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NBA Finals Preview: Dispelling the Match-Up Myths

June 4, 2009

The Orlando Magic surprised everyone by making it to the Finals. They did that by decimating a team using their rare mix of size and speed. The series win also managed to rip the hearts out of a city that is almost as well known for its tourism as it is for their lone superstar.

A lot has been said about the mismatches the Magic create for the Lakers, but I say nay. One of the first things brought up in arguing the mismatches posed for the Lakers is the extremely likable Dwight Howard, the self-proclaimed and seldom-disputed Superman. He creates double-teams and opens up spots for the Magic, much like the way Shaq was used in the past. The Magic are able to do this with his physically imposing size and physique. He also has a deft-ability to make slamma jamma bing bong, and that is before we even get to his insane skills rebounding and swatting the basketball. However when arguing this point people forget that Phil Jackson rarely uses the double-team. Jackson will let Howard get his in the paint, instead of allowing him to create open shots for his teammates. Jackson letting Howard get his will end up blocking the eventual flood of threes that typically follow when he is doubled.

Secondly Dwight Howard has not faced a tough paint presence all post-season, which is something a lot of people are overlooking at this point. In the first round, the Magic played the 76ers whose biggest post threat was sitting on the bench in a suit and tie. Once again in the second round they played the Celtics, where the biggest post threat was sitting on the bench in a suit and tie. Lastly against the Cavaliers, the biggest post threat was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I think anyone would agree that he is more of a perimeter threat and doesn't pose much of a challenge in the post. Now the Lakers have three post threats in Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum. All three require attention when in the game, and with that comes good looks for the guards of the Lakers. When these guards drive to the hole and they dish off to one of the bigs, it will pose problems for the Magic; either in easy buckets, fouls for Superman, and sometimes both.

Then we have the skilled tandem of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Who destroyed the Cavaliers by taking advantage of their defenders lack of size and speed. Lamar and Pau will split time guarding Rashard. This will be something new to the Magic defense; having two players with the skills needed to cover Rashard on the wing and in the post. Hedo will be guarded by Trevor Ariza, which should be quite a change from the much shorter Delonte West and a much slower Wally Szczerbiak. Not to mention the Lakers have a defensively skilled and equally lethal three-point shooter in Luke Walton coming off the bench, this will not be the same cake walk Hedo had in the Eastern Finals. He will have to work offensively and defensively.

Then we have the Orlando two guards Courtney Lee, Michael Pietrus, and sometimes J.J. Redick. These guys are going to do their best to stop Kobe and I don't think any of those names can compare to those of Shane Battier, Carmelo Antony or Ron Artest. Kobe will have his way with these men guarding him, and they won't be able to do or say much about it.

What about point guard, Jameer destroyed the Lakers in the regular season and Rafer can score in the bushels? If Jameer plays at all, how good can they expect him to be? He hasn't played in months, there is no telling if he is fully healed, and this isn't the regular season. The Lakers will be well prepared for whatever the Magic throw at them. While Rafer will have three guards to contest him; Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown. With Browns athletic ability and defensive skills I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see more of an increase in his playing-time. With each game he has been taking smarter shots, driving more, and making better passes.

The Magic shoot better from three-point range. Really? Well if you looked at the numbers you would be wrong with that assessment. The Lakers are shooting 37.9 % while the Magic are shooting 36.7 %. The Lakers have averaged five less three-point shots in the playoffs than the Magic, while only averaging one less three-point make. The Lakers also defend the three well, as they held their opponents to the third lowest 3pt shooting percentage during the regular season (31.5 %) and the second lowest (31.3 %) during the playoffs.

Then there is the benches. Gortat is a talented big man off the bench, but so are Lamar and Josh Powell. Adonal Foyle doesn't play enough to big a factor, the same can be said for DJ Mbenga. Tony Battie adds value off the bench, as does Luke Walton. Tyronn Lue is not very good, but the same can be said for Sasha's play of late. All in all both teams have servicable benches and rather comparable stats. Basically it's a toss-up on paper, it just depends on what night we are talking about.

Lastly there are the teams the Magic have faced this post-season, which doesn't include one team that is as talented from top-to-bottom as the Lakers. They first played a team in the 76ers who were dealing with injuries and way too much youth to be much of a threat. Then they played the Celtics without KG, who were a shell of their defending championship selves. Then there were the Cavaliers and their one-man show. The Lakers have two premier players in Kobe and Pau, and when double-teamed they have a slew of options with the ability to hit an open jumpshot. The Lakers used this to their advantage closing out the Nuggets, and I believe they will continue to exploit this en route to winning the championship in 6 games.

Plus if you really wanted to see who is going to win this, you could have just looked at the difference in how the two teams celebrated after they won their Conference Finals. The Magic were ecstatic while the Lakers looked as if they just left the DMV. The Magic are happy just to be here. The Lakers won't be happy unless they win four more games before the Magic.

4 comments:

Teach said...

The more I think about this Finals, the more I hate Mike Brown. I still have no idea why he kept doubling Dwight. No one does, and this isn't hindsight. Everyone was telling him to do it while the Cavs-Magic series was being played. A different coach for Cleveland would have gotten us our Cleveland-LA showdown.

June 4, 2009 at 5:24 PM
Teach said...

Also, in my opinion, Bynum is on par or worse than the big men that play for Boston and Philly. I know he's young, but if he were stock, I'd start thinking about selling.

June 4, 2009 at 5:26 PM
Langston said...

Bynum is 21, and there is a reason I put him third.

June 4, 2009 at 6:46 PM
Langston said...

Also as a 5th or 6th option he's pretty good. Plus when healthy he is a totally different player. That's the only problem I see with him, he can't stay healthy.

June 4, 2009 at 6:48 PM

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