Magic-Lakers: Three Burning Questions While Waiting for Amazing to Happen

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30: Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic stretches before Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

(Above: Stretch, Hedo. You'll need fresh legs.)

We can talk about Dwight Howard's 40 points and 14 rebounds that led the Magic past the Cavaliers' in game five.

Or we can talk about LeBron James giving the Magic the cold shoulder, neglecting to shake hands and congratulate them.

Or, we can talk about what's ahead of us-what really matters-and which guy will be responsible for pulling off yet another upset in these remarkable playoffs.

With the pun completely intended, this has been a flat-out magical run. While the Magic are the final Eastern Conference team standing, there have been no words lost on Chicago, Boston, or Cleveland.

All three of those other teams had a part in making these playoffs interesting—and while James would prefer not to give credit where credit is due, they definitely deserve a shout-out, of sorts.

But a thank you is a thank you, for a reason. It means something is done and over with-that you're no longer a part of this. At least, usually. And in this case, it's dead on.

It's all down to the Magic and Lakers. The NBA will spin it off as Kobe Bryant versus Dwight Howard, undoubtedly—but I'm here to ensure that you see this series for what it is.

This Orlando Magic team is exceptionally well-balanced. They play effective offense, balancing and switching their approach from the inside game with Dwight Howard, to the outside shooting with just above every other player they have.

And the same goes for them defensively.

Howard controls the paint, while Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu continue to turn in underrated defensive efforts.

Hell, even J.J. Redick was shutting down Ray Allen in the Boston series.

Believe it or not, we may have an ending that couldn't have been predicted.

No Celtics. No Lakers. No Michael Jordan, Kobe, or Shaq. Oh, and those pesky San Antonio Spurs?  They were gone before these playoffs started.

So here we are, the unlikely Magic marching into L.A. ready to give the predictable favorites the good fight.

But do they stand a chance? Uh, yeah...

1. The Lakers aren't soft, but...

While Boston labeled this same Lakers team as soft and passive last season (and to a degree, they were right), that certainly isn't the case anymore.

Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum (depending on how much he plays) will surely give Orlando better matchup fits than Cleveland could.

Of course, let's not forget about Kobe Bryant's ability to be more than effective on both ends of the floor, which should surely tire out Mickael Pietrus and co., as Bryant is a much more versatile threat than James was.

While James was stronger and better at getting to the rim/line, Bryant has better range, shot selection, and has better control of his game.

If Orlando wants to stop Bryant, they'll have to cross their fingers, pray, and mimic whatever happens in their dreams. Because regardless of what the rest of the world might say, think, or believe, Bryant is a better all-around player than James, and we're about to be shown why.

With that said, it's also painfully obvious that this Orlando team is too resilient to just fall over and let Bryant destroy them all by himself.

There needs to be at least one or two more guys that drop 30 points in a couple of games for Bryant's efforts to mean anything.

Ultimately, this series hinges on the success of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol.

2. Will Jameer Nelson's Presence Matter?

Yes, but it's almost too big of a risk.

First, if he comes back, you have to deal with the playing time issue, as well as his rust and awareness.

However, Nelson is strong enough to handle both Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar on both ends of the court, and would easily be an upgrade of Rafer Alston, making the offense more fluid.

However (and secondly), Nelson could destroy the chemistry, while taking away minutes from a guy or two that could potentially have a huge impact.

The old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." rings especially true here.

3. It's not Kobe vs. Dwight, And It Never Will Be

I'm sure we'll see Howard blocking Bryant and others, and we'll also see Bryant throwing up miraculous shots, hitting j's right in the faces of defenders, a la Shane Battier, and such.

But this isn't about superstar against superstar.

The Cleveland series showed us that.

If anything, this is about Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, their underrated toughness, and whether or not they and the other shooters can stay hot.

The success of Orlando probably begins with Howard, but here on the limb I am cautiously hanging my NBA Finals predictions on, I suspect Turkoglu will either rise as the unlikely hero, or fall as the scapegoat that didn't show up.

And it doesn't have to be his 29 points in Game Five versus Cleveland. He doesn't have to even be all over the boards as he was in his last four games (at least six in each game).

Oh, and with Nelson's potential return, he may not even have the pressure of carrying the offense in his hands every play as he had been doing against Cleveland and Boston.

However, his moxie and leadership may be the strongest asset Orlando can hope for.

While everyone else will be calling how many games this series will last (see poll), I'll stand idly by, just oozing with 14-year old boy-joy.

Because we, as NBA fans, are finally getting what we deserve.

This is a match-up of the two best teams in this league, and while the star power isn't as great as it could have been, the outcome will be better.

I'm like The Men's Warehouse—I guarantee it.


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