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#pounditWednesday, September 23, 2020

Lakers Underwhelmed During Finals, Magic Frustrated and Choked

I know exactly what people will say, a championship’s a championship and you can’t knock that. I’m not even one of the people that complained about the Lakers going seven with the Rockets who were seemingly decimated by injuries — winning is winning, end of story. But here’s where I’m left unsatisfied by the 2009 NBA Finals: It was hard watching the Magic choke away two victories in hand and thinking the Lakers beat them those games, and it’s hard seeing Kobe Bryant win the NBA Finals MVP award for the first time ever when he wasn’t playing his best basketball.

The history books write the story and the 15 total championships, 10 rings for Phil, and four each for Derek Fisher and Kobe will be mostly what everyone remembers. But when I look back on the Finals, I’ll think of the Courtney Lee missed layup, the Dwight Howard missed free throws, and the poor strategy of letting Fisher shoot the three in Game 4. Orlando literally gave two games away when they should have been up 3-1. They talked about not just “being happy to be here” and they weren’t — they were in position to seize the series and they choked it away. Still, in order for a choke to occur, someone has to step up to get the wins and the Lakers did that (Gasol in both OTs and Fisher’s big shots in Game 4).

Who knows if the Lakers will be back — they’ll need a new point guard, a new coach, and either a replacement for Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza in all likelihood. The Magic seem willing to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu, but he might find more enticing offers elsewhere. Denver will have another year together, Boston will get KG back, Cleveland could get Shaq, the Rockets might be healthier and tougher, and most of the playoff teams will be hungrier. It won’t be easy for either LA or Orlando to get back to the Finals again. That’s why what the Lakers accomplished seemed almost fated; if it wasn’t this year, then when? For the Magic, the answer isn’t as simple. They’ll have Dwight Howard who’s one of the most dominant players in the game, but they’ll have stiff competition in the Eastern Conference for years to come. They just pissed away a brilliant opportunity.

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