Friday, June 12, 2009

Fish And Ariza Tear Magic's Heart Out

Wow. Derek Fisher nailed an ice-cold 3 with 4.6 seconds left to send Game 4 into OT and then drained another huge bomb in the extra session to close out a thrilling 99-91 Lakers victory over the wobbly Magic who, quite honestly, just fell apart after leading by 12 at half. Greyhound Trevor Ariza took over the game in the 3rd on both ends of the floor, keying a 30-14 advantage in the quarter that put LA in control.

Just a classic, classic game...unless you're an Orlando fan, in which case you probably want to stick your head in the oven today.


Dwight Howard bricked 8 out of 14 freebies, including two that would have iced the game in regulation. He also turned the ball over 7 times. Van Panic continued to destroy the confidence of his young guards by fucking with their minutes, this time playing Jameer Nelson the entire 4th quarter and OT while starting point Rafer Alston sat on the bench and waited...and waited...and waited. Courtney Lee, another starter, got just 7 minutes of burn.

The strangest (and most compelling) aspect to this game is that Orlando actually looked invincible in the first half. Howard, who finished with a ridiculous 15 pt/21 reb/9 block (a Finals record) stat line, absolutely dominated the first 24 minutes. He single-handedly got Bynum, Pau and Lamar in early foul trouble. Things got so bad that at one point, Phil Jackson was playing a lineup of Farmar, Walton, Kobe, Ariza and DJ Mbenga. I actually found myself wishing LA still had Kwame Brown. No, I'm not kidding. I started having flashbacks of Game 6 against Boston and Game 5 against Detroit in 2004. Every long contested jumper that Kobe Nowitzki missed (he finished 11-31) gave me more of a sinking feeling. At 2:48 of the 1st quarter, the cameras showed a close-up of Howard and he had this look on his face that was the epitome of cockiness. He knew LA couldn't stop him. I was afraid, very afraid. The only positive in LA's favor was that Orlando kept turning the ball over, allowing the Lakers to stay withing striking distance.

During the ABC Halftime Show, Magic Johnson lit into LA: 'The Lakers are playing no defense! The game plan is to beat Orlando!' Thanks, Captain Obvious. I've always found it strange that Johnson, who's currently a high-ranking Laker official, is providing commentary. Reminds me of when CBS use to have Tom Heinsohn work the Celtics games in the 80s. About as biased as you can get, really.

The third quarter started with Fish and Ariza in every passing lane, diving on the floor for every loose ball. Kobe snatched a rebound away from Superboy and then threw the big man off of him, drawing an over-the-back foul. When Howard attempted to make peace, Kobe told him to 'shut up' and then calmly drained the FTs. The crowd started chanting 'refs suck' which I found ironic after all the touch (or nonexistent) fouls that were called on LA's bigs in the first half.

Then the game started getting really physical. Howard stopped his goofy smiling thing for the first time this postseason. Pietrus smacked Gasol in the grill on a rebound. Fisher talked shit to Rashard Lewis.

The added drama fueled the Lakers and rattled the Magic.

Down the stretch, Hedo Turkoglu missed 3/4 FTs. Ariza hit a bailout 3 as the :24 clock expired. And then, with the Nick Anderson Curse permeating the building, Howard clanged that pair with :11 seconds to go, setting the stage for Fisher's dagger.

In OT, the Tragic folded like a cheap tent. The biggest play was an ill-advised tap out by Rashard Lewis that went straight to a streaking (yes, streaking!) Pau Gasol for dunk to put the Lakers up 96-91 with :21 left.

So, does Orlando have anything in the tank? Can they muster the heart to win 3 straight, including two on the road, against a team that just bitch-slapped them?

Not if Fisher and Ariza have anything to say about it.

Fish: 'Thousand bucks says he misses these free throws'

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