Janesville27.5°

L.A. survives—barely

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June 8, 2009
— Lucky to have a second chance, the Los Angeles Lakers grabbed it.

Kobe Bryant and Co. held on and are in control of the NBA finals—just barely.


Orlando rookie Courtney Lee missed a potential winning layup as regulation ended, giving Los Angeles another shot it didn’t waste. Pau Gasol scored seven points in overtime as the Lakers, so dominant in the series opener, survived with a 101-96 win over the Magic in Game 2 on Sunday night.


“There is a sense of relief because they played very well,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “There’s no doubt they had every opportunity or chance to win.”


If Orlando doesn’t come back and win this series, Lee’s miss may go down as one of the biggest gaffes in finals history. He had a chance to give the Magic its first finals win.


“We missed it. I don’t know what else to say,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said”


Orlando may not get a better shot to beat the Lakers.


“We blew a lot of assignments tonight—a lot of assignments—and we still managed to get a win,” Bryant said.


When it was finally over, Derek Fisher and the Lakers jogged to the locker room, smiling and high-fiving fans.


Turkoglu trudged through the tunnel dejected, a towel hanging from his head.


Bryant scored 29 points, Gasol added 24 and 10 rebounds and Lamar Odom 19 points for the Lakers, who won Game 1 by 25 but needed 53 minutes to win Game 2..


Rashard Lewis scored 34—18 in the second quarter alone—and Dwight Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds for Orlando.


Game 3 is Tuesday night at Orlando’s Amway Arena, which will be hosting a finals game for the first time since June 9, 1995.


With the score tied at 88-88 in regulation, Lee missed the first of two late-game shots when he drove the lane and missed a contested layup with 10.5 seconds remaining.


The Lakers called time with 9.1 seconds to play, and after Odom caught the inbounds pass, he quickly gave it to Bryant, who drove into a crowd. Bryant attempted an off-balance 12-footer, but his shot was blocked from behind by Turkoglu with 1.8 seconds left.


The horn sounded, the clock expired to zeros and Jack Nicholson and the star-studded Staples Center crowd braced for overtime.


But the officials huddled and decided to put 0.6 seconds back on the clock.


Turkoglu couldn’t find anyone open on the inbounds and was forced to call another timeout. On the Magic’s second attempt, Lee got free on a perfectly executed play and caught Turkoglu’s long lob pass as he neared the left side of the basket. But with 7-foot Gasol closing in on him, Lee’s shot caromed off the backboard.


and front of the rim.


Howard dunked in the miss as Lee put his hands behind his head in disbelief and began a long walk back to the bench as his teammates tried to console him.


So close. So far.


Fourteen years to the day after the Magic let Game 1 of the 1995 finals against Houston get away when Orlando’s Nick Anderson missed four late free throws, Lee provided another excruciating moment for the franchise.


The Magic, who looked more relaxed than in the opener, will head home thinking about what might have been. They could be tied 1-1, and with the next three games scheduled in front of their frenzied fans, they could have denied Bryant and the Lakers a 15th title.


Now, in a season of comebacks, they’ll need their biggest one.


Bryant, who scored 40 in the opener, finished with eight assists and seven turnovers.


Lewis transformed into Orlando’s version of Bryant in the second quarter, scoring 18 of the Magic’s 20 points to keep them close. The 6-foot-10 forward’s size and exceptional range make him an impossible cover, and the Lakers had no answer to stop him.


With Howard unable to get open and Orlando’s other shooters still searching for their touch, Lewis carried the scoring load. He made four consecutive 3-pointers to end the half and the Magic, despite shooting just 32 percent, were within 38-35 at the break.


If not for Lewis, Orlando would have been in big trouble because Howard was hopeless.


For a long stretch, Superman was more like The Invisible Man.


At times, it seemed as if there were six or seven Lakers on the floor as they swarmed Howard, who made just 1 of 4 shots and had four turnovers.


Before the game, Jackson predicted that Game 2 would follow a different script than the series’ Hollywood premiere.


“This game is not going to be like the last game,” said the nine-time NBA champion. “It probably won’t resemble the last game at all except the players that are on the floor.”


He was so right.



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