On Tuesday night, the Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to cut the Lakers’ series lead from two games to one. The Magic, playing in front of their home fans, withstood a hot start by Kobe Bryant and a late Lakers rally to earn their first Finals win in franchise history.
Orlando, seeking to avoid falling into a three-game deficit, made three-quarters of their shots (24 of 32) from the field in the first half, and finished with 62.5 percent shooting — an NBA Finals record. The Lakers made things interesting late in the game, however, tying the game at 99 with fewer than three minutes remaining.
Bryant, who led the Los Angeles offense with 31 points, faded down the stretch, at one point even hitting and yelling at himself after missing a free throw. His frustration grew out of not only the Lakers’ inability to play defense, but also the physical defense the Magic threw at him.
Late in the game, the Lakers failed to execute on some key plays and made turnovers that allowed the Magic to put the game away. In the final seconds, the Lakers missed four straight three-point shots — or rather, desperation heaves — until Bryant made a layup and fouled Rashard Lewis with two-tenths of a second remaining. By then, the home crowd was already celebrating while confetti fell from the rafters (which had to be cleaned off the court before the game could be finished).
Games 4 was played last night in Orlando, and the series continues with Game 5 on Sunday .