Pinoy at courtside: Lakers win it with talent, championship experience

0208820N  Rockets v Lakers
MANILA, Philippines – Talent: check. Championship experience: check. Motivation: check. A confluence of these factors has catapulted the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship against a young Orlando Magic team, Filipino sportscaster Mico Halili noted from his pressbox seat in Orlando, Florida.

“The experience of the Lakers, along with their immense talent, was just too much for the Magic to handle,” Halili told GMANews.TV in an exclusive telephone interview from the Magic’s turf, where he and analyst Andy Jao covered Games 3-5 of the NBA Finals for Solar Sports.

Looking at the respective rosters of the Lakers and the Magic, Halili conceded that talent-wise, the two Finals protagonists may be on equal footing. “But in a championship series, experience counts a lot,” the veteran sportscaster said.

Take the two teams’ superstars, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

Bryant, Halili offered, has both the talent and championship experience, having been part of the Lakers’ previous title run from 2000-2002 and their failed bid against the Boston Celtics last year.

But skilled as he is, 23-year-old Howard is still a greenhorn in pressure-packed championship games. And it showed – “Superman” couldn’t fly during the crucial stages of the series.

“He (Howard) had no clue how to keep their team together in situations like these,” said Halili.

Bryant scored 30 points in the title-clincher, averaging 32.5 points en route to winning the Finals Most Valuable Player Plum.

On the contrary, Howard was hardly a factor in Game 5. Like the “Man of Steel” weakened by kryptonite, he scored only 11 points, took just nine shots and never got the chance to get going.

Collectively, the Lakers’ nucleus benefited from their Finals stint last year, Halili observed. And more importantly, it got them more pumped up to hit pay dirt after getting frustrated by arch rival Celtics the last time out.

“The Lakers, they all played in the finals last year. And they have added motivation because they lost last year. They knew exactly what to do and what to avoid (in order to win the title),” Halili said.

And the Lakers pulled this one off away from home.

“I’m not at all surprised that they won it on the road. The Lakers are a very good road team, they don’t really care whether they play at home or on the road,” Halili said.

Fan support

However, it’s not exactly a “hostile environment” the Lakers played at as Halili said he saw an abundance of Laker fans at the Magic’s Amway Arena.

“When a team wins the title on the road, usually walang tao after the game. But sa dami ng Laker fans sa Orlando, it felt like the Lakers were at Staples,” Halili said. “The Lakers’ gold jersey was scattered all over the area. Maybe there’s a lot of Laker fans who are living in Orlando or they flew all the way to Orlando.”

These fans were even out-cheering the bigger Magic crowd, chanting “M-V-P” every time Bryant got hold of the leather.

And Bryant did not disappoint, dishing out an MVP performance that hiked his personal trophy collection to four, his first since the break up of his partnership with Shaquille O’ Neal in 2004. Aside from ending Bryant’s seven-year odyssey for “his” championship, the victory handed the Lakers’ 15th overall title and gave coach Phil Jackson a record 10th ring, one up on the legendary Celtics mentor Red Auerbach.

Bryant was not alone, though, as his support crew led by Pau Gasol (14 points, 15 rebounds) provided a big helping hand.

In finishing off the Magic, the Lakers turned the game around with a telling 16-0 run in the second canto for a 56-46 halftime lead.

For Halili, that was enough to break the backs of the inexperienced Magic.

“The key was the second quarter,” Halili opined. “When L.A’s 16-0 run gave them a 10-point lead at the half, it was over for the Magic. It’s just too much for a young team to keep it together.”

Then there’s the fractured spirits of the Magic, who couldn’t get over their Game 4 loss. In that game, Howard bungled two free-throws in the final 11.1 seconds, allowing Derek Fisher to nail a game-tying triple to force an extension.

“It’s not that they (Magic) gave up. But when they blew their chance and lost Game 4, it was too much to recover from,” he opined.

Howard himself admitted that it hurts but preferred to take a “glass-half-filled” perspective. “It hurts but you can learn a lot from losing. Sometimes you’ve got to lose to win,” he was quoted in an Associated Press report.

But for now, it’s the time of Bryant and the Lakers to celebrate, a gang, who just a year ago, were made to lick their wounds like the Magic today. – GMANews.TV

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