Magic send us through a roller coaster of emotions, and it doesn't end well
Really, the three-and-a-half hours between the opening tip-off and the final buzzer are a blur. I remember thinking the Magic were going to win (up big in the first half), then thinking they were going to lose (Lakers outscore Magic 30-14 in third quarter), then assuming a victory was in the bag (Magic up 87-82 with 30 seconds left), then never wanting to see a basketball, Derek Fisher or the color purple again. I don’t recall too many specifics, but I do remember going through complete anguish. It felt like my insides were being twisted. My heart-rate skipped up and down with the flow of the game. As a sports fan, it was like going through some type of traumatic episode — my mind is protecting me from remembering something so agonizing. I remember a few key moments — both of Fisher’s threes, Dwight’s missed free throws, Turk’s big jumpers in the final minute. But they’re a bit fuzzy. How — HOW?!?! — do the Magic blow a five-point lead with 30 seconds left and the ball? How many times has that big of a meltdown happened in an NBA Finals game at home (Oh, wait)? The Magic stormed ahead in the final period, scoring on several key possessions and forcing Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into 4-for-14 shooting in the final period. They had outscored the Lakers 24-15, and the team’s confidence was going to be at an all-time high heading into a two-day rest period. Instead, in the blink of an eye and the clank of a rim, the Magic were tied at 87-87. And forget everything you’ve heard about the home team having the advantage going into the extra overtime. The Magic had no momentum tonight. It was dead. All 18,000-plus were stunned and silent. The offense went motionless as three players stood and watched Hedo Turkoglu try to force the issue on pick-and-rolls. It wasn’t there. The Magic should’ve gone to something else — Dwight in the post, Rashard in isolation, Pietrus working through off-the-ball screens… anything. It’s too bad, because it could’ve gone down as a historic performance from Dwight Howard. No big man has ever reached a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks in NBA Finals history, and Howard was one block away from that feat tonight. Think about it — Kareem, Hakeem, Shaq, Wilt, Russell, Duncan, Robinson — none of those guys blocked as many shots as Dwight did tonight. But now we’re forced with the ultimate reality that the Magic are one game from elimination. It’s not over yet, certainly not. This Magic team has done some pretty amazing things this year, and maybe they have another amazing feat in them. Who knows? You get this Lakers team down on itself, get the players to point at one another and get Kobe barking; maybe the Magic can go on a run. I’m not giving up yet. I just really, really hope I don’t have to watch the Lakers celebrate at Amway Arena. That would be the ultimate damper on what has otherwise been an incredible season. The Magic won’t go out like punks — I know they won’t. They have too much pride, too much chemistry. We’ll really see what this team’s made of on Sunday night.