June 3, 2009

Lakers-Magic 2009 NBA Finals Preview

The Los Angeles Lakers are back at the NBA Finals, and they are poised to put the 2008 NBA Finals defeat behind them. This year, the Lakers are a grizzled & tested team that weathered physical match-ups against the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets. Now they get the Beast of the East: The Orlando Magic.

The Magic sweep the Lakers in the regular season, but as we found out in the Lakers-Rockets match-up (where the Lakers swept the Rockets 4-0), the regular season records don't mean squat in the NBA playoffs. Also, the Magic are now playing Rafer Alston on the point, in lieu of the injured Jameer Nelson. Nelson scorched the Lakers in their regular season meetings.

The Lakers will also face a tough center in Dwight Howard. Howard will be the team's first major frontline opponent, an inside force that makes Yao Ming and Nene look like little school girls. Howard's inside game makes the three-point shooters of the Magic happy recipients of passes off double-teams in the paint.

In consideration of these things, here's what I think are the important factors for the Lakers:

  • Team Defense - To offset the Magic's strengths, the Lakers will rely on their depth for defense. Lamar Odom and Luke Walton off the bench to defend the Magic forwards will be key. I predict Phil Jackson will rely on single coverage from Andrew Bynum to defend Dwight Howard, so quick defensive rotation from Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza will be important to stifle the inside-outside attack.
  • Triangle Offense Execution - Like what happened in the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets, the Lakers have to execute the triangle offense crisply in order to out-pace the Magic offensively. Pau Gasol is the offensive X-Factor for the Lakers-- as long as he can keep the Magic front-line play honest defense on him, he can throw good inside passes to cutting Lakers like Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom.
  • Point Guard Play - With the absence of Jameer Nelson, point guard play in the series virtually becomes a free-for-all. This position has been the Lakers' weakest since the playoffs began. Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmer had moments, but over-all, their play is spotty. It remains to be seen how they will respond against Rafer Alston and Anthony Johnson. I see that the team with the better PG performance will have the upper hand.
  • Kobe Bryant - How will Kobe respond to the duo of Mickeal Pietrus and Courtney Lee, a pair of athletic defensive stoppers who were able to stop LeBron James in the Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals? Kobe had little challenge from Dahntay Jones in the previous round, and I see Kobe shredding the Frenchman and the rookie in the Finals.

With the better offensive execution and team depth, the Lakers have the means to close out the Magic to win the NBA Championship.

My prediction: Lakers in 5.


1 comment:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snnEdabQOvE&feature=channel_page



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