NBA: Poof! Magic eliminated by Lakers in NBA finals
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwight Howard plopped down on the bench, pulled his jersey into his mouth and just stared at Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrating on his homecourt.
He couldn't move.
The best season in Magic history came to a close tonight, losing 99-86 to the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA finals.
As teammates filed to the locker room slowly, Howard didn't budge. Finally, Jameer Nelson came back to give him some company on a bench. The view from that bench had been a great for the majority of this season.
Now it's over.
The Lakers ran off 16 straight points in a dominant second quarter to go ahead 56-46, built a 16-point lead early in the third period and coasted to their 15th championship. The Magic never came close.
Amway Arena was left silenced. The smiles replaced with frowns, that hopeful feeling swapped for more heartache.
Orlando had relied so heavily on 3-pointers all season but couldn't connect for most of Game 5. The Magic had 13 turnovers and no answer for Los Angeles' potent offense.
The finals were marred by Magic meltdowns.
Orlando guard Courtney Lee missed an alley-oop attempt at the regulation buzzer in Game 2, a potential winning shot. The Magic lost that game in overtime.
But it got worse.
Orlando was ahead 87-84 with 11.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4 when Howard missed a pair of free throws that could have sealed the game and tied the series. Instead, the Magic again lost in overtime.
Orlando had returned to the finals for only the second time in franchise history, coming back in the spotlight for the first time since Shaquille O'Neal left the franchise in ruins when he bolted for Los Angeles after the 1996 season. The Magic were swept 4-0 by the Houston Rockets in the '95 finals
If there's any consolation, their All-Star core of Howard, Rashard Lewis and Nelson — whose premature comeback for the finals was mostly a flop — should remain intact.
A few key pieces could bolt.
Hedo Turkoglu has a player option for next season, but Orlando's 30-year-old starting forward has said he will likely opt of the last year of his contract to become a free agent. Backup center Marcin Gortat will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning Orlando likely will not be able to afford to keep both.