On a night when everyone expected Kobe Bryant to fulfill his role as the Lakers' closer, it was Fisher, the team's veteran point guard, who played the role beautifully. First, Fisher nailed a three-pointer over Jameer Nelson to send the game into overtime. Later, he gave the Lakers the lead for good, hitting a wide-open three in the extra period when the game was tied with 31 seconds left. Fisher had missed his first five three-point attempts before connecting on the two big ones.
Bryant made Fisher's heroics possible. He had at least eight assists for the sixth straight game and got his teammates involved when he cooled down after his 13-point first quarter. The Lakers' big run in the second half, during which they rallied from a 12-point deficit, started when Bryant hit a pull-up three early in the third quarter.
If Bynum can ever get out of the first quarter without two fouls (he had two in the first three minutes Thursday), he might have a chance to be effective. But it's clear the Lakers don't see him as anything more than a body who can bang with Dwight Howard and maybe score a few points. Bynum was visibly frustrated in the second half going against Howard, and he didn't return after picking up his fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter.
It was a tale of two halves for Ariza, who went 0-for-6 in the first half with a turnover and then hit 5-of-6 for 13 points in the third quarter to spark the Lakers' comeback. With less than three minutes left in regulation, Ariza hit a three to tie the game.
After clamoring for the ball following Game 3, Gasol didn't do much with it in regulation, hitting 5-of-11 shots for 11 points. But he came through in overtime, contesting Hedo Turkoglu's attempt to tie the game before getting the ball back and scoring on a breakaway dunk that sealed the game. He threw down another dunk at the end of the game and got in Pietrus' face after the Orlando guard pushed him in the back during the attempt.
The reserves scored only 17 points, but every active player got on the court by the beginning of the second quarter as Phil Jackson tried to give his starters some rest. Lamar Odom once again led the bench with nine points and five rebounds. Luke Walton scored six points and was a steadying force late in the game.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
Understanding that his starters were wearing down, Jackson played everyone on the bench early in the game for the first time in the playoffs. He put his arm around Ariza before the third quarter and told him to be ready. He stuck with Ariza and Fisher despite their early struggles and they rewarded him for his faith late.
It looked like Alston would simply continue his performance from Game 3 in the first quarter as he scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, but he hit only 1-of-7 for two points after that. He had a bad turnover in the third quarter in which he passed the ball straight to Pau Gasol in the paint; Alston sat the rest of the game. Alston, who was surprised he didn't play in the second quarter of Game 1, said he was "shocked" he didn't play after the third quarter Thursday. Clearly upset, he said he ran through nine heat packs to stay hot at the end of the game but "they all got cold."
No one draws fouls better than Kobe Bryant. Yet time after time, Lee leaves his feet while defending Bryant and all Bryant has to do is jump into him and draw the easy foul call. Lee not only was called for two fouls in the first three minutes but he also missed two wide-open three-pointers. He was on the bench for most of the night.
While Howard had one of the better defensive games in playoff history, blocking a Finals-record nine shots and grabbing 21 rebounds, 11 in the first quarter, he let let down his team with the game on the line. No one will remember Howard's near triple-double; they will remember that he missed two free throws when only one would have put away the game at the end of regulation. In overtime, he missed two shots in the paint and missed another free throw that would have tied the game. Howard also finished with a game-high seven turnovers, the same number as the entire Lakers team.
Had it not been for Howard's missed free throws, the storyline on Turkoglu would have been how he redeemed himself and scored five straight points to give the Magic an 87-82 lead with 1:34 to go in regulation. As it is, the focus shifted to his shooting only 3-of-7 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. Turkoglu also missed a chance to tie the game in overtime as his shot rimmed out, completing a forgettable ending to what was a good game.
Mickael Pietrus scored 15 points to lead the reserves again. The whole Jameer Nelson experiment has turned out to be a dud. Nelson scored two points and was ineffective defensively in 26 minutes, 15 more than he played in the Magic's Game 3 victory. It's no surprise that Nelson is out of sync after not playing for about four months.
Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach
If Van Gundy's decision to sit Alston for the entire second quarter in Game 1 was surprising, his decision to sit Alston for good after the third quarter in Game 4 was simply mind-boggling. Alston seemingly would have at least contested Fisher's three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. Van Gundy's choppy performance during the postgame press conference was as bad as his team's play down the stretch.
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