It has been an incredible ride. The Orlando Magic proved their critics wrong and reached the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history.
Dwight Howard proved to be Superman throughout the postseason. Rashard Lewis earned his paycheck on numerous occasions. Hedo Turkoglu was, Hedo Turkoglu.
No one thought this team would make it this far. Orlando dethroned the champs. Dethroned the King. And did it through adversity and resolve.
All these accomplishments do not make it any easier to see the Los Angeles Lakers walking away with the title on the Amway Arena court (do not know if it would have been any easier to see them do it at the Staples Center). Los Angeles was the better team this series and deserve their trophy. A congratulations is certainly in order.
When push came to shove Sunday night in Game Five, Orlando did not have enough fight left in them to extend the series. The Magic came out on fire and took an early nine point lead.
In the middle of the third quarter, Los Angeles used a 16-0 run to take the lead at the half and never really never looked back. The Magic never got close and watched the Lakers maintain the lead.
Orlando started pressing and trying to force things, succumbing to frustration in taking bad shots. Los Angeles, on the other hand, could not miss. Lamar Odom was draining 3-pointers as was Trevor Ariza. And Kobe Bryant was, finally, efficient Kobe Bryant.
It is not worht going into the stats in this game. The Magic were outplayed tonight. They got down and tried to force their way back. Their 3-pointers were not falling tonight for the Magic. For the Lakers, they were. The bounces were heading Los Angeles' way tonight.
And Los Angeles was the better team in this series. Orlando could not adjust itself to what Los Angeles wanted to do defensively. The Magic did not execute in crunch time (see Games Two and Four) and could not find a way like they had throughout the season.
This was ultimately not Orlando's year. It was Los Angeles'.
This game tonight is all about emotion for both teams. I am sure it is somber in the Magic locker room. I hope the players look on at the trophy presentation on their home court tonight and remember this feeling.
Like Los Angeles, it can only drive them to get back to this point and lift the trophy themselves.
I said all season that Orlando needed to continue to improve and advance in the playoffs -- cache playoff experience. They did that.
I also said all season they needed to do this to gear up for a title run in 2010.
Nothing less should be expected from this team after their fantastic season. The 2009-2010 season starts now. That title needs to be the only thing on the players' minds right now.
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