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Can’t Blame Courtney

Like a conformist salmon, I stay with the mainstream when it comes to sports talk.

I don’t read a lot of blogs; I’m just getting used to them actually. I get a lot of my information from newspapers on the Web and places such as ESPN.

And all day on that network, I’ve repeatedly heard how Courtney Lee is to blame for the Magic losing Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Pardon The Interruption called him a goat. FanHouse columnist Jay Mariotti’s most recent column is titled “When Lee Missed, Magic Lost Series”. Avery Johnson said that NBA players should be able to make that play five out of 10 times in their sleep.

It’s the play at the very end of regulation where Lee went up for a lob pass with 0.6 seconds remaining and the score tied. With the game on Lee’s fingertips, everything occurred as the Magic would have hoped — except the result.

It’s the NBA, so plays that close to the basket are expected to succeed 99 percent of the time, but in their sleep?

Let’s break it down just a little bit.

First of all, yes, it was a great call from Stan Van Gundy, a good pick by Rashard Lewis, a great throw from Hedo Turkoglu. It was all of that.

But what is so easy about this situation?:

I want you to jump and catch a basketball in mid-air as you fly toward the basket. You’ll have to catch the ball with your left hand, so quickly bring it back around to your right hand and then throw it up off the glass for the basket, OK?

Oh, and by the time that you let go of the ball, half of your face will be underneath the backboard. You won’t be able to see much. You’ll be lucky that you don’t hit your head on the glass.

Did I mention that you are still sailing through the air during all of this? You know you are.

Go ahead, try to do this.

Go ahead, try to do this.

Lee also got lambasted for throwing the shot up too hard. It’s pretty easy to understand why.

He’s a rookie on the NBA’s grandest stage. His coach has called a play for him to make the winning basket in a game that could change his and his teammates’ fortunes forever. Thoughts of what happens next are made in the imaginations of all children, from the playground to the garage, spending hours shooting hoops alone.

Everything works to perfection. All that’s left to complete the dream is his part.

As he catches the ball, the weight of the situation hits his mind and in a mix of haste and pressure, his muscles tense and he uses just a bit more force than needed.

So he’s the goat.

Yes, Lee actually took the last two shots for Orlando in that fourth quarter, both which were manageable. Yet, he missed them both. Their importance was magnified. Now he’s the maligned Magic man.

If you can’t tell, I consider myself a Courtney Lee apologist. I’ll gladly chime away about how I knew of him before any Magic fan or most NBA fans. I first saw him live at a college basketball tournament in December 2005 in Tucson, Ariz. where his college, Western Kentucky, and my college, University of Central Florida, were playing.

His skill, body and athleticism didn’t match up to that of a normal sophomore in college basketball. I kept track of his career throughout college, and it was some sweet irony when he got drafted by my current hometown. As the 22nd pick of the 2008 draft, he is looking like a steal for the Magic.

But no one wants to hear about the future. It’s all about winning a championship now, and people seem to have this crazy idea that Lee lost one for the Magic last night.

If you want to look for a goat on Orlando, how about Mickael Pietrus, who is shooting 3-pointers with the effectiveness of a French army? As I said last night, J.J. Redick would be the MVP of this series if he could hit his shots because he will be left open on every play. He still hasn’t given the Lakers any reason to blink an eye at him.

I could also list Dwight Howard here for his lack of Superman-esque play or Rafer Alston for just being a whiner, but in truth, there really isn’t a true goat in the bunch.

The Lakers are better than the Magic. They are much better than I thought at the beginning of this series. The Lakers have deserved to win both games.

Those who are faulting Lee for the Magic’s loss are just looking for a reason to make this series more interesting than it has been.

Also, this has nothing to do with Lee, but I had to link it because it is my favorite picture of these playoffs by far.

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