Thursday, June 4, 2009

NBA Finals Predictions: Part 1

Another series for the Magic, another round of doubters. Like the previous match-ups, everyone’s counting out the Magic in the finals…Not everyone though…Quick question: What has two thumbs and knows Orlando’s going to win? THIS GUY!!! They’ve thrived as underdogs throughout the playoffs, and after this series, they'll have Kobe doing work again after another finals defeat.

Now let’s break down why the Magic will be hoisting the trophy at the end of the day.

First off, the Magic have Superman. Much like no one could stop him in the Cavs series, no one will be able to stop Dwight Howard in the NBA Finals. Seriously, who on the Lakers can guard Dwight? Andrew Bynum and his shaky knees? Pao Gasol and his thin frame? D.J. MBENGA???? The Lakers have no kryptonite on their side in this match-up. In fact, all they have are a squad of Jimmy Olsens to try to stop Superman. This is a huge advantage for the Magic and they’ll look to exploit it the entire series. For the Lakers, they’ll have to decide whether to double team Howard like Cleveland did and see if the Magic finally cool off from behind the arc, or single cover him and take their chances. Either poison the Lakers pick, the Magic will exploit.

When breaking down all the nuances of why Cleveland would beat the Magic, the pundits forgot to look at one area in particular: What happened when the teams played each other. The Magic won the season series 2-1 over the Cavs, yet everyone convienently avoided that stat. Now as we break down the Finals, people are conspicuously leaving out one stat when declaring why the Lakers will easily win the series: The Magic beat them both times they played this year. It's just like the NFL draft experts who avoid 3 to 4 years of actual college tape for 40 yard dash and shuttle times. I’d like to think actual head-to-head comparison playing experience means something, and this year Orlando has beaten the Lakers both match-ups. We can analyze the match up on paper all we want, but the Magic have proven they can beat LA and more importantly KNOW they can beat the LA.

Despite winning the season series, Orlando’s dangerous in the finals because they have the us-against-the-world mentality. No one thought they’d beat the defending champion Celtics. They did. No one thought they’d beat Lebron and the Cavaliers. They did. And right now, no one thinks they’ll beat Kobe and the Lakers. Simply put, Orlando has thrived on being the underdog and has the benefit of everyone doubting them yet again. Make no mistake, the pressure is all on the Lakers in this series. Orlando has nothing to lose in this series, as no one expects them to do anything.

As for the Lakers? They’ve got all the pressure in the world, mainly in the fact that Kobe Bryant’s legacy is at stake. It’s been well documented that Kobe has three rings, but none have come without the Diesel at his side. The pressure and media attention will be squarely on his shoulders in this series as the elite player on the favored team, so we’ll have to see how he’ll respond. If his past two final appearances are any indicator, the results won’t be good.

The X-factor in the finals will be the return of Jameer Nelson. The All-star point guard has missed all of the playoffs with a shoulder injury, but believes he’s ready to play now. He’d certainly be a welcome addition as he torched the Lakers in the regular season, averaging nearly 28 points in the two match-ups. The old maxim has always been, “don’t mess with what’s right,” and in this case, reinserting Nelson could be a risk. However, Nelson is a team-first player who doesn’t need to play 40 minutes a game immediately. He’ll do whatever he needs for the Magic to prevail, and Stan Van Gundy is a good enough coach to manage this situation properly.

Bottom line, the Magic will take home the title after a hard fought battle, and Kobe will look for another director to spin yet another finals defeat.

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