completely failed to show up for the game, tapped the rebound out way too far, giving Pau Gasol a fastbreak dunk. Game over. And more than likely, series over.

The Lakers now hold a 3-1 lead. It just as easily could be 3-1 Orlando. But in games 2 and 4, the Magic made just enough errors to keep the Lakers in it. And that's all LA needs, one little crack.

In game 4, it was the foul shooting that really did Orlando in. Dwight Howard, who dominated in the first quarter, had a dreadful second half offensively and an even more dreadful performance at the line, where he went 6 of 14. 6-14. That's less than 43 percent. In the NBA Finals.

For the game, Orlando missed 15 free throws, shooting a combined 22-37 (59.5 percent). Even Turkoglu, a career 80 percent free throw shooter, missed five freebies (8-13). Make just one, one of those down the stretch, especially you, Dwight, and this series is all tied up. Instead, it's as good as over.

Dwight, you may never been a great free throw shooter, but you gotta "make them when it matters."

BallHype: hype it up!

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