Ariza, Fisher bail out Kobe

Kobe Bryant went 11 for 31 from the field, and struggled to score down the stretch. Luckily for the Lakers, Derek Fisher continued to shoot well in the series and knocked down two huge threes, one at the end of regulation and one in the extra period to completely change the complexion of the game, and as a result, the series. (Lakers win, 99-91.)

But this one never should have gone to overtime. With a five-point lead and 0:39 to play, Rashard Lewis had a chance to push the lead to seven, but missed the 15-footer. Up three with 0:11 to play, Dwight Howard missed two free throws, either of which would have made it a two possession game. On the ensuing inbounds play, Jameer Nelson ponderously laid off of Derek Fisher who pulled up and hit the game-tying three. I don’t know if Stan Van Gundy had the foul on there, but at the very least Nelson should have been crowding Fisher to force the drive.

The Magic really lost this game at the start of the third quarter. Their 12-point halftime lead was gone within six minutes, and they didn’t even force the Lakers to expend a lot of energy to cut into the lead. Trevor Ariza led the charge with 11 quick points in the first half of the quarter.

Van Gundy will look at the box score and scratch his head. The Magic had 17 turnovers, and most of those were in the first half. Had they took care of the ball, they probably would have pushed the lead to 20. Orlando also missed 13 free throws, eight from Howard, who was just 6 of 14 from the line.

Bryant finished with 32 points, eight assists and seven boards, and had a good all-around game even though he didn’t shoot the ball well. Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza pitched in with 16 apiece.

Hedo Turkoglu played a great game, posting 23 points, three assists and five boards. He put the Magic in a position to win, but his teammates couldn’t seal the deal. Turkoglu isn’t infallible, however. He did miss three free throws down the stretch. Howard posted 16 points, 21 rebounds and nine blocks, but he turned over the ball seven times. Outside of a tough three to give Orlando the lead in OT, Lewis was a no-show. He went 2 for 10 for six points. Mickael Pietrus once again played great off the bench, scoring 15 points and making life tough for Kobe.

For all intents and purposes, this series is over. The odds of the Magic winning three straight games (two in L.A.) are very, very long. After the tough loss in Game 2, they had to win all three games in Orlando to have a realistic shot at upsetting the Lakers.

I know there are a lot of people out there that aren’t very happy to see Kobe win another ring (and I’m one of them). But you have to give him credit for maturing enough to trust his teammates. He gave the ball up in a couple of key situations and they both led to Fisher threes.

It’s not quite over, but the Laker fans have reason to celebrate. Heck, most of them started planning the parade when L.A. won Game 2.

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