Prediction: Lakers in six.
The Magic easily outplayed the Lakers twice during the regular season. That, however, came with Jameer Nelson healthy and leading the team in scoring on both occasions.
While Alston has filled in admirably, he is not the type of quick scoring point guard who regularly torches the Lakers for big points.
The Magic's biggest edge here is their three-point shooting. Easily the best in the league, the Magic have shot the three historically well this season and the Lakers have defended it poorly, in part due to their zone defense.
If Howard can score 25-30 points per game in the series (on decent shooting), the Magic could well be unstoppable, as the Lakers would be unable to counter the three-point shooters as well as Howard.
Los Angeles, however, has 12 fouls to give off its bench in the form of DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell, and that is after facing the physical Andrew Bynum.
Howard will have to hit his free throws in this series even more than against Cleveland. It is therefore not a given that Orlando will get its own way down low and from beyond the arc.
The Magic will have problems of their own. Howard is going to have to help defending Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza as well as Bynum, meaning foul trouble could be a big problem.
With perimeter defenders the likes of Bryant, Ariza, Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic, the Magic's three-point shooters will likely have a much harder job against the Lakers than against Cleveland, and the Lakers are a deeper and better offensive team than Orlando.
On top of this, the Lakers have just hit their stride in the last two games against Denver. If the Lakers can get five or more players in double figures— four Lakers are averaging 10+ppg in the playoffs— and Kobe Bryant can get five or more assists, the title is theirs.
In the end, the vastly more experienced Lakers have the easier goal and more to work with. With Nelson, this prediction would be Magic in seven.