Maybe Dwight Howard should have spent more time recently practicing his free throws instead of those half-court underhand shots. Orlando's Superman looked anything but super near the end of regulation with two missed charity shots that could've sealed a Magic win. Instead, Derek Fisher's three-pointer forced overtime where another one of his bombs helped the Lakers take a 3-1 lead in the Finals.
While I’m sure there’s been a series in the annals of the NBA playoffs more peculiar than the current edition of the Finals, I can’t remember anything like this.
The Los Angeles Lakers are now on the verge of winning their 15th championship following their 99-91 overtime payday (+2½) over the Orlando Magic in Game 4 on Thursday night. The Lakers lead the series 3-1, but if it wasn’t for two specific plays (or misplays), the series could easily be reversed.
Not to take anything away from Los Angeles, which battled back from a 12-point halftime deficit to force overtime and eventually win the game, but you get the sense Orlando is losing the Finals instead of the Lakers winning it. With the Magic up 84-81 with 11 seconds remaining, Dwight Howard stepped up to the line with a chance to put the squeeze on L.A., but he missed both shots. The Lakers called timeout, and one Derek Fisher three-pointer with 4.6 seconds left later and the game was tied.
Combine Howard’s blown chance at the charity stripe and Courtney Lee’s botched alley-oop layup as time expired in regulation in L.A.’s (-6) eventual 101-96 overtime victory in Game 2, and that’s the series right there. It’s not a stretch to say the Magic could be one single home win away from winning the NBA championship. Instead, it’s only a matter of time before the Lakers’ coronation begins.
Oddsmakers think Lakers futures bettors are going to have to wait until Los Angeles returns home for a potential Game 6 next Tuesday in order to release the purple and gold confetti. Orlando is once again priced as a 2½-point favorite for Sunday night’s Game 5 (8 PM ET, ABC), with about 53% of wagers on the spread having come in on the Lakers through Friday morning.
Fisher also hit what proved to be the winning basket with 31 seconds remaining in overtime, putting the Lakers ahead for good at 94-91 with a three from the top of the circle off a pass from Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba finished with 32 points on only 11-of-31 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists for Los Angeles, who got 16 points and 10 boards from Pau Gasol on Thursday night.
Bettors who padded their bankrolls in Game 4 did so on the back of the most simple – and most dependable – trend in this year’s NBA playoffs. The Lakers came into Thursday night 6-0 SU and against the number following an SU defeat in the postseason, and they held true to form in their seventh opportunity to keep the trend alive.
Howard had his best game of the series in Game 4, going for 16 points, 21 rebounds, and a NBA Finals record nine blocks. Too bad he was brutal from the stripe (6-for-14), but at least he wasn’t alone. The Magic went 22-of-37 (59.5%) from the line in Game 4, as they were unable to capitalize on receiving almost twice as many free throws as the Lakers (15-of-20). Hedo Turkoglu added 25 points for Orlando backers, who have the benefit of coming into Game 5 with a 9-3 ATS record in the Magic’s last 12 Sunday games.
Stan Van Gundy inexplicably messed with his rotation after Orlando shot a Finals record 63% from the floor in Game 4, going with Jameer Nelson (two points, 26 minutes) down the stretch and in overtime. Rafer Alston saw hardly any action in crunch time; that’s pretty disappointing for Skip to My Lou after he dropped 20 points in Game 3.
The underdog improved to 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings between the teams in Game 4, while the road club is slightly less profitable at 8-2 against the number over the same span. Game 4 also played under the 202-point total, making the Magic and Lakers 1-3 O/U in the Finals. Los Angeles has now played under the listed total in 14 of its last 17 games, confounding square O/U bettors who banked on the Lakers’ inconsistent defense and typically high-scoring offense in the Finals.
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