2009 NBA Finals: Champions Will Earn Their Prize
By David A. Lane Predictem.com
This year’s edition of the ‘Associations’ prize tussle smacks of something special and personally, it’s taking a bit too long to get started. Sure the hype is good because it and the layoff between series heightens our expectations of what’s about to take place- even if often times we are let down in the end- because we begin to miss the action as both a fan and a gambler. The Los Angeles Lakers versus the Orlando Magic should be everything but a letdown as these two heavyweights will square off starting Thursday night in a best of seven series for the ages.
Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant bring the star power to the match up, and, as important as each is to their respective teams, it
will very likely be decided by the play of others. The stars will get theirs night in and night out but what will make a difference will be clutch shooting by other members of each squad because the stars can’t score all the points. This is a team sport and often times the media along with the fans center in on one player and his accomplishments while losing focus on that fact. The NBA champion this year as it has been almost always will be the best TEAM that emerges from this series.
Matchups are important but can be overrated, however, at center the Magic
win having Dwight Howard (21.7 PPG 15.4 RPG 2.2 BLK in post season) who
is a much more complete and consistent player than is the Lakers Andrew
Bynum (6.3PPG 3.6RPG in post season/14.3 PPG 8 RPG reg. season). The athleticism
he has will eat up Bynum making the Lakers double team him and creating
an open shot for someone else. His awesome shot blocking ability will change
and intimidate the Lakers offense in the interior while his rebounding will
limit any second shot opportunity- advantage Magic.
At power forward, Lakers Pau Gasol (18.3PPG 2.6APG 11.3RPG playoffs) against Hedo Torkaglu (15.2 PPG 5.1APG 4.5RPG playoffs) is quite a battle. Both foreign players are among the best in the world and they fill up the statistical categories usually always. Picking your poison here would be tough because Hedo is about the most versatile player around playing every position including point guard this season while Gasol stays in the paint mostly. Score this one a push.
Small forward gives us Lamar Odom (12PPG 9.5RPG 2.1APG) v Rashard Lewis (19.4 PPG 2.8 APG 6.1 RPG playoffs), both very accomplished players that run a bit streaky. Lewis is more a 3-point shooter than Odom but both can play in the paint and get to the free throw line. They are also very good scorers and whether or not one or the other breaks out in the Finals is very likely going to be key to winning the series. Once again, this on paper looks like a push.
The shooting guard position pits Kobe Bryant (29.6PPG 4.9APG 5.3RPG playoffs) against Courtney Lee (8.8PPG 2APG 1.6RPG) and is a mismatch for the Lakers. They will try and exploit this as best they know how and as they did during the regular season. Kobe averaged 34.5 in the two meetings and unless the Magic do something different to contain him- count on a big series from him.
At point guard the Lakers have Derek Fisher (7.1PPG 1.8RPG 2.4APG post season) while the Magic will counter with either Rafer Alston (12.7PPG 2.5RPG 4.4APG playoffs) or perhaps Jameer Nelson (16.7PPG 3.5RPG 5.4APG regular season) if he can get cleared from the injured list. Either way, the Magic win this one as Fisher hasn’t had very special playoff experience thus far and Alston has been more than capable. Advantage at this position goes to the Magic thanks to their speed, scoring, steals, and ability to find the open man. What should be even more worrisome to the Lakers is the fact that both can play during the series- giving the Magic even more firepower on an already deep bench.
Speaking of the bench, it has meant a lot to the Magic in big series victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, proving that the game is more about team than it is one player who carries his team. The Magic will have one of the point guards listed above on the bench, versatile Mikael Pietrus (10.5PPG 2.7RPG .6APG playoffs) who could start anywhere in the league, J.J. Reddick (6.2PPG 1.4RPG 1.9APG playoffs) a clutch college three point shooter who’s coming into his own, and guard Anthony Johnson (4.3PPG 1.4RPG 1.1APG playoffs), for Coach Stan Van Gundy to choose from. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson’s squad is filled out by Luke Walton (3.8PPG 2.6RPG 2.5APG playoffs), Trevor Ariza (11.4PPG 3.7RPG 2.6APG playoffs), Shannon Brown (5.7PPG 1.3RPG .7APG playoffs), and Jordan Farmar (5.1PPG 1.5RPG 2.1APG playoffs), all good NBA players but not quite as talented as Orlando’s. Key here is really the fact that Jameer Nelson returns because he was having a career year and averaged 27 points against the Lakers in the two games during the regular season- check goes to the Magic.
From a bettor’s perspective, the Magic also look to be the pick having won and covered in four out of the last five meetings and won outright three of the last four. Add to that the Lakers 1-10-1 record ATS in its last 12 finals appearances and you just might be on to something. The Magic have also covered in seven of the last eight contests while the Lakers have struggled to cover against the NBA’s Southeast division doing so only two times out of their last 12 tries.
Many times a huge winner take all series such as this can end up not living up to its billing- often losing viewers and interest as the series swings decisively towards the champs to be. This one however includes two of the best road teams in the league somewhat minimizing the home court effect which currently resides with the Lakers. ATS on the road the Magic were 26-14-1 while the Lakers were 23-19 for the season- both of which proved to be great indications of playoff success to come. The fact that neither team is intimidated on an opponent’s home court totally points to this being a competitive and wildly exciting match up.
Winning the whole enchilada for either team is dependant mostly on the play of the complimentary players who can make or break things with their play. Though the Lakers do have the playoff experience on their side, Orlando has played like nothing less than champs in this long and grueling playoff run. They do seem very hungry, having been slighted (at least in their eyes) and feeling disrespected. To be short, that is a chip they have on their shoulder and the Lakers best not let up at all or take these Magic lightly. As a gambler, my feeling is the Magic are an extreme value as the Lakers annually are overpriced due to a variety of factors mainly dealing with popularity and proximity to Las Vegas. Orlando wins it all in seven games after a decisive victory that takes place on the Lakers home court.