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Nba Finals

Magic ruins its big opportunity

June 08, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

On a bright note, it's so good to see Courtney Lee is already used to wearing a mask, the choker who might never want to show his face again in Orlando after costing the hopeless underdogs a victory and maybe a shot to make a series out of this.

Nice try, Orlando, and not all that bad for an NBA outpost, but this was your one magic moment, your prayer, your chance to feel what an 0.4 Derek Fisher is like, an opportunity to ride the high that comes with Robert Horry meeting the moment.

All Lee has to do is make a layup like he's done maybe a million times, but now in the biggest game of his career. Just finish and make it the great Orlando finish to be discussed for years to come.

But oh well.

No one around here will remember what might've been for Orlando as the folks in L.A. line Figueroa, probably next Monday after a Lakers' sweep, the parade working its way toward the Coliseum.

The Lakers have pounded the Magic, and now they have gutted the Magic, and what a great way to end the basketball season in Staples Center, a doozy of an overtime win, everyone going home all smiles.

Thanks to Orlando for ratcheting up the excitement in what looked to be a flat Finals.

One more routine play, and the folks in Orlando could be talking today about having the game's greatest closer, Hedo Turkoglu, who knocked the ball out of Kobe Bryant's hands and then made the perfect pass to the choker.

But the sports world is full of big plays almost made, the Lakers making them now, beginning with the seventh game against Houston, and then again in Game 6 in Denver.

That has been the expectation here ever since they strolled through the regular season appearing unbeatable, a few potholes along the way in the playoffs, but now flashing the look of a champion.

As for the Magic, there's always that game it might've won if only the guy had made a layup.

"He missed it," Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't know what else to say. Hedo made a great pass, and we missed it. I don't really know. I'm not trying to be a pain in the butt. I just don't know what else to say about it.

"It was a great pass, it was right there, and he missed it."

I believe there is an NBA rule prohibiting coaches from calling their players, "chokers," but you know what he's thinking.

Maybe the L.A. sky is falling today if the choker drops the ball into the basket, but he didn't, and the Lakers' best players responded with poise.

And when it was over, the first reporter to take the microphone, told Phil Jackson, "congratulations, coach, on yet another victory," before asking his question, and no it wasn't Vic the Brick.

My turn, and of course I said, "congratulations, coach, on yet another victory," but "I'm curious, do you feel fortunate because of the way regulation ended, or do you feel because your players dug deep in overtime, you can take just that from this game?"

Phil was so overwhelmed, he answered the question.

"Well, there is a sense of relief," he said, "because they played very well. There's no doubt that they had every opportunity to win the game."

Phil would never call Courtney Lee a choker.

"However, we had that ball at the end of the game with nine seconds left after making a really good defensive play. We didn't get a good shot, and Kobe didn't get a good opportunity and I thought it disappointed him. It disappointed us, but it didn't weigh us down going into overtime and that's what you're worried about."

The Lakers responded like champions, what this whole thing is about, while such a thing still remains a mystery to the guys from Orlando.

But then how do you win a championship with the game on the line and the ball in the hands of J.J. Redick?

The Magic had a chance to steal a win, and Redick missed a wide open three, and on the next offensive possession turned the ball over to the Lakers. You don't see the Lakers playing Sasha Vujacic with a Finals game in doubt.

The Magic played Redick for more than 27 minutes.

The Lakers sent Sasha to the Dodgers' game Friday night to throw out the first pitch so their best players could rest.

"I thought that's where it turned," Van Gundy said, while also prohibited from calling a Redick a stiff.

Now both teams move to the sauna, two more wins only a formality, the parade and attention shifting to the Dodgers and maybe a World Series.

No idea what they have to look forward to in Orlando after two more losses.

--

UNTIL THE game was on the line, Staples Center just didn't have that championship feel to it.

Every time public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter mentioned the Laker Girls after a musical number, there was almost no response. There was absolutely no response when they showed actor Andy Garcia in the crowd, no one apparently impressed with his performance in "The Pink Panther 2."

Jeanie Buss also seemed caught in the malaise.

She said she hadn't posted video of her interview with her boyfriend before Game 1, and forgot to bring her camera to record the interview with him before Game 2.

Later she'd spend much of her time tweeting: "bad wig guy is sitting in front of me in floor seats_I think wig is disguise rather than his normal look. wish u could see it."

So I looked, and it was a bad wig.

"OMG," she tweeted later. "bad wig guy just came back from halftime WITHOUT WIG!!"

And then finally this: "saw the wig -- it's in date's purse."

Here's hoping the guy who spent more than $8,000 for a pair of courtside seats isn't a tweeting follower of Jeanie's.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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