NBA Finals have arrived and the teams
are ready to play. My prediction of Los
Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
was thwarted by the hype, amazing
3 point barrage and one monster of a
center. Many (including myself) were
annoyed by the Vitamin Water advertisements
hyping up Kobe vs. LeBron. While
it's probably true they are the best
two players in the league the advertisement
probably gave more motivation to a team
led by the pivot play of young star Dwight
Howard and shooters Hedo Turkoglu and
Rashard Lewis. These three players along
with individual game efforts by Mickeal
Petrus and Rafer Alston but Clevelands
lack of perimeter defense on full blast
and allowed the Orlando Magic to upset
the number one seed in the NBA.
now we have the Magic versus the LA Lakers
as a match up and it should be a fascinating
the one hand we have a young Magic team
that lives and dies with the three and
has the dominate center needed to space
the floor. The addition of though to
be lost for the season NBA All-Star Jameer
Nelson is a interesting proposition and
the Chester, PA product should help.
Stan Van Gundy is a defensive minded
head coach that he gotten the best of
his team and after surviving a tough
series with the Philadelphia 76ers, the
Magic have defeated the defending NBA
champion Boston Celtics in seven games
and the Cavs in six games.
the west side of things you have a team
in the Lakers making their second straight
NBA Finals appearance and hopes to change
the outcome. Head coach Phil Jackson
is looking for his 10th NBA title and
Kobe Bryant is looking for his first
without Shaquille O'Neal. The Lakers
beat the Utah Jazz in the first round
in relative easy, then toughed out a
physical Houston Rockets team in seven
games before knocking out the surprising
Denver Nuggets in six games.
us breakdown the positions and give a
Orlando has three quality guards in Jameer
Nelson, Rafer Alston (acquired after
Nelson's midseason injury) and Anthony
Johnson. Rafer has done well in Nelson's
absence but his three pointer has been
shaky, here one game and gone another.
This could be key because the Lakers
will often sag of the point guard to
help on Howard. Alston making shots will
help thwart that strategy.
led the Magic to two wins in two opportunities
versus the Lakers in the regular
season but he is coming off a long
time not playing so don't look for
him to get all the minutes he's used
to getting. The team will bring him
up slowly and look for him to do his
thing in short segments. Nelson's play
can be an X factor for this team to
win the series. Johnson is a great
back up who has been on plenty of championship
caliber teams but don't look for him
to get major minutes especially with
Nelson's return. Oh, did I mention
that Tyronn Lue is returning to LA
where he won two NBA titles in the
days of Shaq/Kobe?
Angeles: The Lakers have the
dependable and clutch Derek Fisher, to
go with the young, sometimes frustrating
but exciting Jordan Farmar. Fisher is
the only player on the roster who has
won the three rings with Kobe in the
early part of the decade and is
a co-captain (next to Kobe). He isn't
a defensive stopper, his job will be
to keep the team calm and make those
three pointers on the kick out from penetration.
Farmer is an decent back up but it prone
to make some turnovers trying to do too
much. It's important that both help on
doubling Howard at times and that they
close out on the three point shooting.
The Magic have some streaky but athletic
players in Courtney Lee and Mickeal Pietrus.
Both players have had big games in the
playoffs and both aren't afraid to make
big shots and play defense. Pietrus
has played defense for Kobe for years
when he played in Golden State. Does
that mean he can slow Kobe down? I don't
think so but it certainly can help. Lee
is young and has a lot of tread on his
tires so he can run through the screen
the Lakers will set and follow Kobe.
question is what toll will this take
on these two players offense? I think
it will be big toll. Kobe Bryant is
a different animal than LeBron James
because he's not only great slashing
to the basket but his half court game
is super solid because of his jumper.
These two players won't have many plays
off on defense. J.J. Redick shouldn't
expect to receive much time because of
his defensive liability on the floor,
his lack of ballhandling and the fact
that the team has good shooters already
Bryant is shooting for a fourth ring.
Angeles: The Lakers have the best player
in the game in Kobe Bryant. He has heard
the talk of him not winning with Shaq
and although he say it doesn't mean anything
is motivated to win even in a small part
because of it. That coupled with the
fact the the Lakers have lost their last
two NBA Finals ('05 vs. Detroit Pistons,
08 vs. Boston). Kobe is a great defender
who has no one to worry about in the
same manner say the Orlando has had to
deal with in Paul Pierce and LeBron James.
On defense, expect Kobe
to sag of his man at times to help on Howard. Kobe
is a smart player so if someone like
Petrius starts scoring he will make
adjustments. Also look for the 6'7 Bryant to help
guard Turkoglu and Lewis on the perimeter.
Sasha Vujucic is decent sub who plays
good defense but gambles a bit too
much at times. Shannon Brown has been solid
off the bench and should get a few
minutes at the point and two spots to give the
primetime players a break.
The Magic have two unique players in
Lewis and Turkoglu because both are on
the floor and space the court compared
to the traditional three and four positions
where the four is a power forward who
hangs around the block. Both players
can dribble a bit but love to shoot from
the outside so respecting that will be
important for the Lakers.
down on Howard could mean trouble for
the Lakers because these guys
can shoot. Pietrus also play the 3
spot at times so look for them to further
spread the floor.
Turkoglu needs to play well to win.
Angeles: The Lakers have Trevor Ariza
starting which allow Lamar Odom to come
off the bench and play multiple positions.
Ariza has had a coming out party this
playoffs and actually knows many of the
Magic well since he was traded from the
Magic to the Lakers. He is a long 6-9
so he can help defend the small/power
forwards on the Magic and can also hit
a three or slash to the basket on defense.
Luke Walton is a solid
6-8 and smart player also. He makes up for his lack
of athleticism with positioning. Look
for him to get physical with the main
two forwards and try to keep them out
of position. If Walton can score 10
points it's a bonus, his main job is to defend
in this series.
Once again Lewis and Turkoglu play this
position together with the occasional
appearance by Tony Battie. Howard is
the chief rebounder on this team so don't
look for any banging down low from these
two. Both will need help if they are
trying to guard Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum
on the block. Look for Battie to get
more work this series.
Gasol needs to offset the set the dominance
of Dwight Howard.
Lakers will start with Gasol at the four
spot and will sub with Odom with Josh
Powell and DJ Mbenga at bare necessity.
Gasol is a good passer out of a double
team, has a nice jumper out to 16 feet
and is nimble on a block. The Magic haven't
seen this type of forward yet and it's
a match up problem. Look for Gasol to
attract the defense of Howard and back
up center Marcin Gortat at times but
Battie will got more work than usual
in this series. It's important that Phil
Jackson get Gasol the ball and that Gasol
Dwight Howard is the most dominant center
in the league right now and he's only
going to get better. Magic assistant
coach Patrick Ewing has done a great
job with Howard's touch in the paint
and footwork. Add that to Howard's raw
physical skill and you have a big problem.
Howard will need to slow the tempo of
the game and get touches to be effective.
Van Gundy can't fall in love with the
perimeter players in needs to let Howard
get dunks and get to the line(Howard
is an improved free throw shooter).
is a nice physical backup who can dunk
putbacks and shoot from close range.
He could start for many teams in the
league and should help to defend Gasol
and Bynum as well as if Howard gets
in foul trouble.
Dwight Howard's dominance give Orlando
its first NBA title?
Angeles: The Lakers have the inconsistent,
oft-injured Andrew Bynum at center and
Gasol will get looks there as well when
Odom comes in. The Lakers will give Bynum
some looks in the paint but in this series
he won't be a focal point but rather
someone who makes putbacks and the occasional
Bynum missed a big chunk
of the season and hasn't been the impressive
player he was last year sense. Anything
he gives besides defense on Howard
is a bonus. The Lakers will send plenty
of bodies at Howard and use fouls but
they'd rather give up his two than
the long three.
Stan Van Gundy is a nag of a coach but
he gets results. His defense, motivation
and emphasis on consistency has the Magic
at the apex of it's first NBA title.
Angeles: Phil Jackson has taken a young
team built around a superstar to it's
second consecutive NBA Finals. Jackson
is going for his 10th championship as
a coach and 12th overall (Jackson won
two titles with the New York Knicks in
the 1970s). By winning his 11th as a
coach he would pass Boston's Red Auerbach
for first all-time.
Magic has played great but I think there
time is done. The Lakers have the best
talent in the league and have recently
matched their talent with consistent
effort. Kobe Bryant is a one man wrecking
crew who finally doesn't have to be one
all the time. With consistent efforts
from Odom and Gasol and clutch play and
threes from Fisher and Ariza in the Denver
series I saw the Lakers finally wake
Magic pose some interesting matchups
but Los Angeles have the length and bodies
to defend Howard decently and still
run out to contest the perimeter. Cleveland
lacked that and it hurt them. If the
Magic had one more consistent scorer
on the perimeter it would be something
different but I think both main players
in Lee and Pietrus will be tired guarding
a clearly focus Bryant who wants to
make his declaration of game's best player
see the Lakers winning in six games
but wouldn't be surprised if it only
took five either.
comments, suggestions email Clayton at