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Magic on their way out
June 12, 2009 - Neil Rudel
Granted, my pick of Orlando in 7 to win the NBA Finals may be tainting these thoughts, BUT:
After watching Game 4, the second overtime game of the series, I got the distinct feeling the Magic are the better team.
Think about it: Orlando missed a Courtney Lee layup at the buzzer that would have won Game 2 (LA then won in OT) and should have put away Game 4.
If the Magic have the best team, what they don't have is the best player.
Kobe Bryant clearly remains that, the best player with the strongest will in the league and enough of a supporting cast to have pushed the Lakers within one victory of Bryant's fourth NBA title.
Orlando surely can not come all the way back and win three straight games, particularly because Games 6 and 7 would be in LA. The Magic, instead, will be doing well just to force a Game 6 by winning Game 5 Sunday night.
The Magic have to be smarting after failing to close out LA, despite leading by 5 (87-82) with 32 seconds left and 3 (91-88) with 11 seconds left before the Magic failed to guard Derek Fisher, who drained a clutch 3-pointer that forced overtime and doomed Orlando.
Pretty inexcuseable -- almost as much as Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu missing a combined 13 free throws. It's hard to say those two guys played great while being that inept from the line, but they did just about everything they could -- except make the freebies.
Howard's last two misses -- up 3 with 11 seconds left -- were particularly brutal.
Orlando has tried to mix Jameer Nelson back but it's a tough time of the year to do that after a guy misses four months.
Sunday's game is really about character because the Magic face impossible odds.
As for next year, Orlando looks like it's on the rise while the Lakers will need another part of two off the bench to help Kobe.