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Monday, June 15, 2009
The Big Run That Won It for the Lakers


Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The Orlando Magic have endured their share of shaky runs this postseason. They coughed up an 18-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter to lose their playoff opener. They were painfully close to taking a 3-2 series lead home to Orlando when they led by 10 points with fewer than five minutes remaining in Game 4 of their conference semifinal against Boston, but faltered down the stretch. For sheer drama, those late-game meltdowns were spectacular, but the run that proved to be fatal was the 16-0 run they surrendered to the Lakers in the second quarter of Game 5 Sunday night. 

Orlando looked sharp over the first quarter and a half of the game. We witnessed two of the best offensive minutes of Dwight Howard's career to start the second quarter. He showed us a baby dream shake, then a graceful spinning dribble move for an easy layup. The Magic executed on one of their patented reversals to get Mickael Pietrus a nice look from 15 feet, and scored their 40th point at the 7:11 mark of the second quarter. 

Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza had two 3-pointers, to be exact, during the Lakers' decisive 16-0 spurt in the second quarter. (Elsa/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Magic's fluid offensive attack was masking some of their defensive shortcomings -- lazy pick-and-roll defense [Rashard Lewis, 1st, quarter, 10:01; Hedo Turkoglu, 1st quarter, 4:21], problems on the weak side glass, [1st quarter, 6:45], passive perimeter D [Courtney Lee, 1st quarter, 4:48]. Most notably, though, Orlando doubled Kobe Bryant very liberally in the
first half. The Magic paid for it when Bryant kicked a quick pass over to a Trevor Ariza drive at the 3-minute mark of the first quarter. Ariza had an easy path to the basket and was fouled on his short attempt by Howard.

It was this type of overcompensation by Orlando that ignited the Lakers, and gave them nine of their first 11 points of their spurt: 

Nine out of the first 11 points came on Bryant assists out of the double-team. The other two points? A pull-up jumper by Bryant against a double-team of Pietrus and Howard [2nd quarter, 4:43].

Trevor Ariza
The tipping point? (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Those are tactical matters, but they were almost certainly informed by the emotional flashpoint of the game -- a confrontation between Turkoglu and Ariza following Fisher's 3-pointer. Orlando called timeout, then Turkoglu and Ariza earned double technicals when they jawed at each other nose to nose. Out of the timeout, Ariza and the Lakers played some of their most relentless defense of the postseason. That defense was every bit as vital to the 16-0 run as Bryant's kickouts on the other end:

Whether it was coincidence or the dramatic renderings of the basketball gods, Turkoglu and Ariza always seemed to be at the center of things during the 3:16 stretch:

Ariza has always displayed an aggressive style, but Sunday night, he was an aggressive player. It wasn't just his tactical game --  Ariza's entire persona was transformed into a killer. Bryant was able to use his supremacy to create the shots during the spurt, but it was Ariza's passage from contributor to winner that was decisive in the Lakers' championship stand.