Magic dig deep hole vs. Lakers

Saturday, June 13, 2009
Lakers guards Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher celebrate after beating the Magic 99-91 in overtime of Game 4 of the NBA finals Thursday in Orlando, Fla. (DAVID PHILLIP ~ Associated Press)

Los Angeles is in the driver's seat to win the championship.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy tried to sleep. He closed his eyes, but his cluttered basketball brain, a cyclone of Xs and Os, wouldn't relax.

Game 4 of the NBA finals, the one Orlando fumbled away with atrocious free-throw shooting, a hideous third quarter and questionable late-game strategy, kept Van Gundy awake.

It may for many nights ahead. Maybe years.

With only a few hours to reflect on what went wrong Thursday night in Los Angeles' 98-91 overtime win against the Magic, Van Gundy, who elected not to have his team foul with a three-point lead in the final seconds of regulation, was asked if a night's rest had brought any clarity.

"The assumption of a night's sleep is way off base," he said on a conference call.

Leading 87-84 with 11.1 seconds to go, the Magic allowed Derek Fisher, L.A.'s Mr. Big and Bigger Shot, to dribble into the frontcourt and hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left. Fisher, who would stick a fork in the Magic's hopes -- and perhaps their season -- with another 3-pointer in OT, made his shot over Orlando guard Jameer Nelson.

During a timeout after Magic center Dwight Howard had bricked the two biggest free throws of his young career, Van Gundy had told his team, which went just 22 of 37 from the line, not to foul. Too much time left, Van Gundy thought. And not with Kobe Bryant around.

He didn't want to risk more missed free throws, giving the Lakers more chances.

Van Gundy is sticking to his guns.

"It's easy to say now, 'Do I wish we had fouled as opposed to giving that up?'" he said as the teams took a two-day break before Sunday's Game 5. "Yeah, but I still don't think at 11 seconds to go in a game that we're going to foul in that situation."

The Magic can't afford to look back any longer. They've got a mountain to climb.

The Lakers, one win from their 15th title, are the 30th team in league history to take a 3-1 lead in the finals. The other 29 claimed the championship.

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