Chase's Lists: Five Keys To Victory For The Orlando Magic
We started the NBA playoffs in April with 16 teams vying for basketball's ultimate prize.
After nearly two months of all-out war, the dust has settled and only two teams remain.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who were expected from game one of the regular season to be in the Finals, and the Orlando Magic, who ruined the dream Kobe Bryant-LeBron James series by upsetting the Cavaliers in six games.
The Magic are not just content with being in the Finals, and why should they be?
They have one of the league's best young players in Dwight Howard, and may have one of the greatest collection of perimeter shooters ever on one team.
The Magic deserve to be here no doubt. Here are five things they will have to do to shock the world and get their hands on The Larry O'Brien Trophy:
5. Avoid The Feeling Out Process
The NBA Finals is the biggest stage in professional basketball, for two weeks the sporting worlds eyes are on you. Every little moment is broken down the next day on the blogosphere and ESPN. This can distract a players focus.
The Lakers have been here before and their players know what to expect.
For the Magic, this is an entirely new experience. Most of their players have never reached the Finals, and it could be a nerve-rattling experience. The Magic can not afford to be nervous if they are to win, they need to be on the attack from tip-off of game one to the final horn of the deciding game.
4. Rafer Alston Needs To Be Consistent
Rafer Alston is one of the best stories in the NBA Finals this year. He has went from an And1 Mixtape Tour veteran and streetball legend to a starting point guard on a NBA Finals roster.
At times, Alston looks like one of the game's elite guards. At other times, he looks like he couldn't even run the point for your YMCA squad.
It is safe to say Alston is streaky. The Magic need Alston to be on his game all series. If he is, the Magic definitely will hold the advantage at the point guard position.
3. The Fans Need To Be Rowdy
Orlando is not a sports town, let's get this straight.
They have only had the Magic for twenty years and it is the city's only pro sports team. This could either work out to be the Magic's advantage or disadvantage.
From what I've seen, the Magic have good, loud fans who seem to share a passion for their team. The problem is keeping the rich, bandwagon jumpers out during the Finals and keeping the fans that supported them all year.
The crowd is an underrated factor in basketball. The roar of the crowd can throw off many things for the opposing team, such as play calls and free-throws.
If a team's crowd is behind them, it can lift their players to a higher level than they have on the road, as we see with the Utah Jazz every year. If the Magic have that kind of energy in Amway Arena, it could get the young players on the Magic going.
2. Dwight Howard Needs to Hit His Free Throws
During The Eastern Conference Finals, Dwight Howard had some of the best moments of his career—especially from the free throw line, where he shot better than his abysmal career average of 50%.
If they Magic are to have a repeat performance of the Conference Finals, Howard will need to have the same—if not better—performance he brought to the table against the Cavs.
He will be going against Pau Gasol, who isn't the greatest defender. However, Gasol is an upgrade over what Cleveland was sending out to guard Howard, who has the skill set to change a series with his shot blocking and post defense.
If he wants his first ring, that's what he'll have to do.
1. Perimeter Shooting
The Magic have some of the best outside shooting you will witness in your lifetime.
They have the ability to hit 30 and still shoot a high percentage. This prevents teams from doubling down on Dwight Howard and gives them a deadly inside-out chess match with opposing coaches.
Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest mind to ever coach in the NBA. He will have to figure a way to stop the pick-your-poison game the Magic have been riding all season.
The downside of this is most of the Magic players are streaky from beyond the arc and the key might just be to slow them down at the beginning of the halves, thus slowing down their confidence and taking them out of their game.
This series might just come down to whether the Magic continue their hot shooting, or whether the Lakers finally step up and figure out a way to stop it.
Basketball's biggest stage awaits these two teams and I personally can't wait till Thursday night.
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