Thursday, June 4, 2009

NBA Finals Predictions: Part 2

The Orlando Magic are kind of like that college guy in a bar you see that is completely hammered, stumbling around, but is still somehow the life of the party. Some hot Lindsay Lohan type (before the drugs and eating disorders) who is completely out of their league is hanging on them but they barely even know where they are. That is how I would describe the Orlando Magic since Game 6 of the Boston series. So how does this connect to the LA series?

Well, I think Orlando is about to go from that really drunk guy that is the life of the party to that really hungover guy who can barely get out of bed (not that I have ever been there before). To make matters worse, he is about to blow it when he sees the girl again. Maybe that isn't the best analogy but bear with me.

Orlando has been great since that game 6 in Orlando. The question is are they the Justin Bobbie type (sorry Dylan McDermott for those that don't watch the Hills), truly the life of the party or are they just that guy who got hammered and took advantage of the hot but still really drunk girl. Yes, they have talent. Yes, they are well constructed... but they are shooting well over 40 percent from behind the arc. And they have yet to face a team that can match up with them athletically and dominate them on the boards but they are about to. LA will be able to match up with them and expose them for all the weaknesses they have.

Orlando plays very unconventionally and is hard to match-up with. They actually run offensive sets instead of just isolations and pick and rolls and they have really tough swing men, Turkoglu and Lewis, who can be really tough match-ups for defenses. That being said, a team like LA with Gasol, Bynum, Odom can not only match up with Orlando on the defensive end, but can punish them on offense. Throughout these playoffs, Orlando has been the team that has presented match-up problems for their opponents, but this series LA will be the ones causing the match-up difficulties. LA has three players, Kobe, Gasol, and Odom, who Orlando has no one to match up with. On the other end, Bynum will be able to match-up better than anyone with Howard, and Odom will be able to match up with Lewis so there won't be any glaring mismatches.

In rounds two and three, Orlando was never punished for their small lineups because they were going against the poo-poo power forward platter of Big Baby Davis, Brian Scalabrine, Anderson Varejao, Ben Wallace, and Joe Smith. Now they'll have a steady dose of Pao Gasol and Lamar Odom to defend. There needs to be a new stat in the NBA that measures each one-on-one positional match-up. It could be as simple as one player’s points while he is in vs. the guy he is guarding. Or you could do this position by position. For example, Orlando was +15 at power forward that game and -14 at small forward. Based on this new statistic, Rashard Lewis and the Magic will definitely have a minus differential with Gasol and Odom at the power forward position. Throughout the playoffs, Orlando has never been punished for going small and LA will be able to punish them. Add the fact that Orlando will have no one who can stop Kobe one on one and they could be in for a very tough playoff series.

All that being said, Orlando has a chance in this series. If they are still that drunk guy for another week and Howard really elevates his game, this could be a great series. If Howard is dominating, LA will have to choose between helping down on him and leaving their shooters open, or just leaving him single covered. This dilemma is worse than having to decide between an afternoon with Spencer Pratt or an afternoon with migraine headaches.

Another possible set back for LA could be the 2-3-2 format, with three straight games in Orlando. LA has a lot of players who are really front runners and play well when they are up and have big leads but play poorly when things aren't going well. If Orlando gives LA a punch in the mouth and takes game one or two in LA, LA fringe players like Jordan Farmer, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, who lack mental toughness, might fold. Then, this could really be an interesting series. In the end, LA's overwhelming talent and experience advantage will win out and with a consistent effort they take this series in 6. All the while Kobe might even do some work for a change.

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