Get your mouse ears ready: Lakers to face Orlando in the NBA Finals
Hope you picked the Magic, because with their 103-90 win Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers (that's the team LeBron plays for, if you missed it), the 2009 NBA Finals are set. Los Angeles vs. Orlando, tipping off Thursday, June 4 at Staples Center.
By now, we all know the Playoffs are all about matchups, and as we touched on in this week's PodKast, I admit this one scares me. The good news? While I really try hard not to draw too many conclusions from how teams perform in games and rounds leading up to a given series, I admit that the way LA played in Games 5 and 6 to dispatch the Nuggets was very encouraging.
How couldn't it be?
Obviously there will be plenty more to come over the next few days, but here are some of my early thoughts, on top of what Andy passed on earlier in the day:
- Orlando shoots a ton of threes, but they're generally clean shots that come from good ball movement. The Magic make the extra pass on almost every trip, putting incredible pressure on the opposition to rotate properly. It's also interesting to note how they run-- where most teams look to penetrate to the bucket, the Magic often push to create open looks from behind the arc.
- This works, in part, because Dwight Howard really does demand a lot of attention. He's like, really good, and managed to hit some FTs at different points in the Cleveland series, too. But also because the Magic have guys that can both shoot and drive, making them tough to cover on the perimeter.
- For all the talk of Cleveland's suffocating D during the regular season, it was Orlando that led the league in Defensive Efficiency, allowing just under 102 points per 100 trips. They haven't been quite that dominant in the postseason, but still lead all playoff teams that didn't spend two rounds playing Detroit and Atlanta. Obviously Howard is a big part of that, allowing guys to play the perimeter just a little bit tougher, knowing the DPOY is there to clean up mistakes.
- We saw what happened to the LeBrons during the ECF. One guy isn't going to beat that D. The Lakers, though, when they're clicking are far from a one man show. They'll need that same degree of activity, patience, and ball movement going forward. Honestly, I'm not sure anyone has a defense for what the Lakers did to Denver in Game 6.
- Am I wrong, or is Marcin Gortat a pretty solid player? Maybe it's just the kinship of Polish bald men.
- If ever there was a matchup that demanded Lamar Odom's versatility on both ends, it's this one.
While the world (or at least those parts controlled by Nike and Vitamin Water) wanted Kobe vs. LeBron, LA vs. Orlando has the potential to be a great series. The matchups are tough for the Lakers, as evidenced by the Magic taking both games of the season series. On a neutral floor, they'd be tough to bet against. But the Lakers have the home court advantage, and in the Finals with the 2-3-2 format, that's a huge advantage.
Get fired up, because it's officially on!
(Photo: Fernando Medina, Getty Images)