"Bogus," Phil Jackson called some of the first quarter fouls against his big men, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. He was complaining that his Lakers had to play at a deficit through most of the quarter in which the Lakers ended with the seldom-used D. J. Mbenga and Josh Powell in the front court.
They also ended on the short end of a 24-20 score. More than "bogus" calls, it was a matter of poor defensive rotation, too much Dwight Howard on the boards and too much penetration by Hedo Turkoglu and not enough offense by the Lakers.
Poor shooting and poor rebounding by the Lakers and heads up play by the Magic, and Orlando opened up a 12-point halftime lead, 49-37.
Enough cannot be said about Dwight Howard’s work in the paint. He was absolutely magnificent throughout the first half, fronting up then passing the ball back out then going back in for offensive rebounds.
How good was Dwight Howard? 14 rebounds, five on the offensive boards and five blocks in just the first half. He also had two hoops and six points. He was the main reason the Lakers could only score 37 points.
The guy Howard usually passed to, Hedo Turkoglu, had a great half as well, shooting five-of-six from the field and from the foul line for 15 points.
How poor were the Lakers? They only hit one-third of their 42 shots and only one out of ten from the three-point line. Their rebounding as a team only equaled what Dwight Howard did by himself, 14 rebounds and five offensive boards.
The Magic were on their way to a blowout win to tie the series at two games apiece.
But not so fast, my friends. One half does not a basketball game make—nor a blowout.
Trevor Ariza finally came to life with 13 points in the third quarter. Kobe Bryant added eight more, and the Lakers made up the 12-point halftime deficit and took a 67-63 lead into the final quarter.
Both Gasol and Bynum posted up Dwight Howard so that he only managed three rebounds in the quarter. Bynum had to sit down with four fouls, but so did the Magic’s hot hand, Hedo Turkoglu.
Instead of the Heat-Mavericks Game Four blowout, could this be more like last year’s Celtics-Lakers Game Four, in which the Celtics came back from a 24-point deficit to take Game Four and a 3-1 lead in the series?
If so, the Lakers would have to do it with their big guys in very serious foul trouble as Odom and Bynum each picked up their fifth fouls and Pau Gasol his fourth as Orlando caught the Lakers and the lead switched back and forth.
Howard continued to play strong on the boards and forced Gasol into his fifth foul. That put the Magic up by three. But Trevor Ariza tied the game at 82 with a three-pointer.
Hedo Turkoglu hit a three-point shot and then came back with a two-point jumper to put the Magic up by five, 87-82.
Bryant passed to Gasol under the basket for a dunk then fouled Howard at the other end to prevent an easy dunk with 11 seconds left. Howard missed both free throws and the score remaind 87-84 in favor of the Lakers.
The Lakers inbounds pass went to Bryant who passed to Ariza who passed to Fisher for a three-point shot to tie the game with 4.6 seconds left.
Mickael Pietrus got the inbounds pass but missed a 16-foot jumper to send the game into overtime, the second one in the series.
Rashard Lewis hit a three-pointer just as the shot clock expired. Then Bryant hit back-to-back two-point jumpers to give the Lakers a 91-90 lead.
Dwight Howard nearly took Gasol’s arm off going for an offensive rebound but no call. Bryant missed a shot and was denied a foul call as Pietrus tipped his hand.
But the officials gave Howard a foul call on a Derek Fisher push at the other end, even as Howard was shoving Gasol to the floor. Howard made one of his foul attempts to tie the game at 91.
Guess who hit another clutch three-pointer off an assist from Bryant to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead with 31 seconds left in overtime? Derek Fisher who had been 0-5 on his three-point shot in the first half.
Turkoglu missed a three-pointer. Rashard Lewis and Trevor Ariza both tried to tip the ball into the backcourt. Gasol was there to grab it and drove in unimpeded for the dunk and a 96-91 Lakers lead.
The Turkoglu missed again. Fisher passed across the court to Ariza who passed to Gasol under the basket. Gasol dunked but was fouled in the back as he hung on the rim by Pietrus. The league will take a look at the Pietrus flagrant to see if he should be suspended for a game.
Gasol made one of his foul shots to end the scoring at 99-91.
The story of the game: missed free throws. In Game Three the Lakers missed ten free throws. In Game Four the Magic miss 15 free throws that would have given them the win. Howard and Turkoglu combined for 14-of-27 from the free throw line. Turkoglu, usually a good foul shooter, missed four foul shots in the fourth period.
Overall the Magic were 22-of-37 from the foul line.
Kobe Bryant had a game high 32 points along with eight assists and seven rebounds. Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol each had 16 points. Gasol had a double double with 10 rebounds.
Trevor Ariza had a near double double with nine rebounds, three of them on the offensive boards. The last one with one minute left in overtime gave the Lakers a new shot clock with the game tied at 91. That eventually led to Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-point shot.
Fisher, after going 0-for-5 early, wound up with 12 points including both the game-tieing and the game-winning three-point shots.
Turkoglu wound up with a team high 25 points. Howard finished with 16 points, 21 rebounds and an NBA Finals record nine blocks. Pietrus added 15 points.
The Lakers take a 3-1 series lead into Game Five on Sunday at 8 PM Eastern and 5 PM Pacific at the Amway Arena in Orlando.