Finals Game 4 reaction

John Romano, St. Petersburg Times: Oh, technically the NBA Finals are still far from complete. Orlando still has another home game on Sunday night. And if you buy the old coaching mantra of one-game-at-a-time, you can picture a scenario where the Magic still comes away with a title. But realistically, the end is near. You could see it the moment the ball left Derek Fisher’s fingertips in the final minute of overtime on Thursday night. You could see it in the frustration of Mickael Pietrus when he whacked Pau Gasol from behind in the final seconds. You could see it on the scoreboard that betrayed an arena filled with fans after looking so friendly for most of the night. The truth is, Orlando blew its chance to be the champion of the NBA in Game 4 on Thursday night.

T.J. Simers, LA Times: We probably won’t know who has been actually coaching the Lakers this series until Phil’s next book is published. Right now the best we can do is offer congrats to Coach Phil & Coach Kobe and thanks to the Magic for playing as if it has never been coached to win a big game. The guy coaching the Magic was so outclassed against the likes of Coaches Phil & Kobe, he was playing a rusty Jameer Nelson with the game on the line. If the guy’s not coaching a YMCA team next season, he might want to instruct Nelson not to sag on a three-point shooter like Derek Fisher when leading by three. As for the Lakers, it’s very confusing at times who is in charge around here, especially the way Kobe has been playing.

Bill Plashke, LA Times: Don’t worry, after what happened Thursday night in front of a crowd that was stunned into silence, you’ll see [Derek Fisher] again. After his two jaw-flooring three-pointers led the Lakers to a 99-91 overtime victory against the Orlando Magic in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you’ll now officially be seeing him forever. You’ll see him on the firetruck at what is almost certain to be a championship parade after the Lakers took a 3-1 lead in the series. He’ll be in the back of that truck, surrounded by a floppy hat and family, but he’ll be there. You’ll see him in constant video replays celebrating two shots that were even bigger than his famous 0.4 bucket in the 2004 conference semifinals in San Antonio. His first shot, with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation, tied the score. His second shot, with 31.3 seconds left in overtime, essentially won the game. Only on the second shot did he crack a smile. Not once did he do a victory dance. After both shots he applauded not himself, but his teammates. Typical Fish.

Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune: While I was watching Kobe Bryant the other night, it occurred to me that, in essence, I was watching a tribute band. You probably have heard of groups that try to copy rock stars’ music, clothes and accessories, right down to the commemorative hookahs. There are, for example, faux Beatles and cloned Doors out there trying to make a living on the road. Bryant could be the best player in NBA history, but he never will be looked at that way for one simple reason. You can’t out-Michael Jordan Michael Jordan. The tribute band imagery isn’t completely fair. When he retires, Bryant will walk away as one of the five best players ever to have laced on a pair of gym shoes. He’s not a pale imitation of Jordan. He’s a phenomenal imitation of Jordan. But he’s an imitation nonetheless, a mini-Mike.

Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel: Are the NBA Finals officially over after the Magic’s 99-91 loss to the Lakers in Game 4 Thursday night? No, not officially. Only realistically. Remember the confetti that rained from the rafters after the victory Tuesday night in Game 3? On Thursday, the only thing that rained down was a disgusted fan who threw his beer cup toward the court as the victorious Lakers walked toward their locker room. The Magic are down 3-1, and let’s be honest. The chances of them winning three of the next three the final two in L.A. are slimmer than an L.A. supermodel.

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