Nah, there’s no Jay-Z music here, just a stringent NBA Finals Prediction. For those of you who haven’t already seen my prediction on TheSportsWatchers.com, low and behold, I am going with the Los Angeles Lakers over the Orlando Magic in six games.
Of course, I also picked Cleveland to beat Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals, so you can take my prediction for what it is: an educated guess. However, I do have good reason to believe that the Lakers will win the 2009 NBA Championship. Here are a few of them:
~Dwight Howard Can’t Have It Both Ways. For most of the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Howard was an absolute beast. Even if he didn’t end the game with a staggering amount of points, he usually had 14+ rebounds and whole lot of altered shots. And while his defense and rebounding will continue to be there in the NBA Finals, his offensive game won’t come as easy.
Against the likes of Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joe Smith and Ben Wallace, Howard dominated. The fact is , he is both stronger and quicker than all 4 of those guys. However, in matching Howard up with the Lakers’ Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, he doesn’t have both of those advantages. Pau Gasol is quicker than Dwight Howard, and if you don’t believe me, take a look back at their matchup in the Olympics last summer. As for Andrew Bynum, he is big enough to match up with Howard’s strength. Howard might have a little bit of a first step on Bynum, but he won’t be able to go through his chest like he did Varejao, Ilgauskas and the rest of the Cavs frontline.
So expect Howard to have to work a lot harder for his points. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few charge calls thrown Howard’s way, as he has to prepare to be a little more versatile than he was in the Eastern Conference Finals.
~Umm, Kobe Bryant can shoot. Not to say that Kobe is better than LeBron James, because I don’t think that he is, but the fact that he is a better shooter will make him a difficult cover for the Magic. If the Magic are going into Game 1 thinking they can play Kobe the same way they played LeBron, they are going to give up 40 points tonight. They will have to make a serious adjustment if they want to stop the Black Mamba.
That adjustment will have to involve forcing Kobe into the middle of paint. When guarding LeBron, that’s the last thing you want to do, but against Kobe, you can’t afford to give him the jump shot, so you have to make him put the ball on the floor. Of course, this would be great if Kobe had the type of frontline that the 76ers, Celtics or Cavs had. Then he wouldn’t have any options and would be forced to try to score over Defensive MVP Dwight Howard. However, this ain’t the Eastern Conference anymore, and Kobe has 3 really good options in the frontcourt, including Lamar Odom, Bynum and Gasol. The Magic are going to have to find a way to rotate back to those guys quickly, as Howard goes for blocks on Kobe. If the Magic can’t recover, this could be a very short series.
~Jameer Nelson is playing, but he won’t be ballin’. A lot of people look back at the two regular season wins for the Magic over the Lakers, and point to those games as reason to believe that this series will be close. However, many fail to remember that Jameer Nelson was the reason the Magic were able to beat the Lakers on 2 different occasions. Sure, Nelson is said to be in line for a few minutes a game this series, but I don’t care how many minutes he gets, he can’t just show up for the NBA Finals (the highest level of basketball in the world) after 4 months with no NBA in-game action and expect to be effective.
Nelson averaged 27.5 points against the Lakers in the Magic’s two wins during the regular season, mainly because, as we have seen in the playoffs, Derek Fisher can’t stay in front of a Mack Truck. Nelson’s replacement, Rafer Alston is a “slashing” type of point guard as well, but he is much less adept at being an efficient scorer with his pull-up jumper, and I don’t know that he is necessarily quick enough to blow by Fisher.
The lack of Nelson in the lineup really hurts the Magic. His 27 points will be missed, and I don’t know that those points will be easily replaced—if they are replaced at all.
-Lamar Odom can matchup with Rashard Lewis. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu killed the Cavs last series. Mike “Coach of the Year” Brown failed to put LeBron on either of them, which allowed them to alternate subsequently killing the Cavs from the perimeter. However, the Lakers can put Ariza on Hedo, and with Lamar’s 6’10” frame, he is a great counter to Rashard Lewis’s perimeter ability from the power forward position.
I personally think Lamar Odom is the key to this series (and some others sort of agree with me), because if he can outplay Rashard Lewis, I don’t think there is any stopping the Lakers. And he should outplay Lewis, because he is the better player. In fact, someone should tell Lamar that Rashard Lewis is making max-contract money, and that he isn’t, despite being a better rebounder, passer, and more efficient scorer than Lewis.
However, there is one caveat to that. Lamar Odom doesn’t always show up to the arena. Sometimes we get the 19 and 7 game from Odom, and sometimes we get the 5 and 4 game from Lamar. Fortunately for him, Lewis doesn’t always show up. Thus, whichever one of these skilled-big men decides to show up the most this series is likely to take home an NBA Championship trophy.