As sure as the Stanley Cup Finals roll around, you can be sure that the NBA Finals are not too far behind. This year, most of us expected King James to hold court and possibly hold up his first Larry O’Brien Trophy. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell that to the Orlando Magic, who blew past the Cavaliers in six games. What they got was a date with the juggernaut of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s what McMullen’s Musings believes will happen in the Finals:
Why the Magic Will Win:
Sweet Redemption, Part One: In 1995, the Magic were swept by the Rockets in their only Finals appearance to this point. Since then, the Magic made it to the Conference Finals only once (a sweep by the Bulls) and the Conference Semifinals only twice (beating the Hawks in 1996 and losing to the Pistons last year). This is a great chance to prove that the Magic belong on the same level with the Celtics and the Cavaliers, and exorcise the demons of 1995.
Anything Is Possible: Remember Kevin Garnett screaming this at the end of last year’s Finals, after the Celtics beat the Lakers? Well, it certainly rings true this year for the Magic. They defeated two top teams to get to this point, including the defending champion Celtics. This certainly probes that they can run with the big boys, and could topple the Lakers if they get on a roll.
The Dwight Howard Show: While one man does not make a team, Dwight “Superman” Howard is a dominating force on the court. He should give headaches to coaches making defensive plans against him. Will it be the deciding factor in this series? No, but it will help the team get the other players open, and give an even bigger defensive headache to the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.
Animation at its Finest: Stan Van Gundy is far and away one of the most animated coaches in the NBA. Not only that, in all but one of his seasons (2005-06, when he resigned from the Heat), he’s made the playoffs, never losing in the first round. That’s helped the Magic this year, and it’ll certainly help their morale in this series. Can he motivate this young team to a Larry O’Brien Trophy? Only time will tell…
Why the Lakers Will Win:
Immaturity: The last time the Magic made it this far (in 1995), the young and brash Magic, led by young guns Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, were swept by the Rockets. While this edition of the Magic are slightly more mature, they are still a young team. The Lakers have been here before (29 times, to be exact), so the bravado of the Finals is just the same old story for this team. The awe of the Finals only lasts for a couple of games, but that’s all it takes to take control of a series.
With A Little Help From My Friends: Kobe Bryant is obviously the core of the Lakers, but he has a great supporting cast behind him. Pau Gasol is dominating around the rim, grabbing almost 10 rebounds a game. They also have experience in Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom, and that spells trouble for the Eastern Conference Champions.
All Hail The Zen Master: Let’s face it; the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, is one of the best coaches in the NBA. His great coaching has earned him nine rings (six with the Bulls and three with the Lakers). That certainly proves his prowess in coaching, and his experience in molding mediocre teams into championship-winning teams to boot. He is certainly the x-factor in this series.
Sweet Redemption, Part Two: Like the Magic, the Lakers are also looking for redemption. They lost to the “Anything Is Possible” Celtics in six games last season. They will be looking to make that last step to the championship, with only Orlando left standing in the way. They have the talent and the experience to do it, and the chance at sweet redemption is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
Prediction: Lakers in seven. Remember the "MADTV" sketch, "Shaq and the Super Lakers?" Now, it’s Kobe and the Super Lakers, only with less focus on Kobe. They are easily the most dominant team in the NBA, and it will show in this series. The Magic will certainly give them a run for their money, but the Lakers will dominate most of the way. Dwight Howard will keep the series exciting, but it won’t be enough to keep the Lakers from their 15th NBA championship and Kobe's first without Shaq.