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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NBA FINALS PREVIEW LAKERS/ VS. MAGIC

Posted by Eboy



Do YOU Believe In Magic?



Written by Eboy

It’s that time again. Figured SKO needed something/someone to represent the NBA Finals coverage. So here we go. And just to note, last year, I correctly picked the Celtics over the Lakers in six games, so let’s see if I can continue my Finals predictions precedent.

This is an intriguing matchup, on par with the Finals that occurred last year. The Lakers have been on the tongues of sportswriters and bandwagon fans since the beginning of the season as the heavy favorites, almost by God’s will, to take the title this season. Another strong regular season and a fairly impressive playoff run culminated in the Lakers 30th Finals appearance. Pretty remarkable.

The Magic, on the other hand, basically laid in the shadows, biding their time behind the big two of the East and played their merry ole’ way into an NBA Finals berth. How’d they do it? Beating the defending champs AND the future King of the NBA? Must be Magic, I guess?

So on to the matchup. Let’s see......where to begin?

Coaches
The legend against the porn star. An all-time great against a guy just one overblown timeout tirade away from a defibrillator and heart medication. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight, does it? Well.....neither did last year’s Finals coaching matchup. Phil Jackson has lost that air of invincibility (somewhere in 2004) and no longer just commands the respect he so deserves from his peers. It’s a thing. A thing that a guy like Stan Van Gundy can expose. Stan’s a classic, meticulous planner, an in-game specialist, the type of guy who will agonize over each blown assignment and missed call that affects his team. This has long been gone from the Phil Jackson model and as Doc Rivers showed last year, you can sneak a couple of games against this Lakers team for that reason alone. Stan will figure out a way to do it too. Don’t think he can’t coach at a championship level. He can and is. I watched him lead a not yet complete Miami Heat team to the brink of the Finals in 2005, and a few questionable decisions from his chalkboard caused the Heat (and his job) a shot at a second Finals appearance. This is not the same coach. And his team is easily the best coached squad that was left in the Conference Finals. Phil is a master, Stan is trying to be respected. There’s a hunger that Stan has that Phil has long lost. Phil could muster a miracle in the blink of an eye, Stan needs magic to form his.

I’d say the advantage belongs to............neither. This is pretty even. Phil will have a humorous press conference and insult the Van Gundy’s in one way or another at some point, so his mastermind tactics will still be there but Stan seems to have built a tolerance to criticism that would have ruined him before so this will be a great cat and mouse game.

The Star Matchups

Let’s start with the superstar matchup, Lebr........whoops!!! Dwight vs. Kobe. Good vs. Evil. The almost past against the present future. Nice, right? Well, there’s such a contrast in styles between the two leading men as there is between their respective teams, it should make for a great show. Dwight, the inside terror, Shaq redux (only skinnier) with a great presence on the defensive side of the ball and the ability to be game changing on the offensive end. It’s hard to see what the Lakers will do except bring late doubles once Dwight put’s it on the floor (where he can and has been exposed) to try and neutralize him. It can be done. Against the Lakers, there’s only one player on LA’s roster who can make this matchup favorable for the purple and yellow. Andrew Bynum will have to have the series of his young career to make this a fair fight. Has to. No other player on the Lakers roster can match young Dwight. He’ll terrorize the lane and play the right way on D. He’ll (maybe) hit free throws at a good clip. He might even knock someone on their ass. It’s how it will go. But........if Derek Fisher or Kobe can gamble enough times and hope Dwight tries to do things on his own, they can cause a ton of headaches for him as he makes his (somewhat) limited moves to the basket. It’s not going to be easy, but I think Stan will have Dwight prepared for this. I think.

As for Mambo, well, what else can you say? Dude has been rock solid this playoffs. Definitely not dominant though. He’s just not that guy anymore. Without his team firing on all cylinders, you can sometimes see a tiny piece of the mamba’s beady little head peek out, but it makes the Lakers that much more beatable. The team is balanced and constructed in a way that if Kobe is going for 35 to 40 a game, they tend to bog down and become predictable and easy to guard. Kobe will have to facilitate and do what needs to be done against a team that will employ tough matchups for him. Michael Pietrus, who played Lebron James exceptionally well last round, will get a ton of minutes trying to slow him but the strategy may be to let Kobe get his and let the other guys play spectator. If I’m Kobe and want to win that elusive 4th title, I’m trying to put up about 26 a game with about 7 assists and I’d be guaranteeing myself a really strong stake at taking the title. But this is Kobe and we know he bucks the trend from game to game so this is debatable.

Advantage.....neither. They both will do what they do and keep their teams in every game performing at a high level both on the offensive end and on the D side of the ball.

The Underlings

Let’s start with Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Yes, these guys. Not Luke Walton....ever (I’ll get to Brown and Farmar shortly). It’s critical that at least three of these guys play strong EVERY GAME. EVERY GAME. It can be any combination of the three, but it has to be that way. Why? Because Kobe, moreso than Dwight, needs that space to operate at a solid pace, and anything less than three of them doing their thing is going to make it easier for the Magic to defend them (and Kobe moreover). Fisher's got be that deadeye shooter that won rings for this team, Bynum can’t sleepwalk but be the beast his ability can allow him to be, Odom can’t stay in a sugar coma but be the nightmare matchup that guys like Hedo and Rashard have been for their teams and Pau has to see the ball. A LOT. Must. If he doesn’t, and the Magic just let him play his little dink, turn and dunk/jump hook post game for 25 touches a game, they’ll be unscathed in that matchup with Pau getting about 18 a game. If he’s hitting for 25 and Kobe’s hitting for 25, this series could fall on deaf ears for Magic fans cheers. Trevor Ariza has to play his best series as well for the Lakers to have a chance as his D on Lewis/Hedo will be critical in the stopgate the Lakers will offer on D and he must hit his threes when they are there.

As for the Magic, lets see.....Hedo, Rashard, Skip, Pietrus Courtney Lee and Jameer? Well, let’s not get crazy, but I’ll say this. If the Magic can execute the same way against the Lakers (who are NOT as good as a defensive team as the Cavs were) than they did against the Cavs, this series could be over WAY before the expected date of finish. For real. Turkoglu and Lewis killed it last series and have the same motive in mind. Who’s Kobe guarding? Ariza? Pau? Lot’s of cross match problems (for both teams really) but the Magic have a bit more of a perimeter size advantage that will play heavy in their gameplan. Skip has a ton to prove at point and should win the very close battle with Fisher. If Jameer (really?) plays at all and plays at 70% of his ability that’s a win/win for the Magic off the bench. Neither Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar can play him and even if he doesn’t get any time if he’s not ready, Anthony Johnson and Courtney Lee should prove to be the Lakers backups equals at the point/big guard. A big factor the Magic is the presence of Marcin Gortat off the bench. He is what the Lakers don’t have anywhere on their roster. A banger, a scrapper, a get your hands dirty guy that will be a huge problem for the Lakers. Plus he’s skilled. Remember I wrote this ‘cause he could be series changing.

Advantage: Magic (ever so slightly)

Intangibles

There’s a ton of personal motivation for both squads. Kobe to finally get over the “I am the man” hurdle of winning a title as the lead dog, Phil to finally catch Red Auerbach as the most title winning coach, and Stan Van Gundy trying to cement his place among the game’s great coaches. Don’t shortchange the confidence of Dwight either as all he heard was Lebron taking it to the Magic and his team being just a roadblock. They wound up derailing Ohio Line #23 so taking out Poison Mamba #24 wouldn’t be too far fetched either. Who’s dealing in spades? I like the Lakers if they can keep the team aura they had in Game Six against the Nuggets. They were efficient and pretty dominating for the first time in the playoffs. That could be a great sign for Lakers fans. The problem lies with their attitude. An attitude that has bit them in the ass before. They haven’t played an entire series with that fire and I don’t buy them turning it up another level here. Unless they play perfect ball in LA in Games 1 and 2, the 2-3-2 series format is going to bite them in that same ass. I say the Magic come out of the three game set in Orlando up 3-2 and closes it out in dramatic fashion in Game 6. Why? They’ve done it before this season. Twice as a matter of fact. And they won’t be in awe of the Lakers. Remember how the Cavs built up huge leads against them several times and the Magic would storm back and wrestle games away from them when it seemed like a blowout was inevitable? Yeah....so do I. Remember how they never seemed to get rattled in those situations? Yeah, I do too. Only Magic could make this happen for such a heavy underdog, but that’s played right into their hands throughout the entire playoffs. I know it’s the unpopular pick....but I live to be that guy so......

Magic in Six.

22 comments:

Moose said...

Here was my preview as seen on an earlier SLAM post: I think this is matchup hell for both teams; especially on the inside. Rashard can’t guard Pau with his finesse inside game, and Pau can’t guard Rashard on the outside. Bynum probably won’t be able to handle Howard. The X-factors in this situation are Mickael Pietrus and Rashard Lewis. If Rashard’s three-point shooting is on, they feed him the ball all day off of screens that Pau can’t keep up with, scoring at will. His three is unblockable at 6-10, that is a huge weapon. Also, Pietrus will get the most time guarding Kobe. So, if he shuts down the Black Mamba, that increases the Magic’s chance of winning exponentially. Of course, these are all variables, as I just demonstrated. But, I’ll go with Magic in 7. This one goes to the brink and ends on the big man.

joeloholic said...

Ah ha! Count me pleasantly surprised at the even-handedness of this preview. I really expected more Kobe-bashing, but hey. Spot on.

I find it incredulous how people are *still* in denial about the legitimacy of the Magic. Rashard has gone from overpaid jump shooter to an icily clutch 3-point assassin, as Moose said. How many big shots did he hit against Cleveland, and why don't people see?

Eboy said...

I figured I needed to be even-keeled, but in actuality I really think the Magic can win it on their own merits instead of just wishfully thinking on my part to stop the Laker fan idiocy. If they can keep the momentum that they built up against the Cavs, it's going to brutal for LA.

B. Long said...

Brutal.

Hursty said...

I want the Clippers to win. In 3 games.

Eboy said...

One game is good.....four is best.

BET said...

bro i just farted

BET said...

what the hell happened to this place?

Hursty said...

SKO is old and stinking the joint up. C'mon fellas.
:)

Moose said...

SKO is trippin'.

Moose said...

Hursty got it right. !!!!!!!!!!!!

BET said...

looking through the comments, i see a rather distubing photo montage of my main man Moose.

3 different pictures, and i heard Hursty got teh noodz!

Zee said...

Was this Finals preview for 2010 E? HAHAHAHAH LAKE SHOW BABY!!!!!!

Moose said...

BETCATS, it's three pictures because SKO hasn't posted anything in too long. SKO, get back on your game. The young guns got you.

Moose said...

So much for a "resurrection". Hmm.

BET said...

this place blows so much, charles barkley would run a red light and go to jail for it...

Hursty said...

Wow... this site is more run-down and old than Greg Olden...
PS next month when BET reads this, he'll know I "lolled" (?) at him... zzzzz

Ted Da Bear said...

Can I get either Eboy or TAD's e-mail? Please? I got something to ask.

Moose said...

New layout is pretty.

Anonymous said...

go die in a plane crash shawn

Anonymous said...

you're a disgrace to humanity shawn. just go kill yourself

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