Usually the fourth quarter’s game flow is a reliable barometer of who’s going to win. Down 2-1 in the NBA Finals, that flow favored the Orlando Magic. Kobe Bryant’s shots weren’t falling. The Lakers were called for 11 fouls, compared to Orlando’s two. The crowd was behind Orlando. Los Angeles didn’t even get to shoot a single free throw in the fourth. The Magic had 17.
Yet it was the Lakers who won 99-91 in overtime. Trying to comprehend that score makes my head hurt, so the only way to get past it is to accept the game for what it was and move on.
If there was a singular event that should’ve sealed it for Orlando, it was Dwight Howard, the team leader, and the Next Guy In Basketball You Should Know About, missing two astronomical free throws with 11 seconds remaining. Either one going in would’ve stretched the lead to four, making comeback a Sisyphean task. Instead, Derek Fisher’s three-point shot with 4.7 seconds on the clock tied the game, and fantastic in-bounds defense was left with a Magic win hinging on … well, let’s just say if you hinge on either “off-balance 3-point shot” or “Mickael Pietrus,” it’s not good, let alone both.
The two stories of last night’s game will be Fisher’s resurgence and Howard’s failures. A third storyline may be that Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu is playing better than Howard in this series. Sure, D-12 may get the Vitaminwater endorsements and halftime segments with Bill Russell, but Turkoglu is scoring more, shooting better, and turning it over less. And yet Turkoglu was the one inbounding the ball on the final play of regulation.
The Lakers pretty much have this one in their trophy case with a 3-1 series lead. Game 5 is Saturday in Orlando.