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Lakers-Magic Game Four: Drama Now, But Not Later

DMtShooter Five Tool ToolCorrespondent IJune 12, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11:  Jameer Nelson #14 of the Orlando Magic dives for the ball underneath Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 11, 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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Tonight in Orlando, the Lakers continued their playoff-long pattern of answering a loss with a win, but it really felt much more like a gift from the home team, and especially, their coach. This one will be the game that Magic Fan remembers with bitter satisfaction when Stan Van Gundy is canned in 18 to 24 months.

In the first half, Dwight Howard had as many rebounds (14) as the entire Lakers team combined. As you might have gathered from that little tidbit, the Laker bigs didn't exactly bring their "A" game early, and if it weren't for a few extra Magic turnovers, it would have been a lot uglier than Magic 49, Lakers 37.

In the third, Trevor Ariza went crazy Broadway style, and the Magic tightened up badly as the Magic tossed aside the lead in less than half of the quarter.

The pace picked up along with the nastiness, as Howard and Bryant got tangled up and threw bitchy elbows at each other, causing Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy to get physical basketball wood.

Honestly, the way these guys pine for '90s UglyBall is just sad. The quarter ended with Bryant making some tough shots, Jameer Nelson continuing to somehow get playing time for no possible reason, and the Lakers up, 67 to 63. That's a 30-14 quarter for the Lakers, and Magic Fan ended things by bitching about the refs.

In the fourth, the Magic took the lead back with balanced scoring and Turkoglu making some big shots, then just plain gave away the game, and in all likelihood, the series. Dwight Howard missed two free throws that could have iced it, and then Nelson let Derek Fisher hit a three with just under five seconds left to force overtime.

That's the second time we've gotten extra ball in four games in this series, and the first time in 30 years that has happened, and just like in the other overtime game, it was pretty obvious from the momentum swing that the Magic were in serious trouble.

As we moved to past midnight in the East, the overtime kept the drama up. A ridiculous Lewis three started it, and the Lakers answered with two Bryant makes. After tough defense and too much Kobe watching by the other Lakers, the Magic eventually tied it back up with a lone Howard free throw make.

Bryant nearly made a great runner, and the Lakers retained possession from a Nelson foul. That was huge, since the next play was Bryant passing to Fisher out of the post, complete with an uncalled elbow to Nelson's chin.

The subsequent three will have any number of howls over how Bryant should have gotten a whistle; that's just a no-call by the refs where the offensive foul created the opportunity.

It's going to have any number of referee conspiracy theorists claiming how the Lakers win was tainted, and I'm really not loving the idea of taking up for Bryant on an obvious foul... but honestly, when you can't make a free throw or defend the three with five seconds left in regulation, my sympathies for the ref screw job in overtime aren't huge.

A Turk missed three and back tap created an open lay up to Gasol, and the lead was five with less than 22 seconds.

Another Turk missed three was followed by the Lakers playing keepaway, ending with a Gasol dunk and ugliness, as Pietrus took two hands to the back for no good reason and matching technicals. And that's your final: Lakers 99, Magic 91, for a 3-1 Lakers lead.

This much overtime and tightness tells you something strong about this series, which is that despite the seemingly commanding lead, neither team can get much separation. Maybe the Magic could if Nelson ever saw the bench again, or if he regained his pre-injury form, but that's looking really unlikely now.

And maybe the Lakers will just come out and close this thing down in Game Five, the way they did to the Rockets on their home floor in Game Six. But I'm not seeing it; I think the Magic win a close Game Five, then fold like a pup tent on the road in Game Six, which will be where the Lakers want to win this.

A properly coached team, or one with a superstar who can hit the icing free throws, has this series at 2-2... and heck, while we're dreaming, let's also give them the Courtney Lee miss in Game Two to make it 3-1 Magic.

Or we could, you know, stay in reality.

This series is over, the Lakers are going to wear the crown, Bryant's the MVP, and the world will little note, nor long remember, just how thin their margin actually was.

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