Lakers-Magic: Can L.A.'s Frontline Matchup With Superman?
My prediction: L.A. wins the Finals in six.
If I'm wrong, it will be because Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and the great DJ Mbenga allowed Dwight Howard to run wild.
The Lakers have finesse, speed, and length. All of which can work in their favor against the one-dimensional All-Power-All-the-Time Dwight Howard.
Phil Jackson needs to stress making Howard uncomfortable, by putting him on the line, making him a shooter, and forcing him to pass. If L.A. can deny the interior game, and make Orlando settle for threes, they'll have a much better shot.
Let's see what the Lakers' frontcourt can do to stop Howard.
At 7'0" Gasol has a height/length advantage on the 6'11" Howard. He should try to disrupt a few shots to make Howard a passer.
Gasol will be assigned to Howard most of the time. He is predominantly a finesse player. Howard will most likely back him down. Gasol needs to deny Howard the ball on the block.
This means fronting him. Howard has no range. If Gasol allows Superman the freedom to establish himself early, things might get ugly.
Gasol needs to make Howard a free-throw shooter, and a jump shooter. Howard barely shoots 50 percent from the line. Hack-a-Shaq should help to stop the bleeding if Howard goes on a tear.
Man, sounds like another Orlando Big who used to call himself Superman—doesn't it?
Gasol also averages 2.6 assists a game. If L.A. can get the ball into the post, they can use their speed advantage to get easy buckets. Sending cutters when Gasol has the ball will definitely be effective against the slower Howard.
Much like Gasol, Odom is a finesse player who might be overpowered by Howard. He needs to use his length, his speed, and his outside shooting to take Howard away from the basket.
Odom and Gasol's job on offense will be to get Howard out of the paint for Kobe to create dribble penetration. Odom has hit more than a few clutch threes to provide an outside threat that can get Howard to move out of his comfort zone.
When Gasol is fronting Superman, Odom needs to provide weak-side help. Most likely he will have to leave Rashard Lewis, who often times hovers around the three-point line. Trevor Ariza will have to rotate to Lewis.
L.A. will have to live with the three and die with the three. If Lewis gets hot it could be a long series. If Howard gets established in the post, the outside game will open up.
It all starts with providing weak-side help. The Zen-Master may need to play Mbenga and Chris Mihm to fill some holes.
Bynum is the closest thing LA has to a powerful interior presence. He will need to power-up with Howard (if that's possible).
Hitting a few jumpers on offense will help, but Bynum needs to work on the intangibles.
Forcing Howard to shoot from beyond 10 feet, putting him on the line, perhaps disrupting a few shots, and not allowing Orlando to get out into transition by getting blocked—these are Bynum's jobs.
Oh yeah, and boxing out. Does anybody even do that in the NBA?
Phil ackson needs to stress "Putting a Body" on Howard. Bynum will be that body when Gasol needs a rest.
All in all, the Lakers have more depth in their front court. They should outlast Orlando, who will probably ride Howard pretty hard. If they can counter-act his power with their length, finesse, and speed, LA should win in 6.