Experience will win out on Sunday night in Orlando's Amway Arena when Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers take possession of the Larry O' Brien Trophy as NBA champions.
The Lakers are one victory away from winning their 16th championship. All that stands between them and the Larry O’ Brien trophy are the pesky Orlando Magic.
The Lakers lead the series 3-1 but the Magic have been down this road before. Most recently Dwight Howard and crew were down 3-2 to Boston but came back to win that series including a Game 7 in Boston. The Magic suffered a couple of bad beats in that series so they’re no strangers to adversity.
However after two overtime losses in four games, and with players openly questioning their coach for his late game strategy and his substitution pattern (Rafer Alston, anyone?), it wouldn’t be too big of a reach to say the Lakers definitely have a great chance to win Game 5.
There’s not much more Dwight Howard can do to help the Magic, except maybe hit a few more free throws. Superman had one of the greatest performances in finals history in Game 4 scoring 16 points, pulling down 21 rebounds and blocking a finals record nine shots. However if Orlando does indeed lose the series, he’ll also be remembered for missing two free-throws with 11 seconds remaining that would have clinched the game and knotted the series at two wins apiece. Howard was not alone in his troubles at the line as Orlando as a team missed a total of 15 free throws.
Following the gut-wrenching Game 4 loss, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy made several strange statements but none that stood out like his “Experience is overrated” comment.
Van Gundy obviously needs some examples of experience and how it can affect a game. Kobe Bryant has it. Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson have it. Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Van Gundy don’t. Kobe’s foul of Howard late in Game 4 turned out to be a brilliant move when Howard missed both free throws. Fisher struck not once but twice nailing a three-pointer to force overtime and then tickling the twine for the back-breaking three in OT. Van Gundy’s head scratching decision not to foul before Fisher’ first trey might be the single biggest mistake of the series.
The underdog has won three straight in this series which bodes well for the Lakers who opened at +3. Under players have made some great money on this series as the games have gone 3-1 to the Under. In fact the Lakers and Magic are a combined 28-17 to the Under.
Can the Magic recover and win three straight to complete one of the most incredible comebacks in NBA history? They could but they won’t. The bitter Game 4 pill will be a tough one to swallow. Don’t discount the fact that Kobe, as a student of the game, knows the importance of getting the job done sooner than later.
For the Lakers, this postseason has been about the lack of the “Killer Instinct” and the inability to knock teams out when they’ve got them on the ropes. That should all change Sunday night. I’m sure the Lakers wouldn’t mind some company on the ride back to Hollywood. But they’d rather it be a nice big trophy and not the Orlando Magic.
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