So the NBA Finals matchup has been set. But it is no puppet show, as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been knocked out of contention following their Game Six loss in Orlando, ending their season and series 4-2.
Now we must move forward, as the Los Angeles Lakers get ready this Thursday night to host the opening game against the Orlando Magic. The Magic are making their second trip to the big stage in 14 years in the franchise's 20 years, while the Lakers enter their 30th appearance.
The last trip for the Magic ended rather quickly, as the Houston Rockets were ready and waiting, taking a convincing sweep of the Magic, who made it to the big stage after defeating Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers.
To say that their second trip to the finals was easy would be unfounded, as the Magic had to take down several strong competitors along the way and continuously hear about the LeBron/Kobe matchup every day.
To start the playoffs, the Magic hosted the Philadelphia 76ers, where all aspects of the game were similarly close to the other, but the Magic found a Howard-less Game Six enough momentum to close out the series.
Moving onto the Boston Celtics, each team had their share of close wins, but made sure to leave the dagger in long enough to take some large wins as well. Once again, Howard and the Magic found their niche and were able to drop the Celtics.
Their next matchup was huge, as everyone was calling for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just swept both their first round and semi-final opponents to take this series. The Magic had their backs against the wall and fought back hard, nearly sweeping the Cavs only to be saved by a three-point shot from LeBron in Game Two. This series would end 4-2 after the Magic played against a fatigued LeBron James in Game Six, who was averaging roughly 41 points per game.
One of the big keys in this road was certainly the foul trouble Dwight Howard continuously found himself in. Fouls forced a suspension in Game Six against the 76ers, as well as adding up five technicals at the end of the Cleveland series. This may be a huge loophole that the Lakers will definitely try to exploit as they look at ways to take down the big man.
A great ability by the Lakers in their Jazz opening series, was the ability to find openings in the paint, adding to huge numbers. Pau Gasol showed why he is a crucial part to the Laker lineup, adding many points for the Lakers throughout the playoffs.
Time and time again, the Lakers were able to fight off adversity and come back against their opponents, most notably during their Rockets series, which saw the Lakers take a demanding 40-point win in Game Five and finish out the series in L.A. in Game Seven.
Looking back on the regular season, the Orlando Magic swept the Lakers in their series, one by 106-103 and the other, 109-103. Another note to mention is the Magic had Jameer Nelson, who added 27 and 28 points, respectively. This time around, the Magic may be without Nelson, as the Magic are currently looking at their options.
Both benches for each team were relatively close in points. However free throws were certainly in the Lakers favor. As for the Lakers, Vladimir Radmanovic won’t be in the lineup, who contributed many points to the Lakers score as well. That seems fine though, as everyone else around has certainly stepped up when needed.
At the end of it all, both teams will enter the NBA Finals, one a veteran, the other a rookie, and we will see one team be crowned the new champions. Whether it will be Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, or Dwight “Superman” Howard and the Magic remains to be seen, but we can expect a great series nonetheless.