Magic Lose Game 4 Heartbreaker


Game 4 was an absolute heartbreaker. There’s no other way to explain it. The Magic had this one – a few different times. Magic players, coaches and fans must be sick to their stomach. I know I am. The Magic played maybe their best defense in the first half last night, holding the Lakers to just 37 points and building a 12 point lead at the break. That’s when things went south. Hedo Turkoglu picked up his 4th foul early in the third quarter and had to sit for the remainder of the quarter. The Lakers outscored the Magic 30-14 in the quarter lead by former Magic player Trevor Ariza, who made 2 of the Lakers three straight threes. By the time the quarter was over, LA had a 67-63 lead.

Turkoglu came back into the game in the fourth quarter and showed just how much the Magic missed him. The Magic finally got the lead back on a 3 point play by Mickael Pietrus with 5:37 to go. Later in the quarter, Dwight Howard broke a 79-79 with a 3 point play, but that would be the end of any good fortune Superman had at the free throw line. After Trevor Ariza tied the game with a 3 pointer, Turkoglu drilled one of his own, giving the Magic an 85-82 lead. After Howard record breaking 9th block, Turkoglu hit a runner, making it a 5 point game with just 1:34 to go. Both teams traded possessions before Kobe Bryant found Pau Gasol for a dunk with 31 seconds left. Dwight Howard was fouled with 11 seconds left and promptly missed both free throws. That’s when the Lakers raced down the court and Derek Fisher hit a 3 pointer over Jameer Nelson to tie it. Pietrus’ potential game- winner rimmed out. Rashard Lewis started the overtime period with a 3, but the Magic would score just one more point after that. Fisher once again got open after an offensive rebound and broke a 91-91 tie with another huge 3. The Lakers went on to win 99-91 and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Dwight Howard had an incredible stat line, scoring 16 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and blocking 9 shots, but he just didn’t get it done on the offensive end. He shot just 5 for 12 and missed 8 of his 14 free throw attempts. This isn’t going to get it done. Superman needs to be more aggressive on offense. Averaging just over 16 points isn’t going to do it for a man who finished 4th in the league’s MVP race. Dwight has really looked a lot better from the line in the postseason, shooting over 70% from the charity strike against Cleveland and has even hit several clutch free throws against Boston and Philadelphia, but was awful from the line when it mattered last night. Superman’s kryptonite doesn’t seem to be Kendrick Perkins, any Laker player or even Nate Robinson, but it is the free throw line. There is no excuse for not making at least one of those late game free throws. Sure, there are several reasons that the Magic lost game 4 but if Dwight makes just one of those two free throws, the series is tied at 2.

Howard wasn’t the only Magic player struggling from the line as Turkoglu missed 5 free throws. And where was Rashard Lewis? He played 46 minutes last night and managed nothing but two three-pointers on 2-10 shooting. Sure, Lewis was great in game two and very good in game three, but it was as if he wasn’t even on the floor in games one and four.

The other big question from last night was the absence of Rafer Alston in the entire fourth quarter and overtime. Alston looked good in the first half, drilling a three and hitting a few of his patented floaters in the lane, but Jameer Nelson wound up playing just one less minute (27 to 26) including the entire overtime period. Nelson wasn’t bad, collecting three assists, but he just isn’t a threat to score like he was in the first half of the season. Plus, his defense on Derek Fisher was pretty bad. Courtney Lee was also absent for nearly the whole second half, playing just 7 minutes after picking up 2 early fouls covering Kobe Bryant. Lee started the game with 4 wide open 3-point attempts was only able to knock down one. Stan Van Gundy decided to start Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston and he needs to stick with them. He can’t seem to find any sort of lineup that he really likes and has been constantly switching them throughout the series.

Now the Magic face the daunting task of winning three straight games including two in Staples Center. They have been extremely resilient throughout this postseason, twice trailing Philadelphia and trailing Boston 3-2 before taking the series, winning game 7 in Boston. They bounced back after LeBron’s incredible shot to win game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The good news is that the Magic has bounced back after going through all of this adversity throughout this postseason. Another good sign is the recent play of Kobe Bryant. After his late game turnovers and missed free throws in games 2 and 3, Bryant shot just 11-31 in game 4 (even though he still managed 32 points) and he just may be hitting that wall that the media keeps talking about. In the game 5, Dwight Howard needs to assert himself on offense and our perimeter players need to do a better job of getting their big man the ball. He needs to keep the ball chest high so he can avoid committing all of the turnovers that he has during the series. The team as a whole needs to do a better job of hanging on to the ball as they had 19 more turnovers last night. Stan needs to make some decisions. Why does Lee play just 7 minutes? Where was Alston down the stretch? How come Tony Battie has been the first big off of the bench instead of Marcin Gortat? How does Redick get so many big minutes in game 2, then not play in game 3, but wind up getting 17 minutes in game 4? The Magic need to keep driving to the hoop. Before Turkoglu got in foul trouble, he was constantly getting into the paint, which usually resulted in one of three things, a bucket for Turk, a trip to the free throw line or an open 3 for one of his teammates. Mickael Pietrus had 15 points and needs to keep up his great play off of the bench, but after his late flagrant foul against Pau Gasol, the Magic are wondering if they’ll even have “Air France” on Sunday night.

Just remember, it looks very bleak for the Magic, but it’s not over until it’s over.