NBA

Finals rematch fuels motivation for Magic, Lakers

Share This Story

   
 

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)

The picture hanging in the training room reminds Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson of their NBA finals elimination during every workout.

There the Magic's leaders sit on the bench, biting their jerseys, stoic and staring at the Lakers tasting the title on Orlando's floor.

``Never again,'' they said.

Howard, Nelson and the rest of the Magic have wanted that feeling to stick for motivation.

So when Los Angeles returns Sunday for the first time since that champagne-splashed championship celebration, it's the type of moment the Magic hope to let loose all the painful memories from a series they've yet to forget, from a picture they've yet to rip off the wall.

``I guess it was to show our look after our loss, seeing somebody celebrate on our home floor. I think that was the whole thing behind the picture,'' Howard said. ``We didn't like it at all. We know how tough it is to get to the finals, and to make it and lose and have a team celebrate on your home floor, it hurts. But you live and you learn.''

Los Angeles can relate.

Kobe Bryant and his teammates were fueled last season by a finals defeat a year earlier to Boston. Nothing resonated more than their Game 6 beatdown in Beantown, sent home after losing by a whopping 39 points.

``Definitely more motivated,'' Bryant said of his team's attitude after the finals loss. ``You understand the level of hunger you have to play at.''

These two teams back in Orlando together bring back memories - some good, some bad, depending on the jersey - that are driving both this season.

The Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference, but are trying to avoid three straight losses for the first time since acquiring All-Star forward Pau Gasol in February 2008. Bryant spoke candidly to his teammates before practice Saturday near Orlando, and he's hoping getting back to the site of their title toast will re-ignite their passion.

He wouldn't reveal what was discussed, only that the message came through loud and clear.

``They received it,'' he said.

Pushing the Magic just as much as that trophy ceremony are the things they have seen or read about since.

The Lakers huddled around coach Phil Jackson in the visiting locker room. The Larry O'Brien Trophy sat on a table in the middle. About a dozen bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne surrounded them, sitting next to a few boxes of Wheaties with the Lakers' team picture already on the covers.

Then they doused each other with the champagne. They danced. They cheered. They paraded around the arena's tunnels in championship T-shirts and hats, most dotted with champagne.

``We were trying to get to that dream of ours,'' Gasol said. ``It was very emotional.''

Not so much in the Magic's locker room.

Players dressed slowly and left. None were overly emotional.

Howard, usually one to stick around late after games, went straight home.

``I just sat outside and looked at the stars all night and locked all my doors. I just thought about what I need to do to get better and try to come back,'' Howard said.

Nelson couldn't sleep.

``I probably stayed up till like five, six in the morning just thinking about things, just kind of reminiscing on the season,'' Nelson said.

Only time will tell if the Magic's motivation is enough.

They lost to the Lakers in the first - and only other - finals rematch this season, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in Los Angeles. And few finals losers have made it back to the NBA's biggest stage the following year.

The Lakers were the first team to accomplish that feat since New Jersey made appearances - both losses - in 2002 and 2003. And that hadn't happened since Utah went to the finals in 1997 and 1998, losing each to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Overcoming such defeat was a topic Jackson, who also coached those Bulls teams, said he addressed last year after Los Angeles' loss to Boston.

``Not many teams come back after they lose the finals. It's very hard because the disappointment is so great,'' Jackson said. ``But you can use it as (motivation), too. We were ready for that level of physicality, and we got ourselves geared up toward that last year and we were able to do it.''

Tagged: Celtics, Bulls, Clippers, Lakers, Magic, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..