While the Los Angeles Lakers were celebrating their latest NBA title, the beaten Orlando Magic were left to reflect on what might have been. They were beaten 4-1 in the series by the Lakers, with Sunday's 99-86 home defeat sealing their defeat. The Magic centre Dwight Howard, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in Game Five, but had only two points in the second half, was ready to acknowledge that the stronger side had come out on top.
"They were the better team in the Finals and that is why they are the champs," he said. "Tonight we didn't have that same fight that we had throughout the whole play-offs." Like Howard, the Magic coach Stan Van Grundy admitted that the Lakers had been too good for them. "We just didn't have an answer," said Van Grundy. "They are a damn good team." The Lakers victory gave Phil Jackson his 10th NBA title as a coach and Van Grundy rates his opposite number as one of the very best.
He said: "If I'm right, the guy [Jackson] has won 51 play-off series now. Check your record book and see how many coaches have even won 50 play-off games. It is fewer than 20, and the guy has won 51 play-off series. It is incomprehensible." It was a surprise that the Magic, who have never won a NBA title, had made it to the Finals as they had upset the formbook in the Eastern Conference finals by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had the best regular season record, 4-2.
But despite their impressive run, falling short was of little consolation to Howard. He added: "The only thing you can do is look back on the season, look back on what we did as a team, personally look at what I did, just try to come back next year with the same fire and try to accomplish our goal." firstname.lastname@example.org