Yes, in the immortal words of Hedo Turkoglu at the somber post-game press conference after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, that about sums it up. Easily the most gut wrenching, soul crushing, rip-your-heart-out defeat in the 20-year history of the Magic franchise, Orlando has no one to blame but themselves (even if the refs somehow didn’t see Kobe elbow Jameer in the face late in the OT and knock him to the floor) as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
And the ironic thing is that Magic fans have seen it all before–14 years ago in Game 1 of the Finals against Houston, the Magic were up by 3 with 11 seconds left and a chance to put the game away by making one friggin’ free throw. But Nick Anderson ended up missing 4 in a row and Orlando let Kenny Smith tie the game on a 3-pointer to send it into overtime, which they proceeded to lose and ultimately get swept. Cut to the present, 11seconds left in the game. On a just abominable foul-shooting night by the whole Magic team (they missed 15!), Dwight Howard can essentially tie up the series with one free throw by making it a 4-point, 2 possession lead. But he misses them both badly, and the Lakers call time-out, down by 3. Does Stan Van Gundy put in a defensive replacement for the 5-10 mighty mite, Jameer Nelson, who had to be running on fumes after playing the whole 4th quarter despite returning from a 4-month shoulder injury? No. Does Stan Van Gundy elect to foul any Laker who crosses mid-court with the ball so there’s no opportunity for a game-tying 3-pointer? No. So with 5 seconds left Derek Fisher, the 3rd most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA Finals history, is left wide open (!) to walk into and drain a 3 right in Jameer’s face. Tie score. The Magic get a horrible shot by Michael Pietrus with 5 seconds left that has no chance of going in, and we’re headed to overtime. Game, Set, Match.
It was like a Twilight Zone episode happening before our eyes in the NBA Finals. Aren’t we supposed to learn from our past mistakes? 19 turnovers (7 by Dwight–again!), 15 missed free throws (4 by Hedo in the 4th quarter–are you kidding me?), 2 baskets total for All-Star Rashard Lewis (who went 2 for 10 in a must-win game–nice!), and a jaw-droppingly idiotic defensive strategy and execution on the most important play of the season.
Believe it or not, one Courtney Lee lay-up and one Dwight Howard foul shot is all that separates this Magic team from being up 3-1. Instead, the Lakers are ready to send them packing for summer vacation either Sunday here or Tuesday back in LA. Coulda, shoulda, woulda… It’s a sad day in O’town–this one really hurt.