The Los Angeles Lakers are where they are expected to be. Kobe Bryant knew it. Pau Gasol knew it. Phil Jackson knew it. They knew they were better than the west and sure enough they made it with a few minor bumps in the road over the postseason, but where they wanted to be with a spot in the NBA finals.
The Orlando Magic were in the backseat when it came to the Eastern conference. With the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics fighting over the drivers seat for the regular season, the Orlando Magic did not stray far behind.
With injuries to the Celtics' main components and seeing the true Cavaliers come out in the Eastern conference finals, the Magic have emerged as the dark horse in the NBA finals.
The Lakers relied on what it has been relying on all year, Kobe Bryant. Bryant averaged nearly 30 points per game including some clutch performances that enabled his team to squeak out of close games.
The Magic made its way through the East powerhouses thanks in part to one big reason. Dwight Howard who has seen his free throw percentage skyrocket over the past few series, has been averaging near 21 points per game and a playoff leading 15 rebounds per game.
Let the analysis and matchups begin!
Derek Fisher vs. Rafer Alston
Rafer Alston has been a huge contribution to the Orlando Magic, since all star point guard Jameer Nelson went down with a season ending injury. Alston has been erratic where he has posted games from shooting 10 of 17 to the next night shooting 1 of 10.
Derek Fisher on the other hand has just not found his shot at all this postseason shooting at only 35 percent and scoring in double digits only five times. If Alston can somewhat be more consistent with his shooting, the Magic will be gold, he has the advantage in this matchup due to Fisher's terrible shooting touch over the playoffs. Advantage: Magic
Kobe Bryant vs. Courtney Lee
Sorry Courtney, but it's Kobe Bryant. Lee was huge in the Philadelphia series with a number of huge games, but over the conference finals and semifinals, Lee has seen a dropoff in points.
Luckily, Lee's defense has been lockdown for the most part. Bryant as stated before is the reason why the Lakers are this far and if he can continue what he's been doing will be the reason why the Lakers will come out with another banner to add to the rafters. Advantage: Lakers
Trevor Ariza vs. Hedo Turkoglu
Hedo Turkoglu is the 2nd most clutch person in this series and has been stellar at many points in the playoffs with a number of game winners. Turk holds the size advantage over Ariza as well which might cause problems for the small forward.
Ariza has been steady over the postseason usually putting in a consistant effort throughout every game in the playoffs, but he just cannot keep up with Mr. Fourth Quarter. Advantage: Magic
Pau Gasol vs. Rashard Lewis
Just because they're playing the power forward position doesn't mean they have to play the same. While Gasol features a mainly low post game, Lewis features a dangerous 3-point game. Each style could cause problems for their opponent.
If Gasol can post up on Lewis, then the Lakers have the advantage. If Lewis can bring Gasol out to the perimeter for most of the game, the Magic have the advantage. Two entirely different styles of play for two all stars just cannot compare. Advantage: Tie
Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard
They might have near the same body type, but Dwight Howard is an absolute beast. Howard has been the centerpiece for this run through the playoffs and is the reason why the Magic are this far, including a 40 point 14 rebound effort in a decisive game six to close out the Cavaliers.
Bynum is coming off injury and has not yet found that touch that Los Angeles was hoping for, but if he can use his body in the right way, he can cause some problems for Superman. For Dwight though, Bynum is pretty much a mini-Kendrick Perkins. Advantage: Magic
Lakers bench vs. Magic bench
Each bench has been the staple of each others team. Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown have been sparks off the bench for L.A., especially with Odom. When Odom is on his game and scoring, the Lakers are on point as well. The Machine has not been living up to his name and has just been an after thought when on the floor.
The Magic feature Mikael Pietrus who has been stellar throughout the postseason on top of his three-point game, especially in the conference finals where his shooting ended many Cavaliers' runs and chances to come back.
Jameer Nelson will also be coming off injury and will be featured on the bench, but will be at a limited role as not to disrupt the high the Magic are on now. Advantage: Lakers
Phil Jackson vs. Stan Van Gundy
Nine championships vs. 0. Who are you going to take? Not taking anything away from Van Gundy at all though. Being declared as the "master of panic" for the number of times the Magic have blown leads in the regular season and at some points in the postseaon, Van Gundy has brought his team to the finals even with close games throughout the conference finals.
Van Gundy has emerged as one of the top coaches in the league over the past year, but even with lessons learned, the master of zen wins against any coach. Advantage: Lakers
This time of the year gets me depressed considering hockey season and basketball season are both ending and besides baseball, there is not much to watch until September when football season starts.
Nevertheless, this is going to be a great series which features the greatest player in the league and the future of the NBA going at it for one sole reason: to become the next NBA champion.
With all the analysis and matchups drawn out, I'm comfortable saying that even with Dwight Howard dominating the paint, Kobe Bryant will not let his team come this far again only to lose.
Lakers in six