What If?

Dwight HowardWhat if Courtney Lee’s layup as regulation time expired in Game 2 went in?

What if one of Dwight Howard’s two free throws, or both, went in with 11.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4?

A quick response in Orlando on Friday and Saturday has generally looked like this: “The Magic would be up 3-1 in the NBA Finals.”

But what if Rashard Lewis had been whistled for a foul while hitting Kobe Bryant’s wrist with 1.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter before Hedo Turkoglu blocked the shot from behind and recovered to set up the alley-oop to Lee?

Who knows?

What if the Lakers hadn’t been whistled for 11 fouls to just two on Orlando in Thursday’s fourth quarter, putting the Magic at the line 17 times as the Lakers shot not a single free throw?

Not sure.

Here’s how the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding put it:

If Lee had made that layup and Orlando had won Game 2 to even the series, the teams then have totally different mindsets and plans heading into Game 3. Maybe the angrier Lakers win Game 3. Maybe they then lose Game 4. Who knows? It’s ludicrous to draw supposition about Game 4 in any way if you’re going to change the outcome of Game 2.

The “What If” game is fun to talk about, but isn’t necessarily an accurate assessment of the contest. In other words, each play made in a basketball game directly affects the next play. If Derek Fisher hits all five of his first threes, does he have to nail his final two? If Rashard Lewis doesn’t go 0-for-3 and Rafer Alston 1-for-5 in the third quarter of Game 4, maybe the Lakers don’t get back into the game … Or maybe they do?

Countless plausible “What If” scenarios could have affected any of the four contests, but each would have promptly altered the respective team’s outlook immediately.

The point is, it’s just not that simple.