Los Angeles Lakers 99, Orlando Magic 91 (OT)

In a heartbreaking turn of events, the Orlando Magic squandered a 5-point lead with 1:34 to play in the fourth quarter, and later a 3-point lead with 31.9 to play in the fourth, going on to lose Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in disappointing fashion, 99-91. They now face a daunting 3-1 series deficit. Derek Fisher hit the game-tying trey with 4.6 seconds to play as the Magic elected not to foul, and as Jameer Nelson inexplicably decided to play the sluggish veteran for the drive, rather than for the pull-up three. The game wasted mostly excellent performances from Hedo Turkoglu (25 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists) and Dwight Howard (16 points, 21 rebounds, and an NBA Finals-record 9 blocks). However, those two accounted for 13 of the Magic's 15 missed free throws on a night when a) they went into overtime and b) they lost by 8. Howard clanked what would have been the two clinching free throws, which set the stage for Fisher's game-tying shot.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Lakers 98 101.0 46.2% 16.5 22.7 8.2
Magic 92.7 46.6% 29.7 19.4 19.4

If you're a Magic fan, you don't need me to tell you how much this loss--if I may be frank--sucks. Going down 3-1 is bad enough, but to do so under these circumstances makes it that much worse. Consider that the Magic...

  • had a 12-point lead at the half;

  • were outscored, 30-14, in the third quarter;

  • hardly outscored Trevor Ariza, whom they traded to L.A. last season, in that third period;

  • had homecourt advantage;

  • committed 19 turnovers in a low-possession game;

  • held Kobe Bryant to an unremarkable game (32 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists looks nice, but 11-31 shooting most certainly does not);
  • received almost nothing (6 points on 2-of-10 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers in 45 minutes) from Rashard Lewis, their highest-paid player;

  • and now face the possibility of losing the NBA championship, on their home floor, in Game 5 tomorrow.

This game should have been in the bag. At several points. But mental mistakes seemed to get the best of them. We're used to the occasional off-night from the line by Howard, but not from Hedo Turkoglu. Maddeningly, Turk went 5-of-6 from the stripe in the first three periods, only to get the yips and go 3-of-7 in the fourth. Line drives, they were. Not even close. Maybe Turk spoke for the Magic--or at least their fans, anyway--in his post-game press conference:

"I know it's a tough loss, man. We had it but just kind of slipped away because of our stupidness."

Thing is, he's right. Take nothing away from the Lakers, who earned this win, but the Magic had this thing in the bag. The first half was a thing of beauty in terms of all-around effort and execution on both sides of the ball. More of that, and they wind up winning this game going away. They were looking at a series tied at 2 games apiece, with another home game in their pocket. Instead? The bottom dropped out in the third quarter, and even after they managed to rally back in the fourth, they still lost the late leads I mentioned above. Just... I mean, I'm not sure what you want me to tell you. About the only way this loss could have hurt more is if it somehow involved, like, Shaquille O'Neal or Grant Hill making big plays for the Lakers. Or maybe if Ariza would up hitting the game-winner. A total and absolute buzzkill.

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