The Orlando Magic are finally competing in the Eastern Conference Finals. They have the strength, determination, and weapons to surpass the Cleveland Cavaliers, but will LeBron James be able to overcome these obstacles and ultimately be Superman's kryptonite?
Everything surrounds LeBron. So to be the best, you have to beat the best.
The most important component is to prevent James from playing his game.
Orlando will have to clog up the middle each and every time LJ attacks the basket. This way, James will only have one other option, which is to dish the ball out for the jumper.
The Magic's main goal is to get James to shoot the ball.
While he has improved his shooting ability incredibly well since he first stepped foot onto the NBA court, if James settles for jumpers (shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc in the playoffs), Orlando will get a golden opportunity to maximize on the offensive end.
Playing Up-Tempo Basketball and Effective Defense
The Magic proved during Game Seven that they can push the ball up the court and actually finish effectively.
They hit their shots and executed to perfection. During this Eastern Conference Finals series, they must play this way once again.
Orlando has also been on a recent tear on defense.
During Game Seven they managed to shut down Paul Pierce during every possession, double-teaming him immediately after he received the basketball. If they want to beat the Cavs, they will have to do this with King James as well.
During the first round of the playoffs, the Magic faced up against the Sixers. During that five game span, shooting guard Courtney Lee averaged 12.6 PPG, with 2.0 APG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.6 SPG.
While those averages seem mediocre at best, Lee was ultimately the go-to-guy throughout that entire series. With Shard and Turk on a serious slump (combined for around 30 percent shooting), Lee was the man that stepped up the most for Orlando.
During the second round of the playoffs, Lee came off of the bench (after getting surgery due to a fractured sinus). JJ Redick replaced him in the starting lineup and excelled at defending the Celtics' premier player, Ray Allen.
Lee never got an opportunity to get going on the offensive end, averaging 12 minutes per game less than during the first round.
But with a new series beginning, Lee will look to be placed back into the starting lineup and moreover, become a bigger offensive presence once again.
With Delonte West matching up against the quick Lee, you can expect Courtney to attack the basket and take serious advantage of the the mismatch.
Lee stands 6'5" and weighs 200 pounds, while West stands 6'3" and weighing around 180 pounds.
Luckily for the Boston Celtics, they had possibly the best defender (Kendrick Perkins) in the league that ever gave D-Howard a problem.
With a much slower Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cavaliers will have a huge problem defending Superman.
During the three games that Orlando faced Cleveland, Howard posted a monstrous 18 PPG, 14.6 RPG, 3.6 BPG, and 61.1 percent (22-for-36 FG) from the floor.
Howard is clearly a huge part of the Magic's success and will have to dominate on both sides of the court throughout this series.
Since Big Z will not be able to keep up with Howard, the Cavaliers will be forced to put players like the aging Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, and Anderson Varejao up against Superman. This will be another mismatch that the Magic must take full advantage of.
Aside from his offensive production, Howard is the best defensive player in the league. He averaged the most RPG and BPG during the season and alters more shots than any other player in the league today.
Howard makes LJ think twice before he drives to the hoop, and that is another big factor for this series.
I have said it once and I will say it again, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu are the keys to Orlando's success in the playoffs. When these guys are on top of their game, there is no stopping the Magic from winning a series.
During the season, Turkoglu averaged a magnificent 16 PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG on 46.3 percent shooting (19-for-41 FG) against the Cavaliers.
Lewis put up 15.6 PPG, and 4.3 RPG with eight three pointers made.
With Varejao being the player to most likely defend Lewis, Rashard will have to step up (just like in the Boston series) and take advantage of the matchup.
Shard could live and die on the three-point line, forcing Varejao to hang out around the arc on defense. Lewis can also attack the hoop, making himself an extremely vulnerable 6'10" forward to defend.
The Rest and Sweep Factor
The Cavaliers have not played a playoff game in the last eight days. For some people, eight days is not much, but for NBA professional athletes, it seems like a decade. The Cavaliers are used to playing NBA games practically each and every day.
With a great load of rest on their hands, you can really expect Cleveland to come out pretty rusty in Game One.
Yes, they swept both teams they have faced thus far, but the one question that is brought about is, were those teams even that competitive? Did the Cavaliers really have to put in 100 percent effort to sweep them?
I am going to answer both of those questions: no and no. The Cavaliers breezed through both rounds of the playoffs. They have not matched up against a contending team yet, just pretenders.
Facing a confident Orlando squad, the Cavaliers could really be in for a serious surprise.
Luckily for the Magic, they were able to experience a second-round playoff series that went all the way to seven games, against the defending champions. With that on their side, Orlando already has the adrenaline and upper hand.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
After ending the season with the best record in the league and sweeping through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavaliers look to advance past the Eastern Conference Finals and straight to the NBA Finals.
They will have a tough time facing the Magic, as most of their players will need to produce large numbers, aside from King James.
If James cannot attack the hoop, the Cavs will be in big trouble.
Cleveland has home court advantage and ended the season with a phenomenal record of 39-2 at home. If they can pull out their first two victories at home, the Cavs will obviously have the upper hand throughout the remainder of the series.
Mo Williams vs. Rafer Alston
Both are street ballers, both do not take s**t from nobody.
Williams is more of a shooting guard inside a point guard's body. He loves to shoot from three-point range and is extremely effective in doing so, shooting nearly 40 percent during the season.
What Williams lacks that Alston thrives in is defending. Williams averaged less than a steal per game throughout the season and is posting 0.5 steals per game in the playoffs.
Alston averaged 1.4 SPG on the season and is picking pockets 1.6 times per game during the playoffs.
This matchup will be another exciting one.
Game One begins on Wednesday at 8:30 on TNT.
Magic in Six.