NBA Finals notebook

No waking from nightmare

Failure of strategy haunts Van Gundy

STAN VAN GUNDYFouled up by result STAN VAN GUNDYFouled up by result
Associated Press / June 13, 2009
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Magic coach Stan Van Gundy tried to sleep. He closed his eyes, but his cluttered basketball brain, a cyclone of X's and O's, wouldn't relax.

Game 4 of the Finals, the one Orlando fumbled away with atrocious free throw shooting, a hideous third quarter, and questionable late-game strategy, kept Van Gundy awake.

It may for many nights ahead. Maybe years.

With only a few hours to reflect on what went wrong Thursday in Orlando's 98-91 overtime loss to Los Angeles, Van Gundy was asked if a night's rest had brought him any clarity.

"The assumption of a night's sleep is way off base," he said on a conference call.

Leading, 87-84, with 11.1 seconds to go, the Magic allowed Derek Fisher to dribble into the frontcourt and hit the tying 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left. Fisher, who hit another key 3-pointer in OT, made his shot over Orlando guard Jameer Nelson, who was slow to react.

During a timeout after Magic center Dwight Howard had bricked the two biggest free throws of his career, Van Gundy had told his team not to foul. Too much time left, Van Gundy thought. And not with Kobe Bryant around.

As his team went 22 for 37 from the line, Van Gundy didn't want to risk more missed free throws - and more Lakers chances.

"I've rethought it and rethought it and rethought it," he said as the teams took a two-day break before Game 5 tomorrow. "It's easy to say now, 'Do I wish we had fouled as opposed to giving that up?' Yeah, but I still don't think at 11 seconds to go in a game that we're going to foul in that situation.

"I'll put it this way: You always have regrets. Faced with the same situation again at 11 seconds, we still wouldn't be telling them to foul."

International language
Pau Gasol is from Spain, Mickael Pietrus from France. So when they have a confrontation, what language is it in?

"I said it in English to make sure he understood it," Gasol said. "If I would have known it in French, I would have said it in French."

Pietrus was called for a flagrant foul for pushing Gasol in the back as the Lakers forward completed a dunk with 3.4 seconds left in overtime. Gasol started yelling at Pietrus and the players came together; both were assessed technical fouls.

"I said a couple of things that I can't repeat on camera," Gasol said.

The NBA said there would be no further punishment.

"I wasn't trying to be a jerk," Pietrus said. "I've been in the NBA for seven years and have never been considered a dirty player. It was just a hard foul and I love Pau. We've played so many times together in Europe. That's how it is."

Perfect position
The Lakers, one win from their 15th title, are the 30th team in league history to take a 3-1 lead in the Finals. The other 29 claimed the championship . . . Even though Thursday was the first time this season the Magic lost when 7-year-old Gina Marie Incandela sings the national anthem, Orlando is going to let her sing for the final home game tomorrow. Game 4 was her sixth straight appearance before a home playoff game, and the Magic had been 7-0 on the season. Incandela's mother, Michelle, said Gina took news of the loss well. "She's doing fine," her mother said. "She asked, 'It's not over, is it?' I told her, 'No, but it's going to be a little tougher now.' She said, 'It's OK. I still believe in them.' " . . . Magic assistant Patrick Ewing has signed a contract extension to remain with the club next season . . . The Magic have made 193 3-pointers in the playoffs, breaking the record for the most in one postseason, previously held by the 1995 Houston Rockets (189) . . . Game 4 delivered a 10.9 overnight rating, the highest yet for the series. The series is on pace for more viewers than the 2008 Finals between the Lakers and Celtics.

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