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L.A. Lakers' Pivot Points: Five Potholes on the Road to a Repeat, Part 4

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer INovember 24, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers passes the ball over Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in the first half of Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena 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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The last segment of this series featured the Cleveland Cavaliers, the first Eastern Conference team that the Los Angeles Lakers might face in the NBA Finals in their quest for a repeat.

The Orlando Magic are another team that could potentially give the Lakers fits if they were to reach the Finals in what would be a rematch of last year's fight for the NBA crown.

The Magic match up well with the Lakeshow and have the type of bench that could be a plus if the pairing were to happen. They also have the revenge factor on their side, which can't be taken lightly.

The roster of the Magic is impressive and is highlighted by the acquisition of shooting guard Vince Carter, who brings a different dimension to the team than the departed Hedo Turkoglu.

Many observers felt that the Magic would drop off after signing Carter, but his presence has been a comfortable fit and the defense he brings is better than anything Turkoglu ever conjured.

Besides his defense, Carter is adept at getting to the rim and shoots the deep ball as well or better than Turkoglu. One knock may be that Carter shoots the ball to much and often leaves teammates unprepared to capture a stray rebound.

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He also has the tendency to become uninterested and that could be a major factor if the Magic are able to advance to the Finals. This is something that has plagued Carter his whole career and is likely something the Magic will have to adjust to.

Carter didn't make the trek from New Jersey alone. Power forward Ryan Anderson came with him. Anderson presents a whole different set of challenges for the Lakers.

He could be the sleeper for the Magic because his unique skill-set gives him the ability to drift from the perimeter to the post with ease and his large frame makes him a potential terror on the boards.

The Magic's post depth doesn't end with Anderson by any means. The signing of Brandon Bass and the ability to retain Martin Gorcat gives Orlando the post strength to deal with the Lakers' formidable frontline.

The backcourt has been hurt by the injury of Jameer Nelson and he has to be healthy for the Magic to have a legitimate chance. His penetration is something that could cause the Lakers' endless trouble.

Jason Williams is a competent back-up but he lacks the skills to present the same problems that Nelson does and is much better suited for a reserve role.

Mikel Pietrus is a player familiar with the Lakers and won't be in awe of them if they should meet again. He had limited success guarding Kobe Bryant and is a capable enough defender to cause Bryant problems.

The addition of Matt Barnes gives the Magic another defender to throw at Bryant and, along with Carter and Pietrus, gives Orlando multiple options when confronted with that sizable task.

Of course the anchor of Orlando's team is center Dwight Howard. He more than any other member of the team is anxious for a rematch.

The Lakers were able to counter Howard with the combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The two big men were able to neutralize Howard and take him out of his comfort spot.

Although Howard is a physical beast, his post skills dimmed in comparison to Gasol and Bynum, who may be the most fundamentally sound post combination in the NBA.

He has to improve his footwork in the post and his ability to play with his back to the basket if the Magic are to avoid a repeat of what happened in last season's Finals.

Stan Van Gundy is as underrated a coach as they come and actually may have out-coached Laker legend Phil Jackson in a couple of games.

In the end, though, the coaches matter little as the skills of the players take over. In critical end-game situations, the Magic failed miserably, looking unprepared to meet the Lakers' challenge.

If Orlando is able to force a rematch, they will have to show growth and the ability to learn from their various mistakes in last year's Finals, or they are doomed to repeat them.

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