Why There Is Only One Possibility: Lakers and Cavs in Finals

Daniel LockeContributor IApril 7, 2009

PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 15:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Western Conference walks across the court in front of LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference during the 58th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend at US Airways Center on February 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

There is only one possibility for the NBA Finals: Lakers vs Cavs.  And don't try to convince yourself otherwise.  

While I'd love to extoll the virtues of the Lakers and Cavs, its easier to look at their opponents and figure why they can't win.  

Boston is a good team.  With Kevin Garnett they were a great team.  Their body of work with the current nucleus is tremendous: 66-16 in the 2007-2008 regular season with a +10.3 point differential and the No. 1 defense. For reference, the Cavs this year are only +8.7 in point differential.  

They started this season 27-2 and looked like they would win the title again.  After a few bumps on a West coast trip they still were quite strong.

Unfortunately they have lost Kevin Garnett for the rest of the regular season. And if you think he'll be back at full speed for the playoffs, you're wrong.

Knees injuries are notoriously fickle; players with knee injuries suffer with their confidence and timing, unwilling to push off the knee at full speed or make cuts. Garnett isn't a slash/speedster so it is as bad as it could be, be he will nonetheless be hesitant.  

Remember Tracy McGrady?  He had a lingering knee injury. It affected him psychologically so much that he had to shut himself down for the season.  

Remember Andrew Bynum and his kneecap dislocation?  The return date kept getting pushed back until he missed the entire playoffs.  

Kobe can play through his pinkie injury because it simply is a hand injury.  Leg injuries are much more critical.  And while Danny Ainge recently said he thought the team was better than last year, he is simply mistaken.  

John Hollinger of ESPN has ample statistics showing players peak at 27-28 and decline incrementally after that. Paul Pierce is 31, Ray Allen is 33, and Kevin Garnett is 32.  

Rajon Rondo is 23 but the rest of the team is unspectacular role players. You can't win a championship  without their Big Three and they aren't getting better. While when healthy they are the best team in the league, without Garnett they simply aren't the best.  

The Orlando Magic are a skilled team and I think they could beat the Celtics in the playoffs.  But if they can't get past the Celtics, they won't even have the chance to challenge the Cavs.  

Assuming they do they will give them trouble if Ben Wallace isn't back. His prognosis was four to five weeks of recovery and fortunately for the Cavs, it was a bone injury. Bone injuries heal solidly and don't cause lingering pain and doubt like a ligament injury.  

Picking between Bynum's MCL injury and Wallce's broken leg, Wallace's broken leg is much better.  I've read that he was running and cutting and should be back soon.  

Orlando is a strong defensive team with a dominant center. They have a +7.2 scoring differential, tied for first in defensive efficiency, and sixth in offensive efficiency. They have Dwight Howard, who is having a great season and put up some huge stats.  

They also match up well with Cleveland.  I think in their series with Boston and their series with Cleveland, the outcome will be decided by home court advantage.  

If they have it against Boston, they should win.  But they won't have it against Cleveland.  Only one team has won in Cleveland this year besides LeBron James and Co.  and its not Orlando.  

Home court advantage has a major effect in the playoffs.  Look at Boston last year, winning Game Sevens against Atlanta and Cleveland, and closing out Game Six against LA in the Finals at home.  LA took advantage of home court to close out the Spurs and Utah at home. 

And in the Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando, in Game Seven, it will be the deciding factor.  

In the East after those big three, no team can seriously threaten.  

In the West the Lakers are threatened by a number of strong teams.

The Spurs are sixth in defensive efficiency, twelfth in offensive efficiency, with a +3.5 scoring differential. Their numbers are partly so poor because they play in the tough Southwest division.

But also consider this:  when they won the title after the 2006-2007 season, they were +8.3 in differential, leading the league.  Now they aren't even in the top five.  

Manu Ginobili has a stress fracture in his ankle and an edema. I don't know what an "edema" is but it doesn't sound like something that helps you win a championship.  

Should the Spurs make it to the Western conference finals they won't be able to be the Lakers. They don't have Ginobili, Duncan is sitting out games because of his knees. Face it Spurs fans: the run of titles is over. It was a good run, but its over.   

Portland is a tremendous team this year. They have a 4.50 scoring margin advantage, and are second in offensive efficiency. Higher than the Lakers, Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando.  

Unfortunately they are 16th in defensive efficiency. They play at a slow pace, but a team like the Phoenix Suns from a few years ago comes to mind. Great at offense, bad at defense.  

In the playoffs teams clamp down on defense and play with more intensity. This means its harder to get points. Their offense will suffer but their defense will have trouble matching that of teams which are more experienced, more practiced, and simply better.

I don't think they have what it takes to get past Houston in the first round and they won't threaten the Lakers if they do.  

Houston doesn't have the players to succeed against the Lakers. They were swept by the Lakers this season and it likely won't be much different if they meet in the playoffs. If you can't beat a team once in the regular season, you can't beat them in a seven game series.  Its that simple.  

Denver can threaten the Lakers. They feature NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. He's beaten the Lakers before and isn't intimidated by the Purple and Gold. Denver beat the Lakers at Denver but have failed in LA to threaten the Lakers.

Denver is eighth in offensive efficiency and seventh in defensive efficiency. Unfortunately they don't have the talent and skills to beat the Lakers. 

Simply put, it takes a quality, veteran and defensive minded team to win on the road in the playoffs against a quality team.  If any team can upset it, it will be Orlando.  But the Lakers will make it to the finals, and I'm sure they don't want to see Orlando.


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