Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lakers-Magic Game Five: Confetti Bucket Close

It would be wrong to say that the Lakers made the Magic quit in their championship clinching win tonight. The Magic deserve better than that in a year where they won two out of three series against 60-win teams, not to mention winning a Game Seven in Boston. But while the Magic were certainly in Games 2 through 4, and the series could have easily gone to a Game Six, there was no way they were winning four games out of seven against the Lakers. The reason why is that the Lakers didn't just have the best player in the floor in Kobe Bryant. They also had the best big man in Pau Gaosl.

No one wants to imagine, perhaps outside of Los Angeles, that Gasol is a better player than Dwight Howard. But he, well, is. Offensively, of course, there really is no question about that, in that Gasol has wonderful hands and a wealth of crafty low post moves, whereas Howard is simply an energy player -- the best in the Association, but that's it. Defensively, Howard is fantastic at weakside help, but not so much on the ball, and unlike Howard, Gasol stays on the floor without having foul problems. There's also the fact that Gasol doesn't miss enough free throws as to make him a liability on the floor in a late and close game. You know, like Howard was when his misses opened the door for the Lakers comeback in the Game 4 overtime loss that more or less ended their year.

Would the Magic be a better team with Gasol instead of Howard? No. Howard's skills are perfectly suited to the Magic's peculiar brand of big payday jump shooting, and Gasol's interior passing skills would go to waste without a Lamar Odom-esque fellow big to take advantage.

And now, the fairly abbreviated mini-blog of what was a mostly dull game, and a pretty blah close to a great playoff year.

In the first half, the Magic got the early lead, but then the Lakers ripped off a 16-0 run in the second quarter, sparked by Trevor Ariza. Ariza came to life after a double technical with Hedo Turkoglu. Stan van Gundy screamed himself hoarse -- yes, there is a difference -- and lo, the home team looked like crap... but then Rashard Lewis finally made the Magic's first three of the game after 22.5 minutes. An immediate Coach Philip timeout said he wanted to close this tonight, and an Ariza bank prayer was followed by Derek Fisher flopping a call on Dwight Howard to stop the momentum. A flurry of Magic misses at the buzzer closed things at Lakers 56, Magic 46, and it's not looking good for ABC to get a Game Six. The third quarter was no different, and when Jordan Farmer is throwing in crazy bank shot runners to close out quarters, it's Officially Confetti Bucket Time. The third ended with the Lakers up 15, 76 to 61.

At the end of the third quarter, the NBA runs a thank you message from the various playoff team's top performers, and, um, boy did that feel like a good bye speech from the Association. Not exactly a rousing moment of hope for the Magic there. Neither was the forced in-game interview with van Gundy, who has the look of a man who knows he'll never be on this stage again. After a tough Gasol make over Gortat, the Lakers had their largest lead until Reddick canned a corner three... but Reddick gives and taketh away, and a Bryant make over him was way too easy, as was the next possession Reddick turnover. Note, also, that Coach Philip started the fourth with Bryant on the floor to go for the kill.

A Nelson cut it to 13, and Howard returned with five fouls and 9:22 to play. Over-dribbling and two misses by Nelson made it even more obvious that the team wasn't helped by his return, and then Bryant buried the final dagger with a three over Turkoglu to make it 16. The Lemur has already given Bryant the MVP trophy, which is a little awkward, given that they did that a week ago, really. After the timeout, Lewis missed so badly, making him just 3 for 13 from the floor at that point, as to make me wonder if he's suffering from bad eyesight. Bucket trades just added to Ariza's next contract, at least until he missed a hammer dunk at 6 minutes left. I'm fairly sure you could have held an Amway convention in the Amway Arena right now, and not notice the game still going on, there's so little noise. The Lemur heads sought to fill the void by fervently polishing Kobe's knob even as he missed some forced shots, and that sound you heard was tons of millions of sets being turned off. I left mine on just to see if there would be any flagrancy, and while the Magic did cut the final margin a bit, there wasn't. Your final was Lakers 99, Magic 86, and I'm pretty sure that Bryant worked harder at his post-game celebratory leaping then he did for most of the fourth quarter.

I suppose that I should be pleased with the outcome, since it wrapped up my playoff pick win against The Truth, and Coach Philip has finally taken the hated Red Auerbach out of the record books. But being happy for a Laker win would be a new and unique feeling in my life, and there's any number of wildly unfortunate metaphors that I'm going to take a pass on.

And with that (and, of course, a list or two later), we end the annual NBA domination of this here blog, which means that the rest of you folks can take a deep breath of relief. Get ready for 2-3 months of MLB, and as always, thank you for your patronage.


Tracer Bullet said...

Don't worry, Shooter. The NBA opens training camp in, what? Six weeks? Basketball will be back, boring us to tears before you know it.

Chrystal K. said...

I'm so happy for them...Yay!

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