my team was downed in the first round. my adopted team lost in fairly depressing fashion to a more entertaining and probably better team this past saturday. in between, lots of excellent, entertaining basketball was played. and now two teams are left, one being the favorite or second-favorite all season long, and the other being a team considered almost gimmick-y. i’ve had decent luck in the past with these things, so let’s talk about these nba finals.
with the los angeles lakers, you almost know what to expect – good effort some of the time, a general tension between kobe the teammate and kobe the isolation machine (it’s interesting that he is not able to balance this into something generally resembling a good overall basketball player, but this is probably because he’s much better as ‘the closer’ than he is as ‘the distributor’), and at least 3 annoying layup attempts by pau gasol that should be dunks. when they have the ball, they can be remarkable (see: game 6 in denver) or really lackluster (see: houston series in games they lost). if something finally came together in game 6, the magic should be happy if this series goes 5, but i have a feeling we’ll see the same disjointed lakers effort through the series, so they won’t be able to close this one out quickly. on defense, the questions are on pau gasol. if he can keep howard out of the paint and limit the damage, the lakers defense will cause a lot of problems for the magic shooters, but if howard wins that battle handily, the lakers are going to find themselves like cleveland – a good defensive team that is in a whole lot of trouble.
the magic on offense are a lot like a college team superficially – they shoot a ton of 3s and just have the one freak in the middle who causes problems. of course, dwight howard is not merely a freak, he’s turning into a pretty darn good basketball player (that sports guy and his idiot readers keep sleeping on). and also, the magic run a much more varied offense than they get credit for. hedo generates offense from the top, alston can run the pick and roll with dwight, and sometimes they even post up rashard lewis (who remains so very underutilized). my continuing hatred of hedo turkoglu might finally bear out if the lakers put someone on him with quick hands who actively will harass his awkward dribble. if rashard lewis wakes up and realizes he’s still pretty good, that will cancel out any minimization of hedo, but i guess we’ll see if that happens. as the cavaliers found out though, if the howard can force the lakers to double him, the magic will have open threes, and if there is anything the magic can do, it is hit open threes.
the magic on defense have their hands full, but i think their success or failure, fair or not, will be a reflection of how good the lakers play offense. the lakers dominated game 6 against denver, scoring at ease against a very good defensive team that had their backs against the wall. i’m not saying the magic are worse defensively than denver (they are very probably better, though i don’t feel like looking shit up right now), but when that whole lakers team gets clicking, it is pretty impossible to stop.
so i figure the lakers are a stone cold lock to win game 1. i’ll take them -6 every day of the week. game 2 is the make-or-break for the magic. if they win game 2, they can push it to 6, but if they don’t, this will be a lot like that utah series, in which the jazz won game 3 at home, everyone wondered aloud if they were back in the series, but they weren’t at all and the lakers cruised in 5. so, i guess i give the magic either 1 or 2 wins, but i don’t see how this series goes 7 and i definitely don’t see how the magic overcome a team as stacked as the lakers.