Orlando Reairs The Same Magic Act

stephen rileyCorrespondent IJune 13, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic shoots a free throw in the closing seconds of regulation during Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 11, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. The Lakers won in overtime 99-91. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Why do bad things always happen to my beloved black and blue squad? Why?


I believe the term is Déjà vu isn't it?


You know, when you get the feeling you’ve seen this act before.


Is there any Orlando Magic fan that can honestly tell me that seeing Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey, as I like to call him) or Dwight Howard clang crucial (is there a stronger word than crucial, like very crucial or super crucial?) free throws Thursday night didn’t remind you of Nick Anderson’s shortcomings of 14 years ago?


I knew something was fishy when they had Anderson getting the crowd revved up in the pregame show.


Anderson’s four straight missed clunkers in the Finals opener against Houston still hold a spot in between the heart he shattered years ago but I thought I was long over that.


Up until last night.


I was sitting pretty watching the game. Up by a plus ten margin at the half, Orlando had outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers all the way through the first half but only had a 12 point lead to show for it.


The Magic could’ve easily been up 20-25 but the offense just wasn’t flowing as it was in game 3.


When the Lakers stormed out in the third, highlighted by some fantastic plays made by none other than an ex-Magic player Trevor Ariza (who I’m still mad we traded a promising youngster in favor of practically nothing for) who made game changing steals and swished head shaking threes, what seemed like a game we had in hand turned into a game that had our season on the brink.


Battling back in the fourth quarter I just knew we could still pull it out. We were playing solid defense but the offense just seemed like it needed a spark.


That’s when Stan Van Gundy pulled Turkey out the fridge and put him back into the lineup. No other Magic player could get his shot off against a swarming Laker defense but good ole crafty Turkey got himself to the free throw line and made some nice shots to keep the game from blowing wide open.


Turkoglu made some plays but also missed some free throws that he’s very capable of making but those weren’t the kicker for me.


Turkey was hot late in the fourth,(see why I like the name Turkey so much?) catching fire and even making me spill my orange soda after he drained a three and prompting me to send some in-your-face texts after he sliced in the lane for a nice floater had me feeling like we were set to host game 5 on Sunday with a chance to take the lead in the series.


That’s when it happened again.


Superman, the franchise centerpiece of the Orlando Magic otherwise known as the mild mannered Dwight Howard, clanked two freebies with around 10 seconds left that probably would’ve sewn up a black and blue victory.


Instead, I woke up this morning feeling more blue than anything.


Disappointed texts and messages ran to my phone wildly today, you would be surprised how many people hate the Lakers.


It’s not that all of the sudden everybody has became a Magic fan but they have for this series in spite of their hatred for Kobe and the Lakers.


I guess the Los Angeles Lakers have become the Dallas Cowboys/New York Yankees of the NBA.


Please, I only wish my Magic could reach infamous status like that. When your history of winning has reduced mere sports followers into bitter haters.


But alas, I have to settle for what has become the theme of the Magic in the NBA Finals: the propensity to choke and give games away.


It was only 14 years ago when Orlando blew a 20 point lead only to let their fate rest in the hands of Nick Anderson as he along with the rest of the Magic cast let an easy victory slip through their youthful fingertips.


And it was only 14 hours ago that history repeated itself but this time in my opinion it was much worse.


While most Magic fans will tell you Anderson’s free throws cost them that series, I beg to differ.


The 94-95 Rockets were playing outstanding basketball during that playoff stretch and had jettisoned the top three squads in the league including two 60 win teams in the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs and a third team in the Phoenix Suns that had finished one win shy of 60.


Even if Orlando had managed to win the opener, Houston more than likely would’ve pulled the series out over a younger Magic squad that had been up and down that whole post season and benefitted from a weaker Eastern Division in which their own record of 57-25 may have put them as the 5th best squad in the West rather than tops in the East.


With aid of the 2-3-2 format, three straight games in Houston, an unstoppable Hakeem Olajuwon and a bunch of role players who were sinking every three they hoisted up that year, it would’ve eventually been too much for Orlando to overcome.


This time around, one free throw could’ve changed the whole complexity of this series.


The Magic could easily be up 3-1 right now. Ever since their game 1 jitters that saw them get blasted on opening night, the club has been down to the wire in every game with the Lakers.


Kobe appears to be running on fumes, Andrew Bynum is a shell of his pre-injury self and the rest of the Lakers just don’t scream unstoppable to me.


No doubting they are a tough unit but anybody who has watched this series knows the count could be easily reversed right now.


A Laker loss last night probably would’ve sent Bryant into 35 shots a night mode for the rest of the series and would’ve put the always relaxed Magic into an even greater comfort zone.


And while the fall back crutch is it’s not over yet, I can’t help but to feel that it is.


Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to see Howard flash that teenage smile as he balances the championship trophy in the air.


It's not that i'm a nonbeliever or I lack faith in my team, its just that i’ve already seen this Magic act before.


Team has significant lead, team loses lead, team has chance to put the game away on the free throw line, team misses free throws, team loses game, team loses series.


Sound familiar? Déjà vu at it’s finest.


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