Finally, now we don’t have to watch those puppets of Kobe and LeBron, we get to watch the real thing!
Wait….what?!……the Cavs didn’t make it?!?!
What do you mean?!
This was supposed to be THE ultimate match-up!!
Like Bird-Magic!! Or Russell-Chamberlain!!
There were PUPPETS for crying out loud!!!!
Well, while LeBron and the Cavaliers are starting their summer early, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic are getting ready to take on Kobe and the LA Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. These two teams have certainly proved that they are the two best in the league, and that can’t be said of every Championship match-up. Even though we don’t get Kobe versus LeBron, we do get what figures to be a very competitive and entertaining series.
Game Times: All games are on ABC
Game 1: Thursday June 4th @ 9:00 pm
Game 2: Sunday June 7th @ 8:00 pm
Game 3: Tuesday June 9th @ 9:00 pm
Game 4: Thursday June 11th @ 9:00 pm
Game 5*: Sunday June 14th @ 8:00 pm
Game 6*: Tuesday June 16th @ 9:00 pm
Game 7*: Thursday June 18th @ 9:00 pm.
How they got here:
Lakers – The Lakers cruised to the best record in the Western Conference, finishing 65-17. Kobe was terrific yet again, and so was his supporting cast. While Kobe led the way with 26.8 ppg, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum were all good for at least 11 per night. Add in the combined nearly 27 rebounds per night from the latter group, and you’ve got yourself a contender. The Lakers bench is probably not as strong as the Magic’s, but they have stepped up their game in the postseason.
Once the playoffs hit, the Lakers handled the Jazz easily in five games, before being pushed to the brink by a ferocious Rockets team. It looked like the series with the Nuggets might go the distance as well after the teams traded wins for four games. But Kobe and crew were too much for the Nuggets in game 5 and especially in game 6, which they won by 27 points.
Magic – The Magic finished the regular season 59-23 to win the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. They clearly are led by Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard. Howard led the team in ppg (20.6), rebounds (13.8), and blocks (2.92). His supporting cast, though, is what made all the difference, especially against the Cavaliers. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, and Rafer Alston each averaged at least 12 ppg during the season, and Lewis, Nelson, Courtney Lee, and Anthony Johnson all hit close to 40% of their three-point attempts.
The Magic had a more difficult journey to the Finals, going down 2-1 before ripping off three straight against the 76ers, and going down 3-2 before winning two straight against the Celtics. They had a much easier time with the Cavs, and if not for LeBron’s now-famous game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 2, may have actually swept Cleveland.
How they match up: Even though the NBA, and many fans, were hoping for a LeBron-Kobe showdown in the Finals, the Magic proved that they are simply the better team. They were a match-up nightmare for the Cavs, and Dwight Howard dominated in the series, capping it with a 40 point, 14 rebounds masterpiece in the deciding game. Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol draw the task of keeping Howard in check during the Finals, and they are much quicker than Zydrunas Ilgauskas, so they should be able to do a better job of it. Kobe will likely square off with Courtney Lee or Mickael Pietrus, which is much better than having to face LeBron. Rashard Lewis is a bit of a wild card. He hit some big three’s in the Cavaliers’ series, and his ability to hit from outside should make his and either Odom or Gasol’s battles very interesting. Rafer Alston may have the upper hand over either Derek Fisher or Jordan Farmar, although Fisher is known for his Finals heroics. In terms of coaching, we now have The Master of Panic vs. The Master of Zen. Stan Van Gundy is quickly winning over a lot of fans though, with his smart coaching skills, his straight and honest answers to media questions, and his passion on the court.
The most important battle(s): Kobe will most likely do his thing, and the Magic will most likely let him. They let LeBron average nearly 40 points per game, and they all but dominated the Cavs. Unfortunately, Kobe’s supporting cast is stronger than LeBron’s. This puts the pressure on Howard and Lewis to stop Gasol, who is Kobe’s go-to-guy. If Gasol can be locked down, Lamar Odom is a similar player to Lewis – a long PF who can hit the three. The series may end up coming down to point guard play, and which superstar does more to help his team.
Season Series: In the regular season, the Magic won both times these teams played, overcoming 41 by Kobe in the first game, and a triple-double by Kobe in the second. Jameer Nelson was huge in both these games, and there has been talk that he could make an appearance in the Finals, as he has been recovering from a shoulder injury.
Prediction: I think this series will come down to two key factors.
1. Which superstar, Dwight Howard or Kobe Bryant, kicks his game up a notch.
2. Which bench steps up more. The other match-ups are a near toss-up, so this series will come down to which bench picks up its starters the most.
My prediction: Magic in 7. I think Howard is too much for anyone the Lakers have up front, and the Magic bench showed in the Cavalier series just how good they are. Their ability to shoot the three will be too much for Kobe and Co.
Dan Mason is an accountant by trade only – he would much rather write. He constantly daydreams about being in the woods or on the water, in the middle of nowhere. He resides in the Rochester, NY, area and is thankful the Adirondacks are only a few hours’ drive away. He is happiest when there is a pen (read: keyboard) or a canoe paddle in his hand.