People are being too hard on Stan Van Gundy and the Magic for the loss.
With 20 / 20 hindsight, it’s easy to criticize the Magic, but EVERYONE knows Dwight Howard is a poor free throw shooter. In the Olympics, he was out and out embarrassing, so why are we harping on him for missing free throws at crunch time? Shouldn’t we be talking about the smart risks the Lakers took putting him in that position?
And as for Jameer Nelson not closing out more aggressively on Derek Fisher, the WORST thing Nelson could have done in THAT situation is foul Fisher at the 3 point line and give an 85% free throw shooter a free trip to the charity stripe.
In the bigger picture though,
(1) The Magic defense did keep Kobe Bryant from being the one to take that last shot,
(2) and forced Derek Fisher, who until that shot was 0 of 5 from beyond the arc, and has shot just 27% in the playoffs from downtown to save the Lakers.
All things considered, that was a fairly reasonable defense by Nelson, it’s just too bad he isn’t 6’5″ (like Courtney Lee is) so that he could bother Fisher more on the close out.
Which brings me to the other criticism leveled at Van Gundy: why was Nelson playing those minutes at this time?
Who knows, but Nelson is an all star who Van Gundy has seen do the job much more than us, and Alston has a HUGE chip on his shoulder at that point and was much more inclined to shoot and make a point, than to pass like you want your point to do, especially since Rashard Lewis needed to get going.
Nelson could have worked out very well for the Magic at that time, he just didn’t. It’s easy to criticize Van Gundy after the fact, but Alston has stunk in this series too…
There are no guarantees that the very good Laker defense wouldn’t have bothered Alston as well — or any other point guard Van Gundy may have used.
It wasn’t a bad decision to play Nelson, it was just a decision that didn’t work out.
There is a difference.