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A soul-crushing defeat for the Magic is a faith-inspiring event for Lakers fans. When it's all over, is it possible Kobe Bryant might have played his finest postseason ever? And will these playoffs mark the moment Dwight Howard arrived as an elite big man?
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "In the end, it's about faith. Faith in yourself. Faith in your teammates. Faith to persevere. Faith that you will bounce back after adversity. Faith that when the game is on the line and in overtime you will execute. It's about faith rewarded. The Lakers did execute when it mattered, and Orlando was 1 of 7 in the OT. The Lakers played through the fouls on them, the fact they got zero free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. Orlando complains about the calls they didn't get. The Lakers had faith in what they could do. They had faith in their experience. Faith that the hard lessons learned last Finals and beyond would carry them through. Their faith was rewarded."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "The Magic stormed ahead in the final period, scoring on several key possessions and forcing Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into 4-for-14 shooting in the final period. They had outscored the Lakers 24-15, and the team's confidence was going to be at an all-time high heading into a two-day rest period. Instead, in the blink of an eye and the clank of a rim, the Magic were tied at 87-87. And forget everything you've heard about the home team having the advantage going into the extra overtime. The Magic had no momentum tonight. It was dead. All 18,000-plus were stunned and silent. The offense went motionless as three players stood and watched Hedo Turkoglu try to force the issue on pick-and-rolls. It wasn't there. The Magic should've gone to something else -- Dwight [Howard] in the post, Rashard [Lewis] in isolation, [Mickael] Pietrus working through off-the-ball screens… anything. It's too bad, because it could've gone down as a historic performance from Dwight Howard. No big man has ever reached a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks in NBA Finals history, and Howard was one block away from that feat tonight."
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Kobe's about to win the most important ring of his career. You know what? Good for him. Sometimes the breaks are going to go your way, and when that happens you should just be grateful. And all of a sudden the Gasol feed, the Fisher pass, and the hard foul on Howard become the plays that needed to be made for the Lakers to pull it out. He didn't do everything, he wasn't perfect, and a lot of times he wasn't even good, but somehow, some way, he did enough. And for a guy who, fairly or unfairly, has a reputation for having a tough time with the concept of 'enough,' there's at least some poetic justice in this being how Kobe, in all likelihood, is going to take a team that's unequivocally his to the promised land."
THE FINAL WORD
The Painted Area: Kobe Bryant's best playoffs ever?
48 Minutes of Hell: How does Dwight Howard stack up among the all-time great big men?
By the Horns: The Derrick Rose flap.
(Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant, Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE, and Christophe Elise/Icon SMI via Getty Images)