Let me be one of the few that will say I’m glad we are not seeing the Cavaliers play the Lakers. This is not to say I don’t want to see the matchup of the puppets of Lebron against Kobe, just that the Magic are simply a better team. After all we were one miracle shot away from seeing a Magic sweep over the Cavs.
But back to the real Finals. Seeing Phil Jackson in the playoffs over the past few years tells me that there is something that is yet to be seen—a new strategy, rotation, and who knows, maybe even suiting up Sun Yue. Jackson love the idea of surprise, so you can be sure that the Lakers will not be the same ones we’ve seen over these playoffs. However, we can always count on seeing the beautiful triangle offense.
This has worked over two decades and brought success to Jackson’s teams. The offense relies on players being active without the ball and forcing the defense to play one-on-one or take a gamble on someone’s open shot. The offense is somewhat basic, but the Lakers perform it to perfection.
Because of the Lakers’ size and athleticism, a majority of the points should come within 15 feet of the basket. Odom, Gasol, and Bynum all have seven-foot wingspans. When they pass inside the key, they keep the ball above their heads, and you can almost count on a dunk. Of course, that won't stop Kobe from taking his long range jumpers and three point shots.
The Magic will need to use their length to cover the floor to prevent the Lakers from scoring. Dwight Howard needs to stay out of foul trouble. The Lakers love to attack the basket when they are guarded one-on-one which could lead to Howard exiting the game early. If that happens, it should be a fun night for Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.
While the Lakers have many options, the Magic are quite the offensive team themselves. Everyone knows about Superman, his giant grin, as well as his goofy dance moves off the court. He has excellent body control and knows how to use his size around the basket. He is excellent on defense and dares slashers to score a layup over him. His domination inside the paint allows open looks for Turkoglu, Lewis, and more recently Alston.
The possible return of Jameer Nelson could allow the Magic to have another option. Like the Lakers, the Magic rely on fast ball movement and open looks to get the ball to either their shooter or Howard in the middle. The Lakers will need to always keep a body (or two) on Howard in order to limit his offensive rebounds.
Statistically, this shapes up to be an exciting offensive series with both teams having multiple weapons. The winner of the series will come down to a few factors—point guard play and defense. Fisher has been outplayed in every series thus far. Alston has been extremely underrated and has come through at crucial times. However, Fisher has loads more experience while this is Alston’s first trip to the big stage.
Nelson has expressed a desire to return, but has not played in four months. Are the Magic really willing to let his first game back be an NBA finals game? It should be an interesting matchup but could be one of the determining factors in terms of momentum shifts.
We all know the saying “Defense wins championships.” It will definitely hold true as both teams have multiple and excellent offensive weapons. Whoever makes the crucial stops will hoist the title.
I have to say that the Magic inexperience on this stage leads me to predict the Magic will make careless turnovers giving the Lakers the title. Sorry Magic, you guys are great but better luck next year. Lakers in five.