NBA Finals: Orlando Tragic?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJune 12, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to pass under pressure from Dwight Howard #12 and Mickael Pietrus #20 of the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Thursday night in Orlando, Game Four of the NBA Finals came down to knowledge and skill beating brute strength.

The Lakers looked like a veteran team ready to win a championship; the Magic betrayed an evolving learning curve.

The pedigree is undeniable in Los Angeles, and it has shown. Pregame warmups proved especially telling. Dwight Howard was working on his post game with one of the best non-champions of all time, Patrick Ewing. At the other end of the court, Andew Bynum was shadow-defending Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

If we're discussing the merits of feature films, Space Jam wouldn't hold a candle to The Game of Death or Airplane. If we're discussing jewelry, Ewing has to pay for his.

But just the entourage of each team isn't the story of Game Four. The Lakers took the Magic's best shot, and then owned them.

Consider the following: The Magic shot a better percentage from the floor in Game Three than they did from the free-throw line in Game four.

In his postgame press conference, Stan Van Gundy got pretty bent out of shape when reporters continued to bring up experience, but it was overwhelmingly clear that experience had given the Lakers a decided edge.

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Kobe Bryant demanded the ball. Derek Fisher drained shot after shot in the clutch. Pau Gasol made the smart extra passes regularly.

Rashard Lewis had more turnovers than shots made. Dwight Howard could have had a quadruple-double with just another block and three more turnovers. Hedo Turkoglu made only eight of 13 free throws, while Lewis didn't attempt a single one.

Fisher, Bynum and Lamar Odom were all in significant foul trouble for quite some time, but the Magic didn't get one of the three out of the game.

Frankly, the only time the Magic looked aggressive was as time was expiring, and Mickael Pietrus pushed Gasol in the back and was assessed a flagrant foul.

It appears that Bryant is going to get the monkey off his back and get his Shaq-less championship, and it's the calm experience of his teammates that has made all the difference.