Well, first things first: I will never say anything bad about Derek Fisher ever again. He could start launching the ball at his own basket for the first 40 games of next season and keep his starting job. Honestly, if there’s one guy who I’m happy about making me look like an absolute and total idiot, it’s Fisher, who deserves sucess in this league just about as much as anyone else.
But man, what a tough game to watch, even if you don’t like the Magic. My stomach wrenches for Zach and Ben Q. Rock right now. As bad as our losses against the Magic were, especially game 1, nothing approaced this level of pain. God, 5 points in 35 seconds? That is as brutal as it gets.
I mean, I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the fact the Lakers won this game. They did absolutely nothing that should’ve meant victory. I mean, here are your stretch possessions:
With 2:35 left, Kobe makes a wild drive and throws the ball away-the ball gets deflected, the Lakers retain, and Trevor Ariza (WHO THE MAGIC GAVE AWAY FOR NOBODY LAST YEAR WHY DOES NOBODY MENTION THIS) bombs in a broken-play, contested, off-the-bounce 29-footer to tie the game.
Hedo Turkoglu makes up for some missed free throws with an ice-cold step-back three and a floater to put the Magic up 5.
Kobe misses a three (that looked 0n-line)
The Magic run the clock, get it to a wide-open Rashard Lewis, who pump-fakes up and gets a wide-open free throw jumper that he clanks, and the Magic can’t get back on defense because Dwight Howard is being held on the rebound.
Kobe makes an absolutely beautiful two-for-one fast-break play, throwing one of the prettiest dimes to Pau Gasol you’re going to see and allowing the Lakers to not have to foul.
Howard gets it directly under the basket and gets arm-dragged to the ground by Kobe, then misses two free throws, either of which would have essentially iced it. One of the most painful sports scenarios imaginable.
The Magic allow a three. Good God.
Pietrus fires up a terrible leaning jumper.
Overtime: Magic go cold, Kobe throws in two jumpers, gets away with an elbow on Jameer Nelson while making the pass, and Fisher hits the three. 2-8 from the field in the fourth quarter with 1 assist and one turnover, 2-5 in overtime with the one previously mentioned assist to Fisher.
So for those of you keeping score at home, Kobe is a Courtney Lee layup and a Dwight Howard free throw from losing three straight finals games with questionable crunch-time performances.
But they didn’t go in, and now Kobe’s about to win the most important ring of his career. You know what? Good for him. Sometimes the breaks are going to go your way, and when that happens you should just be grateful. And all of a sudden the Gasol feed, the Fisher pass, and the hard foul on Howard become the plays that needed to be made for the Lakers to pull it out. He didn’t do everything, he wasn’t perfect, and a lot of times he wasn’t even good, but somehow, some way, he did enough. And for a guy who, fairly or unfairly, has a reputation for having a tough time with the concept of “enough,” there’s at least some poetic justice in this being how Kobe, in all likelihood, is going to take a team that’s unequivocally his to the promised land.
In a sick way, a lot of what happened to the Magic tonight was a dark mirror of everything they did to the Cavs down the stretch:
Dwight Howard missing the free throws after sticking them the whole series against the Cavs, particularly when he went 8-10 from the line in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
Pietrus fires up a terrible jumper on the Magic’s last possession of regulation, just like he did in Game 4, but in that game Howard chased down the rebound and Lewis made the turnaround three on the ensuing possession. (Sidebar: What is it that the Lakers do that makes them better at defending inbounds passes than any team in the history of ever?)
And Lewis misses a dagger jumper, after hitting two impossible threes to beat the Cavs in games 1 and 4.
I’ll do a full “The fact that there’s talk of Mike Brown being on the hot seat is the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my natural life” post tomorrow, but for now know that these breaks are the only reason his job is in any sort of crisis in the first place.