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Lee's tough-luck miss latest painful moment for Magic

The Canadian Press

6/7/2009 11:54:10 PM

LOS ANGELES - The game was there for the Orlando Magic, but Courtney Lee blew his shot to win it.

A shot that couldn't have been much easier.

Lee missed a layup that would have won Game 2 of the NBA finals at the fourth-quarter buzzer, and the Magic lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 101-96 in overtime Sunday night, falling into a 2-0 hole.

"He had a close one. He had a chance to finish the game. It just wasn't there for it to happen," Magic centre Dwight Howard said.

A perfectly drawn-up play should have given the Magic their first finals victory. Instead, it joins Nick Anderson's botched free throws from the 1995 finals as the most heartbreaking moments in franchise history.

"It was a good play, it was a good pass," Lee said. "Coach did a good job of drawing up the right play and I caught it. I tried to get the ball up as quick as possible and then it rolled off the rim.

The Magic had the ball on the sideline with the game tied at 88 and 0.6 seconds left. Rashard Lewis set a pick on Kobe Bryant that freed Lee to cut to the basket, and Hedo Turkoglu lofted a pass that led Lee right under the hoop.

Lee leaped to catch it, but perhaps bothered by Pau Gasol rushing over, threw it off the glass too hard as time expired.

"I was surprised he was kind of wide open," Gasol said. "But I tried to contest it as good as I could and then we gave ourselves a chance to win the ball game."

The rookie guard immediately put his hands over his head in disbelief and walked toward the bench in that same pose as teammates came onto the court to console him. Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy had a pained look on his face, perhaps aware his team had just blown the best chance it was going to get to seize home-court advantage before heading back to Florida.

The play was similar to one the Magic used two years ago -- before Van Gundy's arrival -- when Howard soared over Tim Duncan to catch Turkoglu's inbounds lob and dunked it home with 0.2 seconds left for a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Lee, obviously, isn't able to leap as high as Howard, so he didn't know if he could finish with a dunk, especially because the pass may have led him just a step too far.

"I probably could have. I can't say," Lee said. "It was a lob. You usually try to dunk lobs, but in certain situations you can't."

The loss Sunday came on the 14th anniversary of Orlando's NBA finals debut -- an equally painful one. Poised to beat the defending champion Houston Rockets in Game 1, the Magic watched Anderson miss four consecutive free throws late in the game with a chance to put it away and ended up losing 120-118 in overtime.

Same date, same painful June 7 ending for the Magic.

"It could have been better if he made it, but we can't really be down on ourselves because we played (better) than we did in the first game," Turkoglu said. "It looked good, but it just came out. We should have just done a better job in overtime."