The Lakers didn’t so much as win Game Four as the Magic lost it. Either way, after persevering in overtime 99-91, the Lakers are on the verge of capturing their first title since their three-peat, while the Magic are looking for answers.
Here are the details:
The Lakers tweaked their screen/roll coverage some so that weak side power forward dragging behind the screen wouldn’t constantly be left open on Hedo Turkoglu‘s drives.
Instead of having that player’s defender sag into the lane, the Lakers would ask the big man defending the screen to stay with Turkoglu with the corners rotating to pick up Howard until the Lakers big man could recover.
As a result of this, Turkoglu was able to get his shot off in the paint—8-13 FG—or get fouled, but he wasn’t able to orchestrate for his teammates—3 AST. Also, with their wide-open looks choked off, Rashard Lewis and Tony Battie were non-factors—3-13 FG, 8 PTS combined.
Derek Fisher was short on most of his jumpers—until it mattered most. His game-tying three at the end of regulation and his colossal triple in overtime shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fisher built his entire reputation on smart decision making and big time shooting under the brightest spotlights.
Dwight Howard was incredible on defense with 21 rebounds, nine blocks, and an uncountable number of shots altered. However, on the offensive end, Howard still holds the ball too low, dallies around with unnecessary dribbles and steps before going up strong, and doesn’t meet entry passes.
And unlike Games One through Three, Howard missed too many important free throws, making only six of his 14 attempts.
If Turkoglu was efficient at creating his own shot, he made numerous defensive mistakes and missed multiple free throws down the stretch.
Kobe Bryant was too willing to settle for near-impossible jump shots against Mickael Pietrus, making few. When he was at his best was when the Magic went to double-team, and where he made precision passes and immaculate decisions all game long.
If Kobe was late on several baseline rotations, his post defense on Lewis was perfect.
Rafer Alston forced too many quick shots and missed too many entry passes. However, Jameer Nelson made the cardinal sin of giving Fisher too much room to fire his three-pointer with under five seconds left in the game. An awful decision that gave the Lakers life.
Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom each picked up two fouls in the first quarter, but because of Howard’s inefficient offense, the Lakers were only down four going into the second quarter.
The Magic wings missed too many entry passes, frustrating Howard to the point where he rushed his moves late in the game.
Too many Magic players—Howard, Alston, J.J. Redick—spent too much time talking to the refs and not playing transition defense.
The Magic missed too many layups, including several by Alston.
Because of his quickness, Gortat was able to zip his way into a pair of dunks on screen/rolls. Why did he only play four minutes?
In sum, the Lakers won because their battle-hardened veterans hit the difficult shots, while Orlando’s key players couldn’t hit the simple ones. Because the Magic couldn’t execute simple plays like finishing at the rim and making entry passes. Because when the X’s and O’s fizzled, Orlando’s two best players either couldn’t draw double teams or pass out of them while LA’s superstar did both.
Most of all, because for all of Dwight Howard’s talents, he’s still not close to having the maturity needed to be a champion. Something you never had to say about Derek Fisher.