Tonight we’ll see the first game of the 2009 NBA finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic. ESPN likes to point out that these cities both contain Disney theme parks, a form of subliminal advertising since ESPN is part of ABC, which is part of Disney.
Lets look at how these teams got here. Both teams won their conference finals series in 6 games, L.A. defeating Denver and Orlando taking care of first-seeded Cleveland. It seems like Kobe and the Lake Show have been destined for the finals since day one but Orlando’s first finals appearance since the Shaq days is seen by most people as a surprise. There has been a lot of advertising about a possible Kobe-Lebron finals, but it was not meant to be. The Magic took care of the Cavaliers in 6 games despite an incredible performance from LeBron James.
Dwight Howard and friends were able to stop the one-man show from Akron, but this L.A. team is an entirely different animal. Kobe Bryant is one of the best – maybe the best – players in the league, and on top of that they have a talented roster that, unlike the Cavaliers, is capable of putting together a complete team effort (See Conference Finals Game 6. Five guys in double figures).
The key to this series will be the Lakers’ ability to defend Dwight Howard and the three-point shooters of Orlando. Cleveland frequently left Pietrus, Lewis, Alston and Turkoglu wide open while trying to double-team Howard, a strategy that didn’t work because the Cavaliers big men were unable to defend him, even with help. If the Lakers play up to their potential, they should be able to figure something out to slow them down. I’ll take Gasol, Bynum, and Odom over Ilgauskas and Varejao any day, and Phil Jackson’s track record as a coach is reason enough to think they’ll do a better job defending than Cleveland did.
Defending Kobe and the Lakers will be a tough task for Orlando. For the Lakers to win Kobe must be a facilitator for the team (they were 36-6 in the regular season when he had 5 or more assists) and Pau Gasol must contribute with both points and rebounds, which will be difficult if he gets into foul trouble trying to defend Howard. Both teams will get their points. I think the team that comes up with the best game plan defensively will win the series.
My Pick: Lakers defend home court, steal one in Orlando and win in 6. Agree? Disagree? Hit me up on twitter: @thesportsgeeks.