Kobe took too many shots
Rashard didn't take enough shots
Hedo missed some easy shots
Howard blocked 9 shots (!!)
Fish hit the big shots...
Up by 3, with 11 seconds left, it's very simple: No fouls, no threes. That has to be very clear to everyone leaving the huddle after the time out. Stan Van Gundy might have forgot to make that clear, since he assumed everyone on the team would know, but the key thing is, the player defending Fisher should NOT have been Jameer Nelson. He simply is not in NBA-shape yet (and no one would expect him to be). Let's do the math: When Rafer Alston ("Skip") plays and plays confident, they're 1-0 in the finals. When his coach is juggling his minutes and benching him for large periods of time for a player who hasn't played in the NBA for four months, they're 0-3. Hmmm....
I'm not 100% sure, but I'm very confident that Skip has been playing a lot more crunch time basketball recently, and would know to close out on shooters at the 3-point line in that situation. Skip is also taller, with longer arms, and stronger legs (Jameer clearly isn't getting off the ground like he was months ago). The Magic want anything but a foul, or a three in that scenario. The time it takes for Fish to dribble around Jameer, and shoot the layup, is even better in that scenario since it leaves the Magic up 1 and turns into a free-throw battle.
But instead it was a night of choking for the Magic. Howard choked on crucial free throws, Hedo choked on crucial free throws, and the worst of all SVG choked with, again, shuffling his starting PG spot, killing his starting PG's confidence, and taking away the Magic's best shot at another victory (it was Skip who was the necessary contributer in their only win). We haven't even mentioned Anthony Johnson, who might as well not even suit up, hasn't played a minute yet. I know AJ is closing out on that 3, and I know AJ has proved in the past to have some BIG playoff games (see: Indiana/NJ last year's 40-point performance). Jameer should barely be in the rotation at this point, and certainly not relied on to play the entire fourth and OT. (duh) It's not just me, Chris Broussard has another quote from a Magic player saying those decisions are "eye-popping."
Funny enough, last night, the Lakers were more worried about how to handle Kobe Bryant than the Magic. The Magic have their game plan, but the Lakers are still adjusting to Kobe's unique (selfish?) ways. Often, you could see Pau's confusion during the game. "Do I screen for Kobe?" "Do I get in the triangle?" But mostly, it was "Do I get the hell out of the way??" Yup, that's the one. Even Phil Jackson said of Fisher after the game, "[He's] not afraid to go away from Kobe when sometimes Kobe is asking for the ball and he knows better, and I need a guard like him to do that." Basically a guard to tell Kobe we should stop playing one-on-five and start playing like a team again.
Another big story for Game 4 was the flagrant foul that Pietrus put on Gasol in the closing minutes. Ken Berger says a suspension is in order. I totally disagree. First of all, there's nothing wrong with upgrading it to a Flagarant 2, fining him 25K, and calling it a day. If this was a repeated incident with a trouble-maker, then i can understand. Was it a stupid play? Of course, but it's the NBA finals and you don't want the last game of the year (possibly) to end with controversy, and that's what you'd get if you suspend Orlando's "Kobe-stopper" for Game 5.
UPDATE: No suspension for Pietrus. No fine? Yet...
Regardless of how they won, the Lakers won and they're up 3-1 in the series. No team since 1966 has come back down 3-1 in the Finals, and I'd suspect the same result this coming week. Phil's about to get ring #10 (wow), and Kobe #4 and his first Finals MVP.
Oh, and thanks to SLAM for the highlight of the night:
Friday, June 12, 2009
Kobe took too many shots