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Magic-Lakers: The Final Grade and Ultimate Preview

Brandon Ribak@reebokforthreeSenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers holds the all away from Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magicon January 16, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Magic won 109-103.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The NBA Finals are here!

Two things a serious basketball fan is thinking right up to this point, either this is awesome I cannot wait to see Kobe Bryant take on Dwight Howard. Or this sucks, after the Finals are done, there will be no more basketball for months.

Lucky for you downers, there is still the NBA Draft, offseason trades, and offseason signings!

So don't get too upset that your team didn't make the Finals, there is always next season!

Moving on to the Magic-Lakers Preview.

Offense

The Lakers have an extremely effective overall offense. They ranked third in the NBA in most points per game, dropping 106.2 points a night, sixth in field goal percentage, shooting 51.3 percent, and 16th in three-point percentage, knocking down 36.4 percent of the three-pointers shot.

Los Angeles is composed of tall forwards and centers who are highly depended upon their small and very inconsistent guards.

Lakers Grade—A

The Magic live and die from the three-point line. They ranked 12th in the league in points per game, averaging 100.6.

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They were third in the NBA in field goal percentage, nailing 52.0 percent of their shots taken, and seventh in the league in three-point percentage, shooting 37.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Orlando relies heavily on the three-point shot.

Dwight Howard posts up down low and either attacks the hoop or sets up his teammates, who surround the three-point line for the open trey.

Orlando Grade—A-

Defense

LA ranked 13th in the league in points allowed per game, giving up 98.7 points. They forced their opponents to shoot 48.6 percent from the field, which ranked seventh in the NBA and were third in the league in opponents three-point shooting, making the opposing team shoot a whopping 33.9 percent from beyond the three-point line.

The Lakers stole the ball 8.6 times per game, ranking third in the league in that category and sixth in the league in blocks per game, swatting the ball on an average of 5.4 per night.

Lakers Defense—B+

O-town held their opponents to just 94.2 PPG, ranking fifth in the league in the category.

They led the entire NBA in field goal percentage allowed and opponents three-point shooting percentage, making their opponents shoot only 46.9 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

The Magic ranked twenty second in steals per game with just 7.0 a night and eighth in the NBA in blocks per game with 5.2 per game.

Defense—A

Overview of Offense and Defense

While the Lakers averaged more points and steals per game throughout the entire season, the Magic shot much better from the field and three-point line. Additionally the Magic are holding their opponents from shooting an effective field goal and three-point percentage.

During the season, Orlando faced the Lakers twice, once at the Amway Arena and once at the Staples Center. The Magic won both games, averaging a winning scoring margin of just three points.

Orlando held LA to an average of 103 PPG (106.2 PPG on the season), while shooting just 40.6 percent from the field (51.3 percent on the season) and 33.9 percent from the three-point line (36.4 percent on the season) during the two games.

While the Lakers clearly struggled against the Magic, Orlando managed to average 107.5 PPG (100.6 PPG on the season), 44.3 percent from the field (52.0 percent on the season), and 43.7 percent from the three-point line (37.8 percent on the season) during the two games.

According to the stats, the Magic seemed to have the better numbers when facing up against the Lakers.

In a seven game series, I would much rather be on a team that can prevent their opponents from shooting well from the field and three-point line, than being on a team that steals the ball and scores slightly more per game.

Winner of overall offense and defense—Orlando

Matchups

Point Guard—Rafer Alston vs. Derek Fisher

Alston averages more points, rebounds, assists, and steals than Fisher. During the playoffs, Alston has put up much bigger numbers and has been way more reliable than Fisher has.

On a team like LA, the point-guard position is not as effective as it is for a team like Orlando.

Grade—Lakers—C 

          Magic—C+

Shooting Guard—Courtney Lee vs. Kobe Bryant

The obvious, do I need to explain myself? A rookie guarding one of the best all time players in the NBA. Don't get Lee wrong, he is an excellent defender and an above average shooter.

Grade—Lakers—A+

          Magic—B

Small Forward—Hedo Turkoglu vs. Trevor Ariza

Turkoglu is Orlando's go-to-guy late in the game. He is depended upon to hit the big shot and most of the time, he actually does. Throughout the playoffs thus far Turkoglu has been no short of spectacular.

Ariza is more of a defender and three-point shooter. He can attack the hoop with enthusiasm and is not afraid of anyone on the court.

Grade—Lakers—C+

          Magic—A

Power Forward—Rashard Lewis vs. Pau Gasol

Lewis is an extremely versatile power forward. He has the ability to hit the three-pointer and attack the hoop as well.

Gasol is a seven-footer that plays more like a center than a forward. He is great on the post up and can knock down the open jumper.

When the two face up against each other, Gasol will be forced to play Lewis on the perimeter. Since Lewis is quicker than Gasol, he will have the opportunity to blow by the forward and attack the basket.

On the other end, Lewis will have to step up and play aggressive defense on the seven foot Spaniard.

Grade—Lakers—A

           Magic—A


Center—Dwight Howard vs. Andrew Bynum

D-Howard will have another field day, just like he had against the Cavaliers. He is virtually unstoppable on both offense and defense.

Bynum will have a very tough time containing Howard under the hoop and it will inevitably result in foul trouble on the young center.

Bynum has clearly not been himself since the return of his injury and is not averaging anything close to his breakout numbers.

Either Bynum must really step up on the defensive end, or LA will have to find another way to prevent Howard from posting major numbers.

Grade—Lakers—C+

           Magic—A+

The X-Factors—Mickael Pietrus vs. Lamar Odom

Pietrus stepped up during the Eastern Conference Finals knocking down practically every three-pointer in sight.

During the Western Conference Finals, Odom really came out to play in one of the games, proving that he has the ability to absolutely dominate in any series.

Whichever player is able to produce more, will ultimately help their team win the Finals.

Grade—Lakers—B+

           Magic—B

The Rest of the Bench

The rest of the bench consists of Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, and Sasha Vujacic.

Each of these players can shoot the three-ball, but not much production is expected of them otherwise, as they do not have a big impact on the Lakers overall game.

The Magic bench is compiled of Anthony Johnson, Marcin Gortat, and Tony Battie.

When Gortat comes into the game he does nothing but produce on both ends of the court.

Anthony Johnson shoots an above average percentage from the field, plays aggressive by attacking the hoop, and can hit the open three-ball.

The Orlando bench has been tremendous in the playoffs thus far.

Grade—Lakers—C-

           Magic—B

That is the final grade for the NBA Finals. Now it is up to the coaches, players, and their hearts to determine who will ultimately win this series.

I am extremely excited for the series to begin, which starts this Thursday! Be sure to tune in!

Prediction: Magic in Seven—"To be the best, you have to beat the best."

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