The inspiring performance that Fisher had at the end of Game 4 bled into the early part of Game 5. His three-pointer sparked the Lakers' 16-0 run midway through the second quarter, transforming a 40-36 deficit into a 52-40 lead near halftime. He scored nine of his 13 points in the first half.
With 11 points in the first quarter (during which he gave Lakers fans a scare after banging his right hand while going for a loose ball), Kobe again set the tone for the Lakers. He hit one highlight reel play after another as the Lakers pushed their lead to as many as 18 in the fourth quarter. The tears in his eyes after being named the Finals MVP for the first time told the story of a player who had finally escaped the enormous shadow of Shaquille O'Neal by winning a title without "big brother."
The game plan was to get Bynum involved early, but not even the 21-year-old center could have anticipated nine shot attempts in the first quarter and 11 in the first half, his most for a game in the playoffs. Bynum struggled in his newfound offensive role, however, missing his first six attempts, and he didn't shoot again after the first half.
Ariza hit all four of his attempts in the second quarter for 11 points and was the main reason the Lakers went on that game-turning 16-0 spurt. The run began after he got in Hedo Turkoglu's face and shoved away Stan Van Gundy's arm when the coach tried to separate two as the teams went to the bench for a timeout. That moment seemed to be the emotional turning point in the game.
It might not have been his best game of the series, but Gasol was quietly effective on both ends of the floor. As he has done throughout the series, Gasol made life miserable for Dwight Howard with his ability to get position on him offensively and defensively. His toughness toward the end of the series enabled him to shed that "soft" label.
When Lamar Odom is active and making shots, as he was in collecting 17 points and 10 rebounds, the Lakers are almost impossible to beat. After Rafer Alston cut the Lakers lead to 58-53 with a three-pointer with 7:45 left in the third quarter, Odom made two straight three-pointers to push the lead back to 11. The Lakers didn't get much else from the bench -- but they didn't need it.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
The Roman numeral "X" on Jackson's hat said it all. He now stands alone on the NBA's coaching mountain with 10 championship rings, one more than the late Red Auerbach. "I'll smoke a cigar tonight, in memory of Red," Jackson said. "He was a great guy."
The Finals wouldn't have ended any differently if Alston had played the whole series without Jameer Nelson breathing down his neck and taking his minutes, but it was nice to see Alston play his game in the end. Why wouldn't it have mattered? Perhaps because in Game 5, after Alston hit 4-of-9 shots for nine points in the first half, he made only 1-of-6 in the second half.
Lee was aggressive early and tripled his series scoring average. The Finals were a good learning experience for a rookie who had the unenviable task of defending Kobe Bryant, who scored at least 29 points in each of the five games.
These Finals exposed the offensive deficiencies in Howard's game that he'll have to address if he wants to be known as anything more than a tenacious defender and powerful dunker. That Howard had a so-so performance during Orlando's biggest game of the season shows how much he still needs to grow as a player.
Turkoglu was never able to get comfortable against the Lakers' swarming defense, led by Ariza. His eight shot attempts were more than five below his series average. The question now is, Has Turkoglu played his last game with Orlando? He can opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
No one embodied the motto, "You live by the three, you die by the three die by three" more than Lewis. After shooting the ball well in Games 2 and 3, Lewis struggled to a combined 8-of-29 from the field (including 5-of-18 from long range) in Games 4 and 5.
While four reserves contributed, the Magic didn't have one key spark, like the Lakers had with Odom. They were hoping for more from Mickael Pietrus, who had four points, or Nelson, who had five points. As it happened, the bench's leading scorer was J.J. Redick, who scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach
It was a difficult series for Van Gundy, who put himself in a tough position early by playing Nelson and sitting Alston during crucial stretches. But that's not the reason the Magic lost the series. He can't help it if his team, which got to the Finals off of its ability to make three-pointers, was able to make only 8-of-27 from beyond the arc during its last home game.
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