Magic still believe in miracles

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.

Rashard Lewis and the Orlando magic still think they can come back against Derek Fisher and the Los Angeles Lakers after falling behind 3-1 on Thursday.

Rashard Lewis and the Orlando magic still think they can come back against Derek Fisher and the Los Angeles Lakers after falling behind 3-1 on Thursday.

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 on 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 him 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 three-pointer with 4.6 seconds left.

Fisher, who would stick a fork in the Magic’s hopes — and perhaps their season — with another three-pointer in overtime, made his shot over Orlando guard Jameer Nelson, who was slow to react to Fisher’s penetration.

During a timeout after Magic centre 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.

“I’ve rethought it and rethought it and rethought it,” he said as the teams took a two-day break before Sunday’s Game 5. “It’s easy to say now, ‘Do I wish we had fouled as opposed to giving that up?’

“Yeah, but I still don’t think at 11 seconds to go in a game that we’re going to foul in that situation. I’ll put it this way: You always have regrets.

“Faced with the same situation again at 11 seconds, we still wouldn’t be telling them to foul.”

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.

Still, Van Gundy feels his squad, which has twice taken the Lakers to overtime and carried Orlando’s fans on a stomach-churning, turn-twisting journey this season as wild as any ride at Disney World, is capable of a historic comeback.

“It’s not like we’re in a situation where we feel like we can’t play with the Lakers and don’t have a chance to win or anything else,” he said.

“Our confidence level will be high. Our guys have demonstrated incredible resiliency all year. I would expect us to play extremely well on Sunday.”

Los Angeles is bracing for Orlando’s best shot.

This is the moment Bryant, seeking his fourth title, and the Lakers have been building toward.

After losing to the Boston Celtics in last year’s finals, their focus since the season began has been solely on getting back to the top. Now, they’re 48 minutes from redemption and another championship.

They don’t intend to relax until it’s theirs.

The mission is nearly accomplished.

“You have to stay focused,” Bryant said after scoring 32 points in Game 4. “You have to hold on to your excitement and just prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare and go get ready.”

Coach Phil Jackson held a brief meeting with his players on Friday to remind them of the stakes. At it, he sensed emotions were soaring.

“They’re excited about the possibility of winning, and they’re thrilled to have won that game,” he said. “I told them there’s a chance tomorrow’s practice may be the last practice of the season.

“That’s also something that gets them pretty excited because practice for players is something that is, at this level of the game, having gone through hundreds or probably more than a hundred-some practices, they’re excited about not having to come to practice again.”

The Lakers have experienced both sides of the Game 5 coin.

In the 2000 finals, they held a 3-1 lead over the Indiana Pacers, who then drilled them 120-87 in Game 5. Last year, Los Angeles trailed Boston 3-1 in the finals but salvaged Game 5 at Staples Center before losing Game 6 on the road.

Jackson, who can pass Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in finals history with his 10th title, knows that any team good enough to make it this far is capable of winning three straight — regardless the odds.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Select Alberta physicians to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine next week

Some Alberta physicians will now be offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In an… Continue reading

An example of zero lot line properties. Red Deer County council approved rezoning to allow zero lot line properties on three streets in Springbrook.
Photo from Red Deer County
Narrower house lots being tested in Springbrook to improve affordability

Zero lot line homes will be built on three streets in Springbrook

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair listens to a speaker during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Red Deer part of project to support victims of human trafficking

Federal government sends $500k over next four to Alberta-based project

Mayzie the Canada goose is back nesting in a flower pot on a backyard balcony in Anders on the Lake. (Contributed)
Canada goose is back nesting on Red Deer balcony

Third year in a row geese return

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen listens to a question during a news conference Tuesday April 21, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Housing advocates eye federal budget for aid to urban Indigenous providers

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals have told stakeholders in the affordable-housing sector… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Five things about Canada’s proposed small modular nuclear reactors

OTTAWA — Alberta’s Jason Kenney became the fourth Canadian premier to sign… Continue reading

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
AstraZeneca very safe, effective, with extremely rare risk of clots: Health Canada

OTTAWA — There is enough evidence to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta government said in August that it would enter into the agreement to help diversify its energy sector

File photo
City of Wetaskiwin awarded $5.1 million grant for additional RCMP officers

10 Additional RCMP officers to serve the City of Wetaskiwin as a result of the grant.

In this Nov. 12, 1995, file photo, Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy looks on during the second quarter of the Bills game against the Atlanta Falcons at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bill Sikes, File
Former Alouettes head coach Marv Levy tops 2021 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class

The ‘21 class will boost the Hall of Fame’s membership to 316

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, provides an update on health system preparations in Nova Scotia for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Halifax on Friday, March 6, 2020. Strang says plans are in place to stage the women’s world hockey championship in the province next month with limited spectators.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Nova Scotia plans to allow limited crowds at women’s world hockey championship

All 10 teams in Halifax and Truro must participate in a 14-day quarantine

”Kim’s Convenience” cast member Andrew Phung poses in this undated handout photo. “Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.” The Calgary-raised actor, who played comical car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CBC
‘Kim’s Convenience’ actor Andrew Phung on crafting his own series, ‘Run the Burbs’

‘Run the Burbs’ production could start in the summer or fall

Most Read