Scouting The Finals

Kurt —  May 30, 2009

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
Great chance tonight to get a good look at who we will see in the Finals (and we may get one more chance). It’s a chance to look at matchups, discuss what we want to see.

My ultra-fast breakdown is that Orlando creates more matchup problems but the Lakers get home court; while the Lakers frustrate Cleveland more but would likely have to win two on the road, plus LeBron James should strike fear in our hearts of anyone facing him.

The detailed breakdowns are coming. But tonight we get to watch a game as fans.

Kurt

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232 responses to Scouting The Finals

  1. Home court means a bit less against the Magic, though. The Magic, as far as I’m aware, play better on the road, particularly Hedo Turkoglu, who dominates on the road compared to how he plays in Orlando.

    I’d rather see the Cavs. We suck at defending 1) the screen roll, 2) ball reversals leading to the weak side three and 3) Dwight Howard (here, we’re right with the rest of the league).

    Not saying we can’t take the Magic at all, just saying they pose tougher problems. If we face the Magic, I want Rambis to rethink the SSZ, because we’ve seen how their offense eats it alive.

  2. Kurt my take Is that if we play the Magic we have to single cover Dwight Howard concede points and keep the 3 point shooters In check. Much Inthe same way the Bulls beat the Magic In 96, single covering Shaq and not allowing Penny, Nick Anderson, D.Scott get hot from the perimeter.

  3. Is something weird going on with the comments or is it just me? Are they now invisible when held for moderation or is there some other reason I can’t see my comment?

  4. this one’s for WARREN … sorry mate, we didn’t get you the 1st post in a while.
    but hey, we got past the Nug’s anyway, eh?
    all good points Kurt, it’s a toss up, but I think I’m going to have to lean for having home court advantage. so go Magic! (but, make it tough 7 game series won’t ya? we’ll take every advantage we can get, don’t ya know)
    cheers all, enjoy the glory of having made it again to the finals, what a year it’s been so far, and let’s hope we end it with even more GLORY!

  5. I posted this in the “Time to Celebrate Thread” but since it concerns the Cavs I thought I’d repost it here. I apologize for the double post and ask that you please bear with me, because I would really like some feedback on this. Thinks of it as a part of scouting our possible Finals opponent.

    Here it is:

    I was just watching the pre-game show for tonight’s Cavs-Magic game, and of course they have an interview with Mo Williams there. Strangely, most of the questions seem to be about how great and amazing Lebron is, and very few are actually about Mo. I thought that was weird.

    And then something occurred to me as I was listening to Mo’s answers: He completely agrees with the hype. He talks about Lebron the way I talk about Kobe… He sounds like a devoted fan-boy!

    All Mo’s answers to questions about Lebron were all about “he’s real, he’s the real deal” we have to get him the ball more often”, and about how everything on their team is about their biggest star. According to Mo, the most important question after each game should be “did we go to him enough?”

    Mo Williams in the second guy on the Cavs, an all-star in his own right, and he is as completely in awe of The Chosen One as the most rabid Cavs fans are?

    As I said, please bear with me, this will lead back to the Lakers.

    Remember recent interviews with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, with Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton? Pau wants the ball, in fact, he calls out his team mates for not giving it to him more often because “we have to go with what works”. Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton talks about spacing the floor and making 3-point shots, to give us multiple scoring options, because we want to punish our opponents for doubling or tripling Kobe. Lamar Odom says in pretty much every interview that he knows he has to show up ready to play and play hard, that he knows the team needs him to do his part.

    So when Mo Williams talks about Lebron, he sounds like a fan in awe of the amazing talent of a generation. When various Laker players talk about Kobe, their answers are centered on team work, how to contribute along side Kobe, and what the team as a whole needs to do. In other words, they don’t sound like devoted fans at all, but a lot more like team mates, working together to defeat a common enemy.

    Here it finally is, my question: Assuming the Cavs win their series, how will this difference in mentality and mindset from the role players and second and third bananas on the respective teams affect them going into the Finals? Or am I just reading way too much into one single interview and it won’t matter in the end? What do you think?

    Like I said, that interview was fascinating to watch, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  6. The question is, do we match up better with the Magic now than in the regular season because of the loss of Jameer?

    With home court and Jameer out, I think a slight advantage goes to the Lakers.

    I agree with Kurt, the 2-3-2 format means we probably have to win two in Cleveland.

  7. number one reason we should want orlando, lebron scares the crap out of me

  8. If it is Lakers/Orlando, we CANNOT leave the weakside three guy open for the pass when the penetration comes. We got killed on that in the regular season and Orlando lives by that shot.

  9. The Cavs defense is horrible. I dont really want the Magic because guarding the 3 is our Achilles heel….

  10. lebron should be asking for the ball every trip, he needs to take over

  11. Dwight Howard seems to have a much better supporting cast than Lebron James does. That would be bad for us.

  12. Mimsy: I saw the same interview and had similar thoughts. I think there’s something there, but I don’t think we should think too much of it. I mean they kept asking him leading questions about Lebron. What was he going to say? “Hey enough about Lebron; you got a question about me or the team?”

    It’s an interesting psychodynamic. I’m sure his teammates are happy to be riding his coattail, but there’s got to be some resentment too. We’ll never hear about it, not as long as things are going well anyway. And by all accounts, Lebron is a good teammate.

  13. surely anthony carter has prepared us well to deal the likes of anthony johnson?

  14. The Magic are a much tougher match up for us, no doubt. Hopefully we can close out on that weak side 3, it will be a must.

  15. Just some random thougths:
    1. If we’re facing Orlando how would the Magic top brass feel NOW about letting Ariza go?
    2. Same with WOW if we’re facing Cleveland.
    3. Blazer fans I think are still thinking “if only Yao went down when we were playing them…..”
    4. Pistons fans wondering if Dumars took Carmelo instead of Darko — they got a glimpse of what must have been as they saw Billups+Carmelo.
    5. Will JVG do play-by-play for ABC? Will we hear anything negative about his brother?

  16. If the Cavs make the finals, Lebron will be praised endlessly for bringing them back from 1-3. If the Cavs lose to the Lakers, he will continue to be praised just for getting there because his team doesn’t have the weapons that the Lakers have. ESPN analysts will call him the “real” Finals MVP despite Kobe doing exactly what needs to be done to win.

    So I want Orlando. Home-court advantage is also a huge factor in my decision. I expect the Finals to go 6 or 7 games, and I want the last victory to be in Staples. Orlando is the tougher team, but that will make the victory even sweeter. FOUR MORE!

  17. None of the teams in the East have someone who can defend Kobe one-on-one, unless LeBron takes on the challenge. Neither Hedo nor Rashard can hang with Kobe. Probably Lee is a good defensive stopper in the future, but I think Kobe could get him in quick foul trouble using his basketball smarts. The only I see capable of guarding Bryant is Pietrus. But after going against Kirilenko/Harpring, Battier/Artest and Carmelo/Dahntay Kobe will definitely feel good about his chances.

    Everyone talks about how Cavs and Magic cause matchup problems. I do not see it at all.

    With Cavs things are easier than with Orlando in that respect. We can let LeBron (I am not sure Kobe will agree with this) get his 40+ per night, because the rest of the guys do not look like they can score more than 35-40 points collectively. And that means Lakers need to score more than 75-80 points per game to win.

    Orlando is more difficult to match up with, but we are not helpless against them either. I think one of the main reasons why Bynum has not really been a real beast in the playoffs is the lack of high quality big/strong opposition center (with the exception of Yao in games when Drew got into foul trouble). If you remember during the regular season Bynum was pretty good at guarding guys like Duncan, Shaq, Bogut and Yao. This gives me the hope to believe that Andrew’s athleticism, height and strength will help him somewhat contain Dwight one-on-one. Another effective strategy would be to have LO, Kobe and Ariza get to the hoop as much as possible to increase the chances of getting Dwight into foul trouble

    Another matchup problem is Rashard’s outside game from the power forward position. I think that is where having LO becomes priceless if we are to face Magic in the finals. Lamar has the lateral quickness, length and speed to stay with Rashard. This poses an interesting question of what happens with Pau, as he is (arguably) not strong enough to stay on Dwight and definitely not fast enought to guard Rashard. On the other hand, Magic have absolutely no one who can guard Gasol.

    In terms of Lakers posing matchup problems for the opposition, I prefer to play against Cleveland. Our frontline is too quick and big for them. Neither Mo nor Delonte (not to mention Gibson or Wally) can guard Ariza if LeBron stays on Kobe. Pau can take Wallace/Joe Smith/Varejao off the dribble, post up or pass out of doubles. And then there is Bynum and if he is on his best behavior, Cleveland has absolutely no one who can guard Drew. Z is too slow, Ben is depreciating (plus is a huge offensive liability) and Varejao simply gets outmuscled. Same thing with LO and his inside/out game and penetration so difficult to stop for almost all 4s and 5s in the league.

    Against Magic, Howard will probably neutralize Bynum and somewhat contain Pau (by forcing him out of the paint). But who is guarding LO? We should post LO (or Pau at 4) on Rashard everytime we start our halfcourt offense. Same thing with Kobe (unless Magic goes bananas and double/triples Kobe the way Nuggets did)

    With all that said, I do not have a clue who would be a better matchup for us in the finals. Technically Orlando is tougher to guard due to mismatches, but then there is that LeBron guy who can explode all by himself.

    Still… I do not really care who it is, because Lakers will have an upper hand (I believe) against either opponent

    Laker Nation, time is NOW!!!

  18. #13, Jaybird

    +1 on Lebron in the Finals

  19. Orlando has got studs on their team, there’s no doubt. But they are playing a Cleveland squad who is so predictable on the offensive end, that they are easy to defend. Orlando looks great when they make their threes, but look awful when they don’t. Orlando’s frontcourt towers over Cleveland’s frontcourt, they won’t have that advantage against L.A. Never discount experience. The pain of losing in the Finals last year and the way they lost weighs heavily in their minds. They will be damned if it happens again.

  20. a quick look at the orlando-lakers box scores from this year, and all I have to say is I’m thankful we won’t see jameer nelson. He killed us in those games, and while they were in december and january before shanWOW was here, I think he would be keeping me up at night.

    I think Trevor can really frustrate Hedu, and lamar will play heavy minutes on rashard lewis, leaving the guards, especially kobe, to do the double teaming on howard. From what I remember in the houston series before Yao went down, doubling with guards was a very effective tactic for us.

  21. Mimsy- interesting pop psychology observation. I heard an interview with Delonte West talking about Lebron vs Dwight as the battle of the “next-generation humans”, which I thought was funny.

    One conclusion you could leap to (from not much evidence) is that the Lakers seem to be have, through coaching and culture, a stronger idea of team roles and achievement. Kobe has certainly been pushing the idea (in his public persona) that they can only win if the whole team plays its roles and… wait for it… executes.

    In fact, the whole Kobe/Phil stance is that the team will win if they stay cool and execute. The Cavs/Magic stance seems to be about playing with energy and keeping high morale.

    Speaking of quotes, someone on the Cavs said all season they were used to blasting through teams who would give up and they were kind of shocked that the Magic wouldn’t fold. It sort of reminds me of the Lakers entering last year’s Finals…

    Unless something dramatic happens in the second half, the Lakers will play the Magic.

    Question: can the Lakers play Dwight straight up? Try to get him in foul trouble by driving big men at him? Cause I think the Magic offense seems to crush double teams.

  22. #9, luubi,

    Good point about the possible resentment! I hadn’t thought of that.

    Lebron does seem like a good team mate, the other Cavs clearly like him and enjoy playing with him, and he seems to try and make a point of lifting up his team mates. Lebron has the “it’s not just me”-line memorized to perfection.

    Still, if you’re not Lebron, but you believe you are working just as hard every night as he is, then this complete lack of appreciation for your hard work must be frustrating, and as soon as the Cavs stop being successful, that may well start to bubble up to the surface.

    An aside note: I find it interesting that at least this group of Laker fans is slowly turning into a a group of Lebron anti-fans. Is this an allergic reaction to over-abundance of Nike and Vitamin Water commercials? Is it a natural consequence of listening to Reggie Miller and Jeff Van Gundy singing Lebron’s praises every chance they get? Is it anger that our own Chosen One is not receiving nearly the same amount of praise, despite having an at least five times longer list of accomplishments?

    These are the things that fascinate me. :)

  23. Looking like it’ll probably be Orlando.

    This is when we’re going to want Bynum playing well (what, a guy can dream). You need somebody big to occupy Howard who, correct me if I’m wrong, has dominated Gasol. Not good. Additionally, we typically have trouble covering the 3 though I thought we did a much better job at that v. Denver, especially in regards to Chauncey.

    Glad to see Nelson isn’t around because with the great spacing the shooters provide, his speed at the point is deadly. And we haven’t done a great job with speedy point guards. Luckily, Alston isn’t as dangerous.

  24. If they can keep Turkoglu and Gortat, this Magic team is going to be really scary with Nelson back next season.

  25. I agree Orlando is the better team than Cleveland. However, I really want that homecourt. And yes, I do fear Lebron. What we do know is, Orlando has nobody who can stop Kobe. Kobe should be able to score on Orlando the way he just did against the Nuggets. What scares me with Orlando however, is they have deadly perimeter shooters almost everywhere on the court and a dominant center. The Lakers defense is really gonna be tested if its Orlando. But this game is far from over.

  26. Ouch Apricot… pop psychology? :D j/k

    I agree that we don’t have a lot of evidence to base our conclusions on. We see the team on game-day and in interview moments where they chose what they want us to see. We don’t have access to even half of the information of how they communicate with each other as a team. We base our conclusions on limited information, and we don’t have access to enough information to verify our conclusions either.

    Answer to your question: That depends on which incarnation of Andrew Bynum that shows up on Thursday.

  27. Bynum’s defense is going to be the key. The Lakers can score at will against Orlando’s defense. But if Bynum can push Howard out further from the key, he has a shot of limiting Dwight’s effectiveness.

  28. Everything that Cleveland is doing on offense is one on one. I know they can come back, but they better start making some of these shots or playing more of a team game if think it will actually happen. They also better start playing harder and smarter against Howard. Can’t keep defending him the same way. They should also start face guarding him on the glass and telling everyone else to rebound.

  29. I really hate some of these beer commercials. Especially the one where those 4 idiots are screaming over beer. Its not funny, its annoying.

  30. cleveland’s offense is so predictable

    LA’s is not, the magic are in matchup hell with us people.

  31. Cleveland’s offense is as predictable as ours They give the ball to Lebron, we give it too Kobe or Pau.

    Predictable =|= Stoppable

  32. Mimsy:
    Many things, but I think players just tend to know what the media wants from them and what helps them get additional interviews and exposure; an attitude and mindset they gained from LeBron. In LA, Kobe is all ‘cool’ and ‘business’ and ‘control’ so that interview habit sort of transferred to our guys.

    As for matchups, I prefer Orlando because of the exact same things Jaybird said. Please. I can’t take it anymore, I mean, I’d be going anti-Kobe if Kobe was hyped up that much ;)

    Seriously though, I like Orlando because Bynum and Dwight are equally foul-prone and can cancel each other out by either accumulating / not calling fouls, and perimeter shooters will always be subject to cold spells even if they all get good looks.

    Besides, we’ll get home court, and Trevor probably has some experience guarding these guys during practice that will give him an edge in the matchups.

  33. I think now is a good time for some Bill Simmons quotes. :)

    “The Magic just needed 7 games to beat a Celtics team that had 2 scorers with dead legs, Scalabrine/Marbury/House as their bench and actually ran a game-ending play for Glen Davis. Don’t start thinking Orlando is good please.” Simmons on the Magic

    “Because he’s going to win the 2009 title. Easily.” Simmons on LeBron

    “I think one. Howard will have one huge game and get everyone in Cleveland in foul trouble… probably game 3. The ’09 Cavs are the ’91 Bulls reincarnated… everyone keeps underestimating them and nobody realizes that they are about the blow thru these last 2 rounds.” Simmons on how many games the Magic could win vs Cleveland

    http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=26579

    That chat is going to haunt Simmons for the rest of his days if Orlando wins tonight.

  34. Kurt – I’ve had some trouble posting. My last couple posts haven’t shown up but when I try to repost it says it’s a duplicate post. There wasn’t anything inflammatory in the last couple ones. How do I fix that?

  35. That last post was from Snoopy2006

  36. Is it just me or do you get the felling that is Nike rolling out all the Kobe/Lebron puppet commercials that they can during this game knowing that they may not get that Finals matchup and won’t have the extra time to put them on display then?

  37. Well hopefully this is working now, here’s what I tried to post before the game this evening:

    Home court means a bit less against the Magic, though. The Magic, as far as I’m aware, play better on the road, particularly Hedo Turkoglu, who dominates on the road compared to how he plays in Orlando.

    I’d rather see the Cavs. We suck at defending 1) the screen roll, 2) ball reversals leading to the weak side three and 3) Dwight Howard (here, we’re right with the rest of the league).

    Not saying we can’t take the Magic at all, just saying they pose tougher problems. If we face the Magic, I want Rambis to rethink the SSZ, because we’ve seen how their offense eats it alive.

  38. Cavs fan here: Congrats on getting to the Finals.

    Fans/media should starting asking Phil Jackson about why Howard is allowed to camp out in the lane, then Phil should talk about it everyday until Game 1.

    Its certainly not why Cleveland lost – Magic are simply better, with more weapons – but that he is allowed to do that will create a serious advantage for ORL.

  39. “The Cavs have the best team – they can play D, they can shoot 3’s, they can post up Z, and they have LeBron. They have an answer for everything. Watch what they do to Orlando. They’re going to single-team Howard (which Boston should have done), stay home on the 3-point shooters, swarm high screens and drive the shooters away from the basket … and Orlando is going to flounder offensively. You watch. Dwight Howard couldn’t score 40 points in a game if he was going against Yi Jianlian’s chair. That’s how you beat Orlando – make Howard score 40 to beat you and shut down their shooters.” Simmons on the Magic

    “Go to Vegas and bet on the Magic, they are dying to take your money.” Simmons on the Magic.

  40. I will say – this whole time I have preferred Orlando simply because I think we need home court. However the more I watch them the more I am “quaking in my boots” over them. If the Lakers don’t play consistent tough defense against them we will be toast (i.e. not leaving perimeter shooters). The entire key as many have said IS STOPPING HOWARD In the paint – not letting him catch the ball deep and pushing him out – not doubling him and letting him pass to open teammates for easy 3 pointers. BYNUM, GASOL, and ODOM will be needed. Stop Howard and i think we can beat them.

    This is going to be really tough though. I also think we must take game 1 On thursday. Remember PJs record when leading 1-0.

  41. looks like its going to be magic.

  42. On Lebron. As a basketball fan, I find the hype mildly irritating. He seems like a great teammate, has supreme hops, speed and strength (kind of a miniShaq with handles and erratic range) and does a ton to keep his team winning. I considered him the MVP this year.

    BUT. I find the Cavs unbelievably boring to watch. I find Lebron tedious to watch, for such a statistical talent. The Cavs offense seems to consist of a couple of pick and rolls and an isolation for Lebron cutting diagonally across the paint and waiting for him to finish or get fouled, or kicking to the perimeter if doubled.

    I find myself a Lakers fan because the triangle, well run, is the most beautiful offense in basketball. Kobe’s offense now at the end of his prime is an artistic delight.

    But I don’t expect that level of beauty. At least the Magic run the floor with gusto and have no moral qualms about chucking from 3. The Jazz have a nice offense of backdoor cuts. Even the Celtics (ugh) will run Lewis off staggered screens.

    But Lebron… right now, it’s watching a supreme athlete running as fast as he can into the paint into traffic. Or hucking up 3s off the dribble. I can’t call myself a fan of that. One day he will develop a midrange game, and he will be utterly unstoppable, and play a more beautiful game. That day is not today.

  43. Yeah, Simmons never understood how slow the Cavs bigs are, as well as how inadequate their bigs are in terms of guarding Howard 1-on-1.

    Bynum or even Mbenga can bother Howards. He doesn’t really have much of skilled post up game IF you can only push him out just a little bit.

    They create some really weird mismatches, and the Lakers will have some problems, but having Kobe and Ariza, and Walton to some extent will go a long way.

    Lakers should be fine. I’d say Lakers in 6, tops.

  44. I wanted to add – we can have major success against orlando if we drive to paint – do not settle for jumpers and get howard in foul trouble – big advantage if we can do that

  45. Pietrus is doing an Ariza role for the Magic.

  46. j. d. hastings May 30, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Intro: Interior of Kobe and Lebron’s apartment, empty

    Shot of the front door as sounds of keys entering the lock.

    Enter Lebron Muppet, calling “Kobe, I’m home.” He waits for a response for a second before looking around.

    Montage of Lebron muppet wandering through the apartment calling Kobe’s name.

    Finally Lebron sees a note on the table.

    Close up of note, “Lebron- Gone to NBA finals, back in 2 weeks. -Kobe”

    Lebron muppet hangs his head sadly. Fade out.

  47. Orlanado will be a challenge for the Lakers. The Lakers need to do a good job at defending the 3 pt shot. Orlando through 5 games averages 25 -3pt attempts (33.8%) of their total shots and 10 makes

    The Magic can shoot themselves out of a game or back in a game.

  48. 42

    That’s cold… But hilarious.

  49. 42, HYSTERICAL!

  50. JD, that is AWESOME! Absolutely awesome. It is also hilarious. LOL

  51. 42 – lmao +100

    Simmons is right about one thing – to defend the Magic, you need to be able to shut down their shooters. The Cavs are being picked apart because they’re helping so much on dribble drives and on Howard. That said, Howard seems too dominant to try to guard 1 on 1. It’s a real dilemma. Hopefully Bynum (and lots of Mbenga) can push Howard out of his comfort zone. If we have to double regularly or over-help on drives, they’ll pick us apart. Individual defense will play a bigger role in this series.

  52. Oh great, now we’re going to have to deal with superman, I just wish Bynum is not emo anymore because we really need him. Three cheer for Bynum being the good Bynum. Hip Hip BOrray!!!.

  53. JD, that would really make my day :D

  54. j. d. hastings May 30, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    30- I don’t think that chat will haunt Simmons that much. Other than he said he bet like a grand on the Cavs at the biginning of the season.

    THIS is the column that will haunt Simmons to the end of his days:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/080201

    (And he edited that. In the original version he had an acronym for “In the extremely unlikely event that the Patriots Somehow Don’t Win the Superbowl” or something close running through the column)

  55. “P.S. – come up with a name for ring 4 since you have lotsa free time”

    Maybe we’ll have some fun adding postscripts to the masterpiece.

  56. j. d. hastings May 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    haha thanks everyone, I was rooting for the Magic tonight just so I could post that ;)

  57. I’m following the box score on Yahoo since the TV was bogarted for video game playing… are the Cavs being as thoroughly crushed as the box score seems to indicate, or have the Cavs just gone cold and keep missing their shots?

  58. I actually really enjoy reading simmons, but it doesn’t make any sense to me how he could watch 7 games of the magic against his beloved celtics and NOT understand what they were good at/how they would perform against cleveland. cavs were an overwhelming favorite, but I think mostly because peopel didn’t really waych orlando that much. Simmons should have known better than to write that graph that joel copied and pasted.

    joel and jd – thanks for two hysterical posts

  59. Another thing to keep in mind is that Howard only shoots 59% from the free throw line. The rest of the team shoots very well from the stripe, but the Lakers should not be shy about fouling Howard and you might see Mbenga in for a few minutes to do just that when others get in foul trouble.
    vr, Xei

  60. 49

    I won’t read the whole column because I’m not an NFL fan, but I do know that Super Bowl turned out slightly different from how he predicted… :P

  61. JD, I am going to print that script and stand infront of NIKE headquarters passing it to everyone, imporing them to give it to their marketing dept. It has to be made. You made my day..lol

  62. RE: Orl vs. Cle

    Is it going to be the one game where all his teammates deliver, but LeBron doesn’t?

    I mean, they wrote about how denver ‘contained’ kobe in game 5 because he had only 20 pts or so… now that LeBron is going to end up with a similar line, is there going to be anyone in this sports universe that will write something to the effect of “Cleveland delivers, but LeBron doesn’t” “LeBron fails teammates”?

    Kinda scary and exciting that both LAL and ORL seem to be playing their best ball and peaking as they prepare for the finals.

  63. Lakers-Magic. Should be a great series.

  64. Remember PJ’s interview regarding Howard vs. James?

    I think he’s referencing this matchup…

    having a dominant inside presence gives players that space needed to shoot, as well as the confidence to take the shots knowing that there’s a higher chance that their inside monster would gobble up a putback anyway,

    A mentality like a three point shot, is either a make, an indirect assist to their big man, or a miss.

  65. Reports of Cleveland’s offensive transformation have been greatly exaggerated. Despite the ostensible “coach of the year,” their offense this series has been Lebron going 1v5. Granted, Lebron’s physical superiority resulted in a fair amount of points being scored, but clearly not enough. I guess that offensive coordinator of an assistant coach Mike Brown didn’t quite earn his keep this series.

    Also, does it seem to anyone else that Dwight aside, the Magic aren’t very good rebounders? If we keep a body on him, I’m optimistic about our ability to crash the glass (until SVG decides to put Gortat out there as well).

  66. Why is LeBron still in the game?

  67. For Shaq, this year’s finals must looks like the ghosts of finals past.

  68. For anyone who wasn’t watching the end of this game – I just noticed lebron went immediately to the locker room – isn’t that strange – he didn’t even stop to shake hands or congratulate the magic – denver did that to the lakers

    seems like bad sportsmanship

  69. Two words: Go Lakers.

    Let’s get it on.

  70. Also, let’s not underestimate the “just happy to be there” syndrome from the Magic. This incarnation of the Lakers has gotten their Finals reps in last year – I don’t think anyone on the Magic has ever gotten this far. Despite the lip service they are paying to not being satisfied with reaching the finals, one has to think they may not be mentally prepared right?

  71. #59,

    He’s Lebron. he does not ackonwledge or face defeat. He hides from it in the shame he should be feeling. ;)

    Congratulation on completely failing to live up to the hype, Lebron. Get a better set of side-kicks for next season and you might make it.

    Sadly, I fear the hype and the media love-fest will continue.

  72. I guess LeBron is a little more Detroit Bad Boy than Michael Jordan

  73. Lebron was probably pissed. I don’t have a problem with him being upset. He played his heart out this series, did everything he could possibly do but his teammates let him down. Its also not his fault that ESPN and the NBA have anointed him as basketball Jesus.

  74. We are not free from the Lebron love fest. Over the next few days we are going to be bombarded with reasons why he didnt make it, his teammates will likely take the blame. Even though no one in the NBA can win 66 games all by themself.

    Go Lakers, now on to strategy. Orlando scares me, no lead is too big for them.

  75. I’m more scared of the Magic than the Cavs…hopefully Gasol/Bynum can get Howard in early foul trouble.

  76. Do you guy think it is good for Lakers if they just drive the lane on every plays for half of the first quarter just to tire howard out and get him into foul trouble? It would be fun lol.

  77. #63,
    Fair enough. Though I would suggest that it’s his fault he buys in to it and encourages it every chance he gets. :)

    He’s a fantastic talent, I just can’t stand the hype.

  78. wow beat la chants already

  79. Mimsy, I completely agree. When you tattoo “Chosen 1″ on yourself and continually refer to yourself in the third person, you are fueling the hype.

    Still, I’m not going to be like the people who trashed on Kobe during the playoffs the past few years. Lebron was great but not great enough, his teammates also weren’t great enough, and now they’re going home. That’s that…see you next year.

  80. This trophy presentation provides stark contrast. The Lakers were quick to move onto further business yesterday.

  81. lol beat L.A, i cant help but think the magic will have a little bit of the ‘happy to be here’s’

  82. 65,

    Actually, I thought the “BEAT LA” chants would’ve started in the third quarter.

  83. Oh, I do not at all deny that Lebron is great. I am simply arguing that he is a lot more narcissistic than anyone has ever called him on.

  84. I noticed one difference between the Lakers and the Magic. No Laker touched the conference trophy

  85. As long as we keep on the weak side shooters i think we match up very well against orlando

  86. J.D. – Hilarious. I could see it all while I read it.

    I love that Dwight put up EXACTLY 40 tonight as the Magic destroyed the Cavs. Simmons is probably getting RIPPED right now, and deservedly so. He is far too cocky in his predictions.

    Looking forward to the pregame reports and analysis for the Finals. I’m taking time off work! LET’S GO LAKERS

  87. The difference is that the Lakers got smacked in the finals last year so they shouldn’t be happy to get this trophy. If you think the Magic won’t be ready to play on thursday because they’re happy to be there, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

  88. 42 – lmao +100

    Simmons is right about one thing – to defend the Magic, you need to be able to shut down their shooters. The Cavs are being picked apart because they’re helping so much on dribble drives and on Howard. That said, Howard seems too dominant to try to guard 1 on 1. It’s a real dilemma. Hopefully Bynum (and lots of Mbenga) can push Howard out of his comfort zone. If we have to double regularly or over-help on drives, they’ll pick us apart.

    The happiest man in the building is Marv Albert, who won’t have to be called Marvelicious for 6 more months.

  89. j. d. hastings May 30, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Lebron had his worst game of the series by far. I wonder if he’ll get killed for “tanking” it.

  90. Here’s a thought: How about we don’t even try to stop Howard? Let him do whatever he want (including fouling out occasionally), and stop everyone else. He can’t win on his own.

  91. can we petition somewhere somehow for JD’s muppet show?

    I mean, Nike must love it, they get to air one more episode of the muppets ;)

  92. I expect to see some Mbenga in this series, make Howard earn it at the line with some good fouls.

  93. j.d. – Lebron also walked off the court without shaking hands with a single Magic player, as far as I saw. No doubt the media will rip him for being unsportsmanlike and callous, and not having the grace to…wait, are we talking about Lebron here? Sorry…tomorrow we’ll hear “A dejected Lebron walked off court alone, clearly heartbroken by his teammates’ inability to provide any support whatsoever.”

    –Snoop

  94. How is Pau going to guard Lewis or Hedo? How is Lewis or Hedo going to guard Pau?

  95. Warren Wee Lim May 30, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I wish Lebron would demand a trade :D Blast the front office for getting him Ben Wallace instead of Shaq… hahahaha.

  96. Lakers vs. Magic, I wonder what Shaq has to say about it.

    Off topic,

    I know it catches spam and flame bait but I’m getting a bit frustrated with this awaiting moderation thing, I’ve got a comment stuck in 57. It kills the momentum of what I’m trying to say.

  97. #77 I agree. Orlando too 152 3pt attemtps made 62 (40.8%) for the series and 34.2% of attempts from the floor.

  98. You know on ESPN they are going to talk about Lebron and how great he is, but just couldnt get any help. Man, I am so glad he and his team are out, but the Magic are gonna be much tougher than Denver

  99. Magic are a legit team. They were the 2nd best road team in the NBA…. They present a lot of match up problems, we present a lot of match up problems for them too.

    Getting game 1 and game 2 is key. If we get them both there’s no way we’ll lose 3 in a row on the road

  100. i like the fact that Orlando relies on Turkoglu down the stretch…he’s no Paul Pierce.

    Pau and Andrew might actually be more important on the offensive end versus defensive end. If they can attack Dwight and make him pick up some fouls & tire out, we’ll be in great shape. Everyone talks a lot about Orlando’s 3 point shooting, but a great percentage of their open 3s come from kickouts from Dwight. If Dwight isn’t even there – because of fouls or fatigue – they’re not going to have as many looks.

  101. @82

    oh you mean Lebron should be pulling a kobe? hehe

    :)

  102. Boy I didn’t know Laker fans hated Lebron James. You would think he plays for Boston. lol. Just because the media pumps him up doesn’t mean that he really is better than Kobe Bryant. I think real basketball fans realize this. However I do love Lebron, his personality and his game. I’m glad Kobe isn’t as sensitive as you guys are.

  103. 88 – I think it’s more a case of people wanting to balance the message instead of actually “hating”. He hasn’t done anything to us so we’re good. What I’ll acknowledge we “hate” is unfair coverage on Kobe.

  104. Two challenges for the Lakers:

    1. Defend against Howard’s post-lane sprints.

    2. Defend against the transition 3.

  105. I am scared about Pau or Drew trying to guard Dwight…..

  106. Big J,

    Way to over-analyze there. We don’t hate him. We hate the cult that worships him when he has done nothing to earn it. The man has an Olympic gold medal and an MVP trophy, and that’s all he needs to be the next Basketball Jesus and the next jordan? Please.

    Lebron deserved that MVP, in every way. He is the sole reason the Cavs even made it to the Easter Cconference Finals, let alone hung on to game 6. But he’s not the all-powerful god of Basketball. Not yet.

    And the combination of the media worship of him and the way he himself encourages that, is a bit annoying, to put it mildly. To put it more bluntly, it makes me want to puke.

    And if you think it’s only Laker fans, you may want to stop and think again. It’s naive beyond words to think the Magic fans, Celtic fans, Nuggets fans, or pretty much cans of any team that is not the Cavliers, would enjoy this kind of hyped up worship.

  107. Lebron is going fishing hahaha. I love it!

  108. We are all witnesses

  109. It might be educational to look how Phil’s 1996 Bulls played the ’96 Magic (Shaq/Penny/Nick Anderson/Dennis Scott/Horace Grant and Brian Shaw(!) off the bench).

  110. I wonder if the lessons of years past, having to play long series against SSOL, will help the Lakers deal with the transition 3s. Granted the PG in Orlando is not anywhere near the talent that Nash was but you did have to account for keeping Amare off the block early and his ally-oops at all times. In many ways, I think the combo of Amare and Nash was more difficult to deal with then Alston and Howard, especially with how they make you pay at the line. I grant these are not perfectly analogous teams, seeing that Orlando plays very good D, but does anyone think that some of the same defensive strategy could apply?

  111. Does anyone else remember Simmons pulling a Triumph on the Lewis signing too? Lets just say that growing up watching the Celtics does not automatically qualify you for running a franchise.

  112. Also, this from another Yahoo article:

    “The Nuggets were fortunate to finally go through a season healthy, although Nene broke his left forearm when he ran into a Shannon Brown screen in the fourth quarter Friday night and will be in a splint for up to a month.”

  113. Big J – we’re more sick of the media more than anything else. I personally like Lebron quite a bit.

    Thoughts defensively from the X’s and O’s guys? My preliminary, not yet well-thought out opinions:

    -I don’t like the idea of doubling Howard regularly, their shooting is deadly. Crucial to our success will be Bynum/Mbenga’s ability to push Howard out of his comfort zone. Soft doubles can be effective, but with the element of surprise, not regularly.

    -How do we want to play the screen roll? Dwight’s obviously dangerous, but from watching the Magic, I’ve seen Hedo uses it to swing the ball to the corner, get the defense scrambling rotating, and open up the floor for shooters. I’d say going over is better than going under; Turk’s quick but not the fastest guy in the world, and if you pressure him on his drives, he has a penchant for flipping up out-of-controls shots.

    -The boards. Bynum and Mbenga need to have a body on Howard at all times, and Fish and Farmar need to be holding on to his ankles. We have 3 strong rebounders on our frontline, they have 1. No excuses.

    -Attack Dwight Howard. Kobe needs to get him in foul trouble as much as possible. Get him off the floor, and the game changes.

    -Pau on Lewis – make him put the ball on the floor. He’s dangerous both ways, but lethal as a shooter.

    -Aggressive Odom needs to show up and take Lewis down into the post.

    -The dribble drive will prove just as problematic as anything else. Cleveland was destroyed for helping on drives and not getting back to shooters; this is one area where solid man-to-man defense could really help us out.

    -I doubt Orlando will double Kobe after having seen it backfire on Denver. Even so, our biggest mismatch is Lewis on Pau. Run the offense through Pau and beautiful things will happen.

    -Random note, but Dwight still has one really bad habit – after getting a board he brings the ball down real low, trying to gain momentum for a monster dunk. A no-no for a big. Quick hands make it possible to strip the ball from him with proper timing.

    –Snoopy2006

  114. It does appear classless to just walk off the court without congratulating the opponent…the Magic played clean and were better, so best to give Superman his due…

    on a more interesting topic, doesn’t this loss force CLE to take on contracts next year in exchange for expirings, to help LeBron more (ORL beat them without their All-Star PG and returns nearly everyone)…who are those players?

  115. PeanutButterSpread May 30, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    ORLANDO is going to be a TOUGH matchup for the LAKERS.

    Lakers NEED to win Game 1. They can not let the Magic have any momentum in the series. They have to play the same way they did Friday – execute and defend with energy and determination.

    NO MERCY as Kobe said.

    Of course that being said, I hope the Magic won’t play like they did today, I don’t know if it was Cavs defense sucking or the Magic getting hot, or both … I just hope the Lakers know that this Magic team will not GO AWAY as evident of our two regular season losses to.

    The matchups won’t do us any favor. With Cavs we just had to worry about LBJ, for the Magic, we’re going to have to worry about almost every single player on their team. They all shoot the three insanely well. They live and die by the three.

    I only hope the series against the Nuggets helps us in that, the Nuggets had so many offensive threats, hopefully the Lakers will learn from that and defend the Magic well.

    Matchup:

    Dwight – Drew/DJ
    Lewis – Pau/LO/Josh Powell
    Hedo/Pietrus – TA/Luke
    Lee – Kobe/Sasha
    Alston – Fisher/Brown/Farmar

    the key is to get Dwight in foul trouble, keep attacking the basket and guard the three … although knowing Drew, he’d probably be the first in foul trouble … it’s going to be a tough series, I hope the Lakers learned from last year and dog it out.

  116. I have a question. How long will Phil stick with a starting lineup featuring Gasol and Bynum? While the Lakers can pound the ball down low at will, on the other end, that’s a bad mismatch with Pau trying to stay with Lewis. Odom seems to be better option defensively but Bynum seems to be a better option offensively.

  117. lol Kaifa – yup, the media is sadly predictable. I could have written that article in my sleep, and a package of Lebron-emblazoned Kleenex at my side.

    I do give Lebron credit; after every Cavs brick I rarely saw him make a face or yell at his teammates. Nice fellow. Sucks that the media orgasms every time he walks into the room.

    Always sad to see the playoffs credits roll on TNT. They always seem to have these weird video glitches, but their crew (minus Reggie) is top notch.

    –Snoopy2006

  118. One of the big differences between the Lakers and Cavs is that while Lewis and Turk also are difficult for the Lakers to match up against we give them the same match up problems on the other end. Cleveland’s problem was guys Verajeo, Walllace & Z provided very little or nothings on the offensive end. They were almost or no value in that series. While Odom,Pau, & Bynum will make Orlando play honestly.

    If this series turns into a scoring fest I like our multi dimensional attack to be more consistent then Orlando’s three point shot.

    LA is six.

  119. Congratulations Orlando.

    Can’t stop thinking about how the Finals are a win-win situation for Shaq. Either Orlando wins and Kobe can win a title without The Big Fella or LA wins and Van Gundy is the Master of Panic.

  120. Big J – I’m not so convinced. Bynum’s a better option defensively, because putting Pau on Dwight from the start, besides being a huge mismatch, will tire Pau and possibly get him in foul trouble. Lewis may give Pau some trouble, but Pau will give everything right back to him in the post. Plus, Odom’s minutes usually surpass Bynum’s anyway, so he’ll get plenty of time on Lewis. But starting the game, I want Drew on Howard. Pau’s quicker than given credit for and he knows how to use his length. Anything he gives up defensively, he’ll make up destroying Lewis in the post. But starting Pau on Howard, all that banging could really hurt Pau’s flow on both ends.
    –Snoopy2006

  121. Bynum….please be back to season form!

    And Farmar should get some burn playing against Skip to my Lou. He has to play better too.

  122. Barkley is right. This Magic team is so underrated and have been all year. I have never seen a team with a bunch of deadly perimeter shooters like the Magic. Its really going to come down to defense for the Lakers. Are they good enough defensively to keep Howard out of the paint, stop penetration, and make effective closeouts on shooters. Offensively we are fine. The defense will tell the story.

  123. Can this start on Monday, please?

  124. the magic are going to re-evaluate Jameer Nelson’s status; it’s possible he may return for the finals.

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orl-sportsmagic-cavaliers-main-31053109may31,0,1486762.story

  125. Against the Shaq Magic,Phil had his Bulls pretty much let Shaq get his. He put Pippen-his best defender,MJ hype aside-on Penny and constantly doubled Penny while contesting 3pt shooters.
    If he holds true to form,Turkoglu will be who Phil wants to shut down.

  126. Didn’t Phil do a little Hack a Shaq in 1996? I can’t quite remember…

    You figure if LA gets down big, they may consider running a Smite-a-Dwight.

  127. 111, Lebron also refused to do any postgame interviews, sneaking out of the building.

    We are all witn– uh, where the *%&^ is he?

    Great sportsmanship, MVP.

  128. snoopy,
    man-to-man is probably the best way to go with this Magic team, I would agree, the SSZ would be leaving deadly 3pt shooters wide open, right? Howard must be put in foul trouble early for sure, he is a beast (according to my my 15 year old son) and must be taken out of the game. Does he have 5 or 6 tech’s bye the way?

    Orlando only lives by the 3, they never seem to die by it.

  129. Although magic propose matchup problems I like our chances
    F

  130. PeanutButterSpread May 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Drew will have his plate full against Dwight.

    In the two regular season matches Drew had 9 fouls in 45 minutes.

    The rest of the Lakers are going to have to help each other out a lot on defense. It’s going to be a really difficult series.

  131. #123, he has 5 Ts, same as Kobe.

  132. PeanutButterSpread May 30, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Let’s also not forget that the Magic were the 2nd best road team in the NBA during the regular season. Lakers were #1.

    The Magic took the series from the Cavs which had home court advantage so the Lakers will need to be on edge.

    Home court is great to have, but it means nothing if you don’t take care of business on it.

  133. Imagine if Kobe refused to talk to the media.

    I think bringing back Nelson this late in the game will mess with their team chemistry. Why fix something if its not broken?

  134. “”Here’s a thought: How about we don’t even try to stop Howard? Let him do whatever he want (including fouling out occasionally), and stop everyone else. He can’t win on his own.”

    I do agree

    but its way harder than it sounds, because Orlando’s players arent STRICTLY 3point shooters, they have multiple guys that can create their own offense and penetrate/make plays for others

    Rashard Lewis is an allstar and 20ppg scorer, so is Turkoglu (shoulda made allstar last year)….. and Courtney Lee is a stud, so is Pietrus, plus Rafer can create his own offense and for others too and push tempo……… and ALL OF THEM shoot the 3ball well

    Theyre alot more like the Houston Rockets back-to-back champs in that way than the many many many many many other “live by the 3, die by the 3″ teams in nba history

    imagine them with Nelson over Alston? WOW……. but still what a trade to get Rafer, they wouldnt have made it with Anthoony johnson and no backups……

    Good backups too in Anthony Johnson, Gortat, and Tony Battie.

  135. PeanutButterSpread May 30, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I’m surprised Lebron didn’t talk to the media.

    I get that he’s disappointed, but I thought most “star” players of the teams and coaches were supposed to give media interviews?

    Is there a rule about that?

    I mean, the Nuggets lost yesterday and Melo still gave an interview.

    Last year in the Finals, Kobe still gave an interview, albeit it was hard to watch because he was completely down about it, but he still gave one.

  136. sT – Yeah, but unfortunately I don’t think it’ll happen. Our players have bad defensive instincts and man to man is tough for them. Most likely we’ll see a combination of things, and try our hand at strong close-outs and quick rotations, although their ball movement is excellent. It’s a really tough call. Eager to see what the coaching staff comes up with.

    I certainly hope Phil decides to focus on Lewis and Turkoglu. Turk can catch fire, but he’s more dangerous as a passer and the catalyst of that offense – I’d like to see us make him more of a scorer (albeit not easy shots).

    -Snoopy2006

  137. THe Magic were just the better team, period.

    I said it earlier in the regular season when they beat the Heat by 20 when Wade dropped 50 on them (43 thru 3 quarters, quick 7 in 3 minutes played of the 4th quarter and then took a seat cuz they was getin blown out) and then they beat the lakers 2 nights later with Kobe dropping 43 on them, , that was with jameer and i thought they were done when he got injured, but what a pickup it was to get Rafer (who isnt as good as Jameer but they still the best with him instead, so imagine how good theyd be with jameer next year and howard a year better??!?!?!? yikes)

    And now this series just proves what i said, you cant beat a great T-E-A-M with one great player, 50 frm Wade? Magic win (by 20!). 43 from Kobe? Magic win. Best playoff 5game stretch ive ever seen, averaging 41ppg for the series? Magic win.

    Lakers could still win it all though, cuz unlike the Cavs (and WAY WAY WAY unlike the Heat) they have a great TEAM around their astoundingly amazing best player.”

    Post from a celtic fan on espn conversation, i lked that one

  138. Cleveland’s problem was really in the frontcourt. Varajeo simply couldn’t guard Lewis. If he didn’t leave the paint, Lewis was going to rain in threes, and if he tried to contest his shots in the perimeter, he didn’t have the speed to keep up with Lewis on his drives. Pau has better speed, and especially Odom, who should be our primary defender on Lewis. Mike Brown’s best choice was going small and putting LeBron on Lewis, but he didn’t resort to that as much as he should have.

    Turkoglu also created matchup problems off the pick and roll, which was a nightmare for Cleveland because Big Z simply can’t guard it. Pau and Andrew to a lesser extent can hedge well enough to contest the shot, and I’ll give Turkoglu or whoever contested threes from the perimeter all day. He also doesn’t post people up or elevate that much, so Ariza should be able to guard him one-on-one.

    Our main problem is obviously Howard, but people have to remember that Cleveland’s primary defender on him was either Big Z or Varajeo. Howard was practically running circles around Z and simply overpowering Varajeo in the post. I’m not saying Andrew or Pau have a huge advantage of any sort, but they do have much better size and foot speed to keep with Howard. I’d live with him throwing up contested hook shots for the entire series over dunking the ball. Actually, our primary problem in our regular season matchups with Orlando was Jameer Nelson, and Alston isn’t even close to Nelson.

    On offense, we hate repeating this, but Gasol really needs the ball on every possession. Lewis can’t guard him, and when Gasol is playing the five, his primary goal needs to be getting Howard in foul trouble. The sheer drop-off between Howard and Gortat (not to impugn Gortat, but that’s a huge defensive difference) is going to open up the game for us and make it a whole lot easier. Pietrus is probably the primary defender on Kobe, and while he did a good job on LeBron, he is foul-prone. Turkoglu has the length but not the quickness, and Lee isn’t quite there yet.

  139. Yes. That must be it. Lebron skipped the podium session because he was devastated about letting Nike and their shareholders down.

    So noble, for someone so young.

  140. 9 of 10 espn “experts” pick lakers to win, in 6 or 7 games.

  141. palani, also Barkley picked the Magic, so great I can start saving for my 2009 championship shirt now (Lakers of course).

  142. It’s funny that the Lakers win one game convincingly, and they’re suddenly the favorites– not soft, unworthy, without heart any more, I guess. I would give the Lakers the edge based on home court, but did anyone notice that the Magic just knocked off the defending champs and this year’s best team?

  143. I’m sure the Magic have no chance because they took seven games to beat a depleted Boston team. Just like last year I was sure Boston had no chance because they barely got by Atlanta and Cleveland. That didn’t work out so well.

    On the other hand, I don’t think Orlando fans can draw much of a conclusion that the Lakers took seven games to get past Houston.

    I think the Lakers will win, but I think just about anything can happen, since both teams seem to have thrown really good and really bad games this post-season.

    42/j.d. Awesome.

  144. Bynum and Gasol should do a good enough job of containing Howard that our defense isn’t as compromised as Cle was because Z and Wallace did not have the footspeed to keep up. His game is not polished enough to be a consistent threat against solid post defense.

    Lewis will be a problem for us defensively, but likewise with Gasol on the block for them. I’ll take a solid post presence versus a great perimeter scorer any day of the week. Plus, Gasol does a great job of contesting with long arms and huge strides. If they match up Lewis to Gasol, that will lead to a collapsing defense and easy buckets.

    They will sorely miss Jameer. His key momentum shots against us this year came at times where everyone else looked lost. The Magic are prone to stretches of quick shots, TO’s, and stagnant offense. During those stretches, Orl will not have anyone reliable to count on. The PG matchup was huge for them.

    Much in contrast to the Nuggets, who attacked the paint on O and hacked and forced TO’s on D, the Magic play outside in, using PnR’s and perimeter shooting to open up the inside for Dwight. They go to him opportunistically when he has good position. This series was different because the matchup on Z was such a huge discrepancy. They also play more sound defense, staying home, not reaching and contesting. Their help will not be overeager and they will not take possessions off. We need to be more patient and execute. I doubt they will be sending hard doubles.

    Again, our ability to adapt will be tested. And I think we will come out on top because we have different pieces with different styles to throw at them, going with what works. Farmar was used sparingly against Utah, but came up big against Hou. Luke can defend bigger players when Ariza couldn’t, pass, go to the . Sasha did a good job on Von Wafer, but not JR. Kobe can guard bigger players. Gasol can contest on the perimeter as well as at the rim. Bynum shows up to be an enforcer, or Odom comes in with precision interior passing and rebounding. Our versatility will be key. What if Orl can’t go to what works? They don’t have the personnel to change it up. I credit the diversity of talent on our roster and their development throughout the season by the coaching staff.

    The Cavs should be proud of what they accomplished. They were overachieving all-season with one great player, a borderline all-star, and a solid role player on a team full of scrubs. ($90mil worth, in fact http://tinyurl.com/lo775k) Big Z clearly isn’t the same player he was a couple seasons ago. Another team would’ve been happy to make the playoffs with those pieces. This season was a testament to LBJ’s all-around game and his posing a nightmarish matchup night in and night out, as well as their effort and unity. In the end, they simply did not have the talent to go any deeper.

    I think all this talk from teams that have not been there, i.e. Den, Orl, and even Cle that it would be the ultimate disappointment to not win a championship denigrates the accomplishments of their season. Obviously, every team wants to win a championship. To say you want to win it versus saying it’s devastating not to are two different things. It should only be the latter if you’ve been there, done that, and came up short. For us, it would be devastating.

    115. Isn’t that also a lose-lose for Shaq?

  145. PeanutButterSpread May 31, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I’m giving the Magic respect.

    Lakers and Laker fans should too.

    I know the Magic defeated a depleted Celtics … which while wasn’t the same Celtics team the LAKERS faced last year, they still knocked off the “best” team in the NBA on the road … and they beat us twice in the regular season.

    I understand why critics would choose the Magic. They’re last game against the Cavs was as equally as impressive as our against the Nuggets (except we closed out on the Nugget’s home court). Like I said, it’ll be a difficult series and the Lakers have to play like they want the Larry O Brien.

  146. It’s funny how things can be interpreted in two opposite ways.
    The 2001 Lakers strolled through the entire playoffs with a record of 15-1 and no one questioned whether they’ve been “battle-tested” or not because in the end, they were the champions.
    Fast-forward 7 years. All the praise was on the Lakers for having navigated through a tough Western Conference in 2008 with a 12-3 record last year. But after being mauled by the Celtics in Finals, suddenly people were questioning the toughness of the Lakers and if they lacked a “true test” before meeting Boston.
    This year, we certainly have had a tougher time in returning to the Finals. But what if we lose? Then our “experience” that we gained the past 3 rounds will be labeled as an excuse for fatigue.
    I’m ranting aimlessly here, but my point is to look at the matchups and wonder which Laker team will show up to play in these Finals. Forget about the glorified talk of facing adversity and “much more physical” teams during this postseason compared to that of last year.
    Yes, we have HCA. But ORL clinched game 7 in BOS and played very well against CLE at the Q. If we come out thinking that we are the favorites in this series solely b/c of HCA, then we will be rudely surprised and humiliated this Finals, just like what happened last year.

  147. I never shy away from being one to state the obvious, so please indulge me when I point out that of course the team that advanced from the Eastern Conference was going to look like the scarier match-up for us: that’s what winning three rounds of playoff basketball will earn you!

    Just think how much hand-wringing would be going on around here if Cleveland had managed to pull off three wins in a row with Lebron maintaining his absurd statistical dominance … just about everyone on this forum would be petrified to face the Cavs under those circumstances.

    I’ll take homecourt against the team who hasn’t been to the Finals before and that is still missing their second-best player any day of the week.

    Orlando is going to be a tough, tough matchup for us without a doubt, and we definitely might just come up short against them. But I like our chances.

    As many others have pointed out, our fatal flaw from the start of the season has been defending the three point line, especially that short-corner: if the Magic are hitting those shots, like they were tonight, we’ll be on our heels all series long. If they’re missing, on the other hand …

  148. Let the record show that Lebron hasn’t won a championship without Shaq yet either.

    Myself, I don’t like the idea of playing against the team that beat the Cavaliers. I remember my wishful thought when the Cavs were rolling over everybody at the end of the season (and into the playoffs) that they might be peaking too early.

  149. the other Stephen May 31, 2009 at 12:44 am

    via the orlando sentinel:

    “And there might be more good news for the Magic and their fans. They are encouraged by Nelson’s rehabilitation so much that they will evaluate the possibility of the all-star playing if the club reaches the NBA Finals against the Lakers, the Sentinel has learned.

    Vander Weide said the team is exploring whether Nelson can return after undergoing shoulder surgery Feb. 19. He hasn’t played since he was injured Feb. 3 against the Dallas Mavericks.

    Although Nelson wouldn’t be in prime condition, Vander Weide said, “the chance to get an all-star point guard on the floor for 15 minutes a game…you’d have to look at that.”

    The Magic had ruled him out for the season and the playoffs, and as late as a week and a half ago General Manager Otis Smith said there was no chance of Nelson making a return. “That was a week and a half ago,” said Vander Weide, who said he wanted Nelson to take another MRI and consult with doctors.”

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orl-sportsmagic-cavaliers-main-31053109may31,0,1486762.story

  150. re: lebron – i am constantly amazed by his ability to play the game, but his blatantly narcissistic tendencies (referring to himself as king james as far back as high school, having “chosen one” tattooed on his back, etc.) have always rubbed me the wrong way, and the media’s lovefest w/ him only added to the irritation. it’s like watching a girl walking around telling everyone within earshot how pretty she is, with her parents (i.e., the national media) right beside her encouraging the attitude as opposed to helping her keep it real. he is a beast, though, no doubt about it; he and dwight howard are just another level of human being, physically.

    re: the magic – that team is seriously fun to watch. three pointers are the key; the lakers have to play solid d on the perimeter and keep a body on all shooters. should be a great series.

  151. Warren Wee Lim May 31, 2009 at 1:31 am

    The 1 good thing I see come out of this series is the Lakers can finally forget about Point Guards. Orlando doesn’t have one, neither does LA, but our system doesn’t require one.

    You can argue about Dwight all day, but Drew has more post moves than him. You can contend that he is a human pogo stick, but that doesn’t stop him from being a less-than-the-best post player to worry about.

    Guards won’t have to be exposed now, except we need to close out on the shooters. I’m pretty sure Phil loved this proposition before it became official because in his words “we only have to travel once” is like saying I already have a gameplan in place for Orlando.

    As for me trying to play Phil, I say the three-ball is impossible to defend. But I also say its only impossible if you think all 4 other players are getting their shots. If its only Shard or Hedo hitting them, then I don’t mind a duo of Shard and Dwight getting 30ppg for the series as long as we do not allow the Lees and the Pietruses and the Alstons to kill us by being lazy with the PNR.

    Perimeter defense will be key – as supposed to the seemingly unstoppable force inside. I say make 2 guys do the scoring and take care of the other three… I don’t even care if Jameer does his own Willis Reed moment in game 3 for the Amway Arena.

    There is still no one to guard Kobe, and that alone relieves my fits of the Shane Battier haunting. Lee or Pietrus might be athletic enough, but they are not experienced enough to make Kobe struggle.

    And just as icing, LO will have to be 6’10 and athletic in this series if he plans to control Shard’s three.

    Overall, the popular notion is Lakers in 6. But just in case Orlando gets that deja vu moment added to Shaq being right (that SVG is the MOP), don’t be surprised that you heard a Finals sweep from me 1st.

    I am in no way underestimating Orlando, but destiny is simply on our side.

  152. There is an eerie similarity between the Cavalier Eastern Championship debaucle and an earlier even more disasterous collapse in the Western Playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas had won the most games during the season, Avery Johnson was coach of the year, Dirk Nowitske was MVP–but an entertaining Baron Davis led Golden State Warriors team blew the Mavs out in the first round.

    The Mavs have yet to recover.

    It may not be much better for the Cavs. Coach of the year Brown had a halftime “near meltdown” leading to a technical foul in game 6. The MVP King for this year couldn’t even face the reporters to answer for the series loss.

    Lebron’s “no double” game 6 was less than stellar: 2 for 8 from the three point line, 3 turnovers, FT percentage less than 70%, field goal percentage 40%, only 25 points (7 by free throw) in 20 attempts. It seemed like Lebron only went through the motions in that hopeless fourth quarter.

    The Nike hype machine just took a hit; the Royal coronation of the King may have been delayed; Cleveland is in mourning–again. Oscar Robertson gave the Eastern Conference trophy to the “wrong team”–contradicting the obvious symbolism intended–but Dwight was the guy with the superstar 40-14 double that earned it.

    Can’t wait to see Kobe’s “gone to the NBA championship” Muppet Commercial as described by JD Hastings (#42).

    Maybe there can be a followup with Muppets of former MVPs (KG, Dirk, Shaq, Nash, Duncan, Iverson, Malone, Jordan–oh, and King James) sitting together and watching the Championship playoffs.

    We could hope that the NBA pitchmen would use their most recent faux pas as an opportunity. They might actually promote basketball as a team sport with interesting matchups and strategies–rather than hyping Superman vs. Black Mamba.

    Wanna bet?

  153. Narcissism bothers me, but that’s part of their generation, and something you should take with a grain of salt considering their media-awareness. Also, excuse them a bit for it, since they do skip college and never get past the macho-man thing you get as the number one jock in your high school.

    He needs teammates, not sycophants. Kobe seems to have found teammates, even if they are not as skilled (Sasha comes to mind ;)) but just as determined.

  154. here’s an interesting point, if i remember correctly, didn’t bynum turn into a beast after everyone criticized him for folding against Dwight in that January game. although from what i remember, the only all-star or all-star caliber player he faced during that stretch was duncan. maybe facing dwight again will motivate him somewhat into playing ridiculously insane lockdown defense on dwight for 10 min a game but then again i’m hoping for too much

  155. I think the main point we need to look at is how Orlando plays defense and never wilts under pressure.

    All series long against cleveland they came back from 20 point deficits to win big games, and that is what scares me, in game 7 in Denver they just quit on the game and it looked like an impressive win but you could see in their eyes that they knew they were going to lose and they didnt do anything to change that , this wont happen with orlando.

    Add this to our tendancy to play lacklusterly once we have somewhere around a 10 point lead and there are definate signs of large shits throughout the series that i think will really determine the outcome.

    We will need to focus to win the series and Lamar will more important now than ever because he needs to show up every game.

  156. Hello everyone.
    I’ve been away from commenting for a while. Too much work and too little time…

    First of all, I’ve been asking someone above NOT to have the Magic in the finals, at least not the way our bench + Bynum was playing the last third of the season and how the Magic where clicking on that same stretch. I guess I’ve been a bad boy and my wishes have fallen unlistened…

    This Magic team creates 2 especific missmatches the lakers suffer defending:

    1. Quick ball movement + 3 point shooting.
    2. Doubleteam-or-die situation with Howard.

    I just hope VG does not try to make Alson a penetration weapon (which I would try at least) forcing the lakers to help in D and ooooopen the floor for those 3-point bombers the Magic have on the team.

    I’m afraid of Bynum trying to do more than what he’s able. I don’t remember which game it was, against the Rockets, that he was everywhere, trying to block shots, play big D and diving for the ball. I like this energy, but he was really superior against a short Rockets frontcourt. Howard is no Chuck Hayes. To defend Howard you have work on denying him the position (yes, that thing the Celtics big guys know to do and bothered Gasol so much 1 year away from now) and Bynum just don’t know how to do it. That means fouls…

    The good thing is that Gasol is pretty smart at this, mostly because he knows he cannot defend him one-on-one

    Pietrus has ben playing great lately. Kobe will have to keep the same focus he had against the Nuggets to read defense and run the team.

    And my last point of concern is the Odom-Lewis matchup. Those are versatile inside-outside forwards. Odom has a better indide game and Lewis can shoot it from the janitor room. Those are my two wild cards. and I could bet my money that both of ‘em will win atleast 1 game each for its club

  157. Should be an interesting match up. With a line up of 4 perimeter players they create all kinds of match up problems. Rashard Lewis will be a match up problem. Does Phil start Odom to match up better with Lewis or does he stick with Gasol and Bynum? No way can Lewis guard Pau or Bynum (unlike Verajao and Wallace whom you don’t have to guard) so that would force the Magic to double in the post creating some big to big opportunities or some open perimeter shots.

    Odom is a better rebounder than Lewis (and everyone else on the Magic not named Dwight), so if Pau and Drew can keep a body on Dwight (easier said than done since the guy can jump 5 feet in the air) then Odom should be able clean up the glass this series both offenively and defensively.

    The Lakers will be a harder defensive match up for the Magic since they will have to guard the person playing the 4 (Odom or Gasol) against the Lakers unlike they did against the cavs.

    If the Lakers can prevent Howard from grabbing a lot of O rebounds and getting easy second chance points and close out to shooters, they should win this series (especially with home court). Its not going to be easy though, but if they play like they did for the last 6 quarters of the last series no one can beat them.

  158. Quote from Jason Maxiell about defending Dwight Howard during the ’08 playoffs DET vs ORL:

    “He has a really strong upper body, but get down low and take his legs out from under him and he’s not very powerful down low.”

    Kendrick Perkins defended him in the same manner in the 2nd round and Howard got frustrated and started going to a turnaround jump hook from outside his comfort zone. If the Laker bigs can do this (its a big ‘if’ since Pau and Drew both tend to rely on their length too much instead of bodying up) they have a shot at bringing his superhuman field goal percentage of 65% in the CLE series down to the manageable area of 50%. When this happens his teammates have also shown their reluctance to throw in to Howard on nights his offense is inconsistent.

    If the Lakers can defend Howard as well as the ’08 Pistons or Kendrick Perkins without picking up too many fouls, their defense will be able to stay at home on the outside shooters. And.. after watching Game 6 of the ECF someone please make Dwight Howard use his left hand for something besides 2-handed monster jams.

  159. What will give LA win the series vs. the magic:

    1. On LAL homecourt, let Kobe shoot for maximum of 20 shots(which we normally win ball games). Be more of a decoy. While on the road, return to Mamba mode by shooting more than 25-30 shots.
    2. Stan Van Gundy might use/emulate Aaron Brooks to allow Alston to penetrate LA’s defense. Alston was a mentor to AB so he might get some pick up points on what AB did to LA during Lakers-Rockets series. Good thing they don’t have Jameer. Defend the penetration and kick out pass to shooters.
    3. Our bigs on Bynum, Gasol on attack mode, challenging Howard’s defense early on.
    4. Mr. X factor, L.O. He was good on Utah and has awaken from the Denver series. If he is on his A-game especially defensive rebounding, we are in better position to win!
    5. Kobe’s hunger! The closest thing to basketball to finally win his 4rth ring.

  160. Lamar and Bynum may be the best frontcourt for us to use (with ariza of course) to guard rashard/howard/turk

    that means our second best player is rendered almost useless. he’ll have as mcuh trouble guarding howrad as varejao did

  161. I remember watching both games during the season against the Magic and thinking to myself that the Magic were the only team to beat us eventhough we played good basketball.

    Anytime the Lakers lost during the season I felt it was just because of things they were doing wrong, but the Magic and Portland are two teams that just outright beat us in the season (thank God we didn’t have to face Portland).

    I think we will see a lot of Walton and Ariza in the game at the same time. I think Kobe has to attack and not be so passive in this series because the Magic won’t be so quick to double team.

  162. the three things the Lakers have always been bad at defending: the PnR, quick penetrating PG, the 3s. I guess we can be thankful Nelson is out (or maybe not). If Alston decides to consistently takes it to the hoop, watch out. As for the 3s, the Lakers have a tendency to slack off perimeter shooters, which tendency will only be exacerbated when they face a serious low post threat. And we know how Kobe loves to cheat and roam on defense.

    ORL has like 5 guys who can not only shoot the 3, but also have a midrange game and can create shots for themselves. They’re not over-reliant on any of their guys not named Dwight so if one or two have an off night they barely notice. It’ll be a formidable challenge.

    Then there’s Superman. Can the Lakers do a better job at denying him low position than the Cavs did? We have more length and skills but I don’t know if we’re any stronger or can body him up any better. Maybe we just have to stay 1 on 1 and resign to letting Dwight get his while trying to get him into foul trouble on the other end. That means lots of Pau, Odom, cutting, slashing, and penetrating.

    I have no idea how this series but I like that this is the matchup. The Magic are a fun team to watch; I like Dwight; and I’m grateful we’ll be spared the media Lebron love fest (though be prepared for loads of mawkish postmortem over how his crappy teammates wasted one of the all time greatest strings of playoff performances).

    Man, can’t we start on Tue? This is too long a wait!

  163. The most important thing is to not foul Dwight Howard for and 1’s. We can’t get Pau into foul trouble we he inevitably has to put on Howard.

    I like the lineup of Shannon Brown, Kobe, Trevor/Luke (game 6 luke, preferably), Lamar, Pau in this series.

  164. *meant Orlando in 7

  165. Something outsiders will overlook,but Phil and staff won’t,Orlando DID NOT DOUBLE-TEAM Lebron on the perimeter. Sure,they packed the paint when he drove,but they let his defender guard him one-on-one outside.
    W/out the quick,open shots created by perimeter doubling the Cavs had to get the “supporting cast” open looks from LeBron’s drives. But Magic length-ironic huh?-created numerous turnovers and let them close out on shooters who were up against the shot clock.
    People will talk about how LeBron’s teammates didn’t step up,but that was also what the Magic wanted. Let LeBron get his and keep the rest from hurting you.
    LeBron had to spend a ton of energy and stay on the court almost entire Second Halves.
    Expect Phil to demand the team run the offense and not depend on Kobe.
    After all,LeBron was dropping 40+ a game and lost.

  166. I am worried that this is going to be an actual “Make or Miss” series.

    Orlando is dedicated to the two most efficient offensive shots possible: The Dunk and the Three.

    I see a lot of “Live by the Three, Die by the Three” comments, but the truth is that you never die by the three. The teams that shoot (not make, shoot) the most threes tend to win.

    Orlando rarely takes a bad three. They miss, just like anyone, but the threes they take tend to:
    A) Be open looks, from the Corner (The highest % three).
    And B) Have Howard or others around the rim when they shoot.

    Orlando makes the extra swing pass, even if there is very little time on the shot clock. In fact, you can tell that they prefer to shoot the three with 6 seconds or less remaining on the clock.

    This does a couple of things:
    A) It tires out the opposing defense. That extra 10-15 seconds of running, boxing out, closing out adds up fast.
    And, B) It limits the opposing teams possessions.

    Van Gundy, and Orlando’s front office, have created and believe in a great ball control, high % shot, offense. Add in Howard’s offensive rebounds and they get a scary number of high % shots.

    They are going to be a tough, tough match up for the Lakers. I have been worried all year about Orlando, and would much rather have seen Cleveland (LeMedia worship aside…) in the Finals.

    I thought we would have beat Cleveland in 6. I worry that Orlando will beat us in 6.

    We need to control our tempo, and have our guards disrupt the Magic by sprinting to our basket the moment Orlando shoots a three. Rebound and immediately kick out for long bombs downcourt. Force them to run with us, or give up fast break buckets on long rebounds. Make the Orlando shooters think about getting back on defense, even as they launch their own shots.

    What worries me most is that to beat Orlando we need to:
    A) Hustle and play hard the whole game.
    B) Box out Howard, and fight hard for deep position on both ends.
    C) Finish at the rim on fast breaks.
    D) Run the Orlando shooters ragged.

    I think that the Lakers CAN do that, but I worry that they won’t.

    This match up will be fun to watch, as long as you define fun as, “enjoy good basketball” and not, “defeat them with ease.”

    Go Lakers. Let’s get Phil his 10, and our young ones their 1st!

  167. #150, harold,

    That’s kind of what I was trying to get at with my very first comment in this thread. A true start needs team mates who will fight with him when it really matters, not sycophants who will step back and let him fight alone when that moment comes.

    Speaking of moments, how on earth does anyone get away with sneaking into the back and hiding after getting knocked out of the playoffs? Every other star in the NBA has been forced to the podium to take questions after a painful loss, why not him?

    Because he’s Lebron, so he gets away with it. And people wonder why non-Cavs fans don’t like him…

  168. Magic are going to be tougher to beat than the Cavs, for sure. We do have homecourt. Here’s what I’d do. Start Bynum and Odom, but play Bynum around 20 minutes, and Pau around 35. Make Howard work early, and I think Pau will be able to guard him in the 4th quarter, where I think that lineup of SBrown/Kobe/Luke/Odom/Pau is the magic 4th quarter lineup that did wonders at the end of the Denver series. Go Lakes!

  169. Honestly, I think the Lakers are going to jump on the Magic early and often, getting them in a hole quick 2-0 hole. And if that happens, watch as Kobe goes into killer mode in Game 3. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers swept the Magic, or at the most, won in 5.

  170. no team in nba history has ever gone from losing in the nba finals to winning it all the following year

  171. The Dude Abides May 31, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I can see Trevor gradually shutting Turkoglu down over the course of the series, just like he did with Melo. I can see Kobe switching onto Turk in 4th quarters when Luke is in the game for Trevor.

    I think Drew will do a decent job on Howard’s initial FG attempt, but I believe the other four Lakers will need to help out on rebounding Howard’s misses. Sometimes it seems that Howard misses shots deliberately just to get in better rebounding position, where he then explodes for a dunk.

    When Drew is in the game, Pau will have to guard Lewis. That won’t be easy, and it will take one of our best rebounders away from the basket. Drew will just have to do his best at boxing out Howard. Let’s hope he does a good job.

    The blatant mismatch at PG against the Lakers that has occurred throughout these playoffs won’t be there in this series. That’s to our advantage, as the rest of our guys won’t have to scramble so much to cover PG penetration.

    Lakers in four, five, or six.

  172. The Dude Abides May 31, 2009 at 11:13 am

    165. No team except for the 1979 Sonics, the 1983 Sixers, the 1985 Lakers, and the 1989 Pistons.

  173. Yes. Very nice catch.

    YOU’RE KILLING YOUR FATHER, DTRAIN!

  174. Whoops cut that off before I actually got to my comment:

    Does this mean that Kendrick Perkins is the best defensive center in the NBA? Looking back now it sure looks like it.

    Bynum’s got a huge body, if he can stay out of foul trouble I like him to be key here. I feel like this is exactly the matchup Phil was trying (in vain) to groom Drew for all playoffs, and now we’re going to see just how far he’s come — my prediction: not far.

    Gasol is also a better defensive big man than he gets credit for. If Drew winds up picking up fouls like gangbusters, I don’t think bringing in Mbenga is necesarily the direction to go. Pau can get it done for short stretches I think.

  175. 164 said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers swept the Magic, or at the most, won in 5.”

    I would be very suprised if this happens.

  176. I really don’t mean to stir up any controversy, but was anyone else grossly offended by Dwight Howard explicitly stating that God will want the Orlando Magic to defeat the Lakers?

    Earlier, in the locker room, I had asked Howard to give me one or two reasons I should consider picking the Magic to defeat the Lakers.

    “God” was his answer, which was met with the counterargument that the Lord probably has better things to worry about than who wins a basketball game, and besides, religion and politics are usually best kept out of sports stories.

    “That’s the reason, I’m telling you,” Howard replied.

    http://tinyurl.com/km5vrb

    I’m honestly really bothered by this.

  177. We need to the play the Magic straight-up. No double-teaming Howard. Make him use that vast array of low post moves that he has developed over the years. ;) If he can beat us by himself shooting jump hooks, more power to him. Andrew needs to straight up, positional defense. Do not go for up fakes. Do not try to block his shot. Just keep him from getting underneath the rim. This is one series that it would be nice to still have Kwame for (though not at the expense of not having Pau), as he defends Dwight as well as anybody. All he does is hold his ground and not go for any fakes, and in doing so exposes Howard’s limited low-post repertoire. Of course, he’s a lot stronger than Andrew, especially in his base.

    Lewis is a tough guard for Pau, but Pau is an impossible guard for Lewis, so we have to punish ORL for using that lineup. Pau is too good a passer to let Dwight be too effective as a secondary defender helping out Lewis.

    I think Ariza can handle Turkoglu just fine. He’s long enough to contest his jumper, and he’s faster than Hedo. Plus, Hedo doesn’t have the strength like Melo that can overpower Ariza.

    Don’t denigrate Pietrus – he’s a very good defender, and is that type of long athlete that can give Kobe problems. I don’t think he’s strong enough to keep Kobe from posting him, and we’ll see if he has the saavy and focus to check 24 for 6-7 games and not get beaten down mentally, but I expect him to be effective on Kobe for stretches at a time.

  178. Since we all know that God has Chick Hearn doing the simulcast up in heaven, that obviously can’t be true.

  179. I say gamble on not double teaming Dwight. Just make sure he’s not there for the second chance points.

    Offensively, if they’re not going to double Kobe (Which I doubt) Mamba’s going to have to make them pay. Call me crazy but Kobe has much better weapons than LBJ offensively. He can hit the jumpshot on a consistent basis and if Peitrus decides to guard Kobe like what he did to LeBron, they’re going to die.

    Key plays here would be how the Laker bigs would attack Dwight.

    I like the line up of Brown/Kobe/Ariza/LO and Pau here.

  180. Yeah, but who’s God going to send to guard Kobe? You heard what George Karl said… ;)

  181. A little off topic, and I apologize if it’s been said already, but I can’t help but think how the media would be far less kind to Kobe if he had pulled the same stunt as LeBron (leaving without shaking hands etc). He would’ve been burned in the press.

    Also, Bynum needs to be watching tapes of Perkins’ defense on Dwight in the Magic/Celtics series. That’d be something to build on. If we can defend him without doubling, that gets us one step closer fo’ mo.

  182. Okay Kaifa, now I’ve done a 180 and I’m laughing about it (which is obviously the correct way to react to a statement like that) … thanks!

  183. For the second straight year, we head to the Finals to face a big man reigning as Defensive Player of the Year, a top team defense, and strong wingmen. Where Turk and Lewis pale in comparison to Allen and Pierce, the Magic supporting cast makes up for it.

    This is what the Finals are all about. I don’t want an anticlimactic 4-0 Lakers-Nets FInals, I want a war. And this is going to be a fun, fun battle.

    I agree with everyone about Drew. He’s certainly saying the right things about pushing Dwight out of his comfort zone, so Bynum knows the game plan and knows what to do. But can he execute? Does he have the lower body strength that Perkins and Maxiel have? Howard’s big, but his legs are weak, and if you can take those away he loses his offensive mojo (another reason why Shaq in his prime would have annihilated Howard).

    I highly doubt Orlando will double Kobe. It’s imperative that Kobe attack and get Dwight in foul trouble. Gortat’s a beast, but foul trouble will at least make Howard more timid.

    We should also have Sasha in the vicinity of Howard at all times; just seeing that hair might enrage D12 into picking up another technical.

  184. Hey Kurt, your mailbox is full… Check out the drafts

  185. On a side note: LeBron had a CRAZY good series with 231 points in 6 games. (38.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 8 apg)

    How awesome must it have been to watch Jerry West in the series when he scored 278 in 6 games or Elgin Baylor score 284 in 7 games?

  186. Why am I not surprised that Henry Abbott is the only ESPN “expert” that picked the Magic to win the championship.

  187. LOL. Those experts dont know anything. Seriously, people really underestimate this Magic team and I really dont know why.

  188. 3ThreeIII,
    Jerry and Elgin both averaged over 30ppg one year in the early 60’s.

    The problem with most people these days…
    1) Age: they haven’t been around long enough to make comments about ‘the greatest’
    2) Their ability to analyze history only goes back as far as ESPN

  189. So, I take it you agree with Henry then?

  190. Just keeps like sounding the same things over and over again. 1) Keep Howard away from the paint. 2) Stay on the 3-point shooters.

    Those 2 points seem to be repeated by everyone. I agree with them.

    It’s just a matter of the Lakers doing it.

    The Magic have to adjust to us too though.

    Kobe will not be LeBron. He doesn’t have to average over 40 a game to win, but might have to have one or two of those type of games anyway. We have more versatile players that mostly 3- point shooting guys.

    Who’s going to guard Odom on the inside or Pau when he is inside and midrage. Orlando’s bigs can’t beat Odom one on one due to his length and speed. Pau has too much of a well-rounded game. Pau will need to make Howard pay by shooting mid-range jumpers to keep him away from the rim. I don’t see Howard as good a defender away from the hoop and when there’s nobody there, Kobe can go wild.

    Bye.

  191. I think that means he thinks it should be more evenly split, with mostly “in 7″ predictions. These teams are well matched.

  192. I agree. Amazing how the Magic continue to be underrated after playing at this level, and the same media who was down on us against the Nuggets (inferior to the Magic), after one great game, have jumped back on the bandwagon.

    The better overall team will win this series, not the one with the better star. If the Lakers that showed up in the early conference finals show up, we’ll be annihilated. We can’t afford Fisher turnovers and Sasha bricks and a complete lack of bench support. I have faith in my team, I think the supporting cast will benefit from starting at home.

    That said, home court means less against the Magic than it does against other teams. They’re an excellent road team, and Turkoglu in particular plays much better on the road than at home.

    Also, Hedo goes more into scorer mode in the 4th and tries to take over, so we need to be aware of that and guard him accordingly. If it comes down to one shot, Hedo hardly ever drives the ball, always coming with a weak jab step and long jumper. Somehow, opponents always give him room. Ariza needs to be aware and stay up on him in a late game situation.

    How will guarding Dwight affect Pau offensively? When he had to face Yao, Pau’s jumpshot vanished for a while and he didn’t look in rhythm. Historically, he struggles against bigger, stronger frontline players who like to bang. Whatever Pau gives up in strength, I hope he can make up for offensively, as long as our team runs sets through him. The 4-5 game with Odom will be effective, with Odom cutting and even getting deep position on Lewis in the paint.

  193. Is it me or are the Orlando Magic really hard to hate? I love Dwight Howard and hope for nothing but the best for him and his teammates ….. except when they’re playing the Lakers.

  194. Where DHoward can dominate is on help defense and rebounding. We need to punish him for going over to stop the penetrating guards or post players.

    Just as we did in DEN series, we need to make that smart pass off penetration to the man Dwight left to help and get the offensive rebound put backs. Neither Lewis nor Turkoglu are great rebounders, so we should feast off from Dwight being out of position by helping out.

    On defense, only one thing concerns me, penetration from Alston followed by 3s from Lewis, Turkoglu and Pietrus…etc. Hedo’s not going to get by Ariza. Neither will Lee by Kobe. But Alston can and will abuse Fisher, Farmar, and even Brown. Our SSZ has to be alert and make sure that swing pass to the opposite side is difficult with pressure from trapping. Loose double will only invite Alston to get in the seams and lead to easy alley oop to Howard or wide open 3s by their shooters.

    Kobe will have Lee and Pietrus on him most of the time. Kobe’s intermediate game and post up ability will be the difference in how he’ll punish Magic. Lebron didn’t capitalize enough of his height/strength advantage. Plus, you spend a lot less energy posting up than you do on dribble penetration. Kobe will have even easier time vs. Lee. However, Pietrus can present some problem with his shooting. He has been brining it lately, and we know that Kobe tends to leave his man a lot to help out. I suggest that we actually put Fisher or Ariza on Pietrus, and have Kobe guard Alston or even Hedo. Of course, we don’t want Kobe to tire too much.

    Either way, we got a break playing vs. ORL, not to say that CLE is a better team. But we are one of the few teams that CAN (I didn’t say WILL) give Dwight trouble with Drew and Pau. Dwight is not an excellent passer, so if we get killed with single teams, then we can always try to double him with Alston’s guy and rotate. Alston’s a streaky shooter who can get cold for a long stretches.

  195. cavs press conference soon

  196. Great Googly Moogly May 31, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Looking at the matchups:

    Alston – Fish (tie)
    Lee – Kobe (huge advantage Lakers)
    Howard – Bynum (huge advantage Magic)
    Lewis – Gasol (tie)
    Hedo – Ariza (tie)

    The one matchup that stands out to me is the Gasol-Rashard Lewis matchup. How is Gasol going to be effective on the defensive glass if Lewis constantly lives on the 3 point line?

    It looks like it’ll come down to bench play. Orlando has Pietrus, Gortat and Johnson while the Lakers have Odom, Farmar, Wow, Luke, and Sasha. The Lakers bench might be too deep and versatile for Orlando which will be the ultimate difference in the matchup.

    Lakers in 6, at home in front of a CRAZY crowd.

  197. 189. It’s not you… but in the spirit of your question, may I remind us all about when turkaglu came back from summer vacation with frosted hair and a nosejob? I find him the exception to the ‘hard to hate’ idea.

    Also SVG bothers the crap out of me, esp. in huddles when he wheezes out a breathless stream of platitudes. Someday, like in Jaws, they’re going to cut him open and find license plates, an early Shaq jersey, Penny Hardaway…

  198. Why did Cleveland, the team with the best record in the NBA, arguably the best defense in the NBA, with the (arguably) best player in the NBA, lose to a Magic team that struggled to knock out a weak Sixers team and a corpse-like Boston team? Answer: Match-ups. This series, like the Orlando-Cleveland series, will again come down to match-ups at each position.

    Point Guard
    Starters: Derek Fisher vs. Rafer Alston
    Backups: Jordan Farmar/Shannon Brown vs. Anthony Johnson
    Frankly, I think the starters in this match-up are pretty even. Alston and Fisher are both solid point guards, but neither is going to kill the opposing team unless the opposing team wants him to (like Cleveland literally begged Alston to shoot). Back-up, however, is where I think we have a slight advantage. Both Farmar and Brown are much, much faster and more athletic than the aging Johnson. That being said, our PG’s need to be disciplined enough to stay at home or be prepared to close out hard, because both Alston and Johnson can hit threes when left open.
    Advantage: Even

    Shooting Guard
    Starters: Kobe Bryant vs. Courtney Lee
    Backups: Sasha Vujacic vs. Mickael Pietrus
    Really, if I were in charge, the depth chart of the Magic would be reversed, with Pietrus starting and Lee coming off the bench, simply because Lee isn’t quite big enough to handle Kobe in the post and Pietrus is simply a better on-ball defender. That being said, I love, repeat, love Courtney Lee’s game. I have honestly yet to see him make a turnover, and all of his plays are simple, efficient, and always seem to be the right decision. I still don’t think either of the two can truly stop Kobe Bryant, but Pietrus proved himself to be a very capable stopper by holding Lebron down (in a relative sense) in the ECF. Still, Kobe is a very different player from Lebron, and if Pietrus gives Kobe as much space as he gave Lebron, Kobe will murder him with the mid-range shots. I’m not really so sure about Vujacic, though. While it is a big deal if he isn’t hitting his shots, I think it is even more imperative that he stays at home and makes sure neither of these guys starts stroking away from three. We’ve all seen how much Sasha over-helps; this is the one series where that should not be tolerated.
    Advantage: Lakers

    Small Forward
    Starters: Trevor Ariza vs. Hedo Turkoglu
    Backups: Luke Walton vs. Rashard Lewis
    Hedo Turkoglu is really the only small forward that the Magic employ, although Lewis and Pietrus also take some time at small forward. The key to this match-up will be Trevor playing solid man defense against Turkoglu, especially not going for any of Turkoglu’s up-fakes. Turkoglu is a great decision-maker, as evidenced by his solid play against Cleveland, but his two patented moves are the drive and up-fake (a la Paul Pierce) and the drive and step-back three. Both Walton and Ariza should be able to cover Turkoglu effectively, especially after having to deal with Carmelo Anthony, who is easily the best pure scorer at his position. Overall, I think this series will turn on how much trouble Ariza and Walton give Turkoglu, and how much they punish Turkoglu for helping off them to double Kobe or Pau.
    Advantage: Magic

    Power Forward
    Starters: Pau Gasol vs. Rashard Lewis
    Backups: Lamar Odom vs. Hedo Turkoglu
    Similar to Turkoglu, Lewis is really the only PF that the Magic employ, but as has been stated above, he and Pau both cause each other to have massive match-up problems. I really like Rashard Lewis’ game, with his almost automatic shooting stroke (courtesy of Ray Allen’s OCD infecting Lewis’ practice regimen while in Seattle), and his almost uncoverable pick and pop game with Turkoglu. That being said, Pau has to punish Lewis down-low. Hard. If Lewis is going to give us match-up problems on defense, we need to crush him for trying to defend Pau. In the low post, on the offensive boards, on the defensive boards, in transition, on the foul line, on the three point line, at half-court, everywhere Lewis goes, Pau needs to be beating him up. We’ll see how tough Lewis and his turd-like beard stand up to Pau’s pressure. While Lewis has the advantage on the perimeter, Pau definitely has the advantage inside, and it is the one advantage we will need to abuse the entire series. Odom, meanwhile, needs to keep Lewis in front of him. Lamar’s length should bother some of Lewis’ shots, but Lamar needs to abuse Lewis on the boards just as much as Gasol. If the Magic are goign to play Lewis, we need to exploit his weaknesses, not try and hide from them by trying to match-up on the perimeter. That plays right into the Magic’s hands.
    Advantage: Lakers

    Center
    Starters: Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard
    Backups: Pau Gasol vs. Marcin Gortat
    While Bynum will be the probable starter (PJ hates changing his starting line-up to match-up with other teams. He prefers forcing them to match-up with him), Gasol will probably get the bulk of the minutes in the middle against Howard. While Gortat is no push-over, he doesn’t have half of Howard’s athleticism, and isn’t anywhere close to the one-man rebounding machine that Orlando forces Howard to be. Bynum has the length and strength to handle Howard defensively, it’s just a matter if Bynum can keep his head on straight, not pick up any quick fouls, and force Howard not to get deep position. This will take the whole team, but Bynum and Gasol need to deny the entry pass (something that Cleveland simply did not do, which was utterly idiotic), while pushing Howard off the block and out of his sweet spot. If you can push Howard from 8 feet from the basket to 10-12 feet, he loses all the accuracy on his lame jump hook and can’t use half of his spins and counter-spins against us. So long as we keep him off the offensive glass and out of good post position, I like our chances of forcing Howard into a bad series. That being said, our best chance will be to force the ball into Gasol or get Kobe to drive and try to get Howard into foul trouble when he comes over to help. If we can limit his offensive rebounds, not give up any dunks, and force him to make free-throws (we’ll see if he can keep making them at the same rate as against Cleveland), I like our chances in this series.
    Advantage: Orlando

  199. Meh. I don’t really dislike Howard, but I wasn’t a huge fan of sticking the Bible verse sticker on the backboard. In any case, you don’t have to dislike a team or its players. They’re in the way of our winning a championship, and that’s enough motivation for me. If the Magic win I won’t have any “Well, at least they’re nice guys” moments.

  200. 189. I was thinking the same thing. It’s a relief not to have to despise the other team for a change, although I doubt Magic fans feel the same way about us. I really think this should be a great, tight, entertaining series with (fingers crossed) minimal distractions from refereeing and irksome media cliches.

    Incidentally, I’m really curious to see how the media (and Bill Simmons in particular) will emerge from their current shell-shocked state, now that their favored memes of The Lakers Are Soft(TM) and The Magic Will Die By the Jumpshot(TM) and Lebron is the Greatest Half Man Half God since Jesus, and pretty much their entire storyline for these playoffs, have been shot to pieces.

  201. I hope Pau’s foul-line J is sharp this series – if he’s taking and hitting that shot with regularity when he’s matched up against Howard it’ll force him away from the hoop.

  202. 130., “Imagine if Kobe refused to talk to the media.”

    I just did, and one of my eyes bugged halfway out of my skull. Really, imagine! LA loses in Game Seven to the Nuggets, and Kobe turns and stalks off without a word. You’d have dead people rushing into libraries with splinters of coffin still in their matted hair to get online and comment. Imagine; the long, sad faces of pundits, the shaking heads, the tsks, the sighs, the I told yous. “I’ve always been a great admirer of Bryant’s, and God knows he has talent; but this confirms why I’ve always loathed the overrated bastard.” It’d overshadow the Finals; nothing else would matter. Of course, Kobe’s kind of strained relationship with the universe would fuel much of this, but there’s something more to it, that I think has to do with Swift’s “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” I really believe this. It’d take a lot of work to demonstrate why it’s feasible, but just throw a rock and hit a member of the confederacy. Or rather, stand still for a moment and you’re sure to be hit indirectly or no by a member.

  203. 194 – Great breakdown, but I have two issues with it:

    1) The point guard matchup is not “even.” Derek Fisher makes an All Stars out of just about everyone…considering Alston torched the Cavs, what do you think he’s going to do with Fish starts going under all those screens? A lot is going to hinge on how much time Kobe or Ariza spends covering Alston. Also, will Farmar have a good series against a smaller point guard? Will Shannon Brown continue his stellar play?

    2) It’s more than individual matchups – it’s a “team” concept matchup. The reason Orlando is a bad matchup for the Lakers is the Lakers defensive concept is to pack the paint and give up the three pointer – against Orlando, that absolutely WON’T WORK. The Lakers will have to adjust their defensive concept to win this series.

    All that being said, Boston gave the blue-print for how to beat Orlando (Boston just didn’t have the horses to pull it off) – and by the way, Zephid touched on a lot of these:

    1) Single cover Howard – just force him as far away from the deep post as possible. Let him catch it 10-12 feet away, and let him take the awkward hook-shot. Lakers can live with that ALL DAY.

    2) Force the 4 Perimeter guys off the three point line. All of them “can” finish, but none of them are especially good finishers in the paint. The comfort zone for the Magic’s peremiter players is shooting from 20 Feet out, so move them in closer, then have help come over to contest. Hedu especially isn’t very adept at making decisions on the move. If you force him off the 3 point line, and contest the shot near the basket, he’ll either miss, or throw the ball away.

    3) Go after Rashard Lewis in the post. If Big Baby Davis can destroy Lewis, what’s Pau going to do? If you beat him up in the post, he won’t be as effective on offense.

    4) GO INSIDE, PERIOD on offense. Jacking up outside jumpers (unless your name is Kobe Bryant) is playing right into the Magic’s hands. Pound, Pound, Pound…then Pound some more. Howard will get in foul trouble, and then the game changes.

    The truth of the matter is, the Game Plan for beating Orlando, is really similar to going after the old Phoenix Suns…and Phil almost pulled it off with Kobe, Smush, Luke, Odom, and Kwame Brown starting.

    1) Pound the ball inside on offense.

    2) Run guys off the three point line on defense.

    Sounds simple, but can the team execute that game plan?

  204. Dex,
    How dare that selfish ingrate deign to ignore us.

  205. Count on Dex, the one-man lexicon, to bring it.

    Anyone catch Lebron sporting the Yankees cap at the Cav’s press conference this afternoon?

    Is he being purposefully cruel to the good people of Cleveland?

  206. Joel R

    How much you bet James’s persona undergoes transformation by next season. After Sat. I felt confirmed in suspicion that he’s a perfect sweetheart till the moment you say, No, James. Then watch out. He’s said more than once, two main goals: be the richest, be the most famous. That is a sign of the skull beneath the skin. I’m probably wrong. But I’d put up week’s lunch money at least that we see more and more of that glare, that how dare you. You don’t walk out of Conference Finals without a word, show that kind of disrespect for opponent, without there being seed of vanity potentially monstrous.

  207. Dex, get that eye back in before the Finals start, lol.

  208. Great breakdown, Zephid.

    The only thing that wasn’t really mentioned is that what makes Hedo dangerous isn’t the 1-on-1 moves mentioned, but his use of the screen roll. How we defend that will be absolutely key. I’ll go against the grain and recommend going over the screen, because Ariza is quick enough to stay with him (Walton should go under the screen), and because tough contests at the rim often forces Hedo into out of control shots. We could have Pau or Bynum show hard on every play, but I’d rather avoid it as much as possible. It’ll allow Dwight a clear path to the rim, meaning Odom or Drew will have to rotate over to help, and our defense will end in scramble mode as a result, most likely giving them an open jumper. Our bigs have the most responsibility. They’ll have to slow Hedo, but at the same time stay within arm’s reach of the roller and cut off the passing angle.

    Phil Jackson in practice today said something like “It’s most advantageous to not double Howard.” Which is comforting to hear. Overreact to Howard, and their perimeter game is lethal.

    Right now, it seems like our entire defensive scheme is predicated on Drew being able to push D12 out of his comfort zone. Drew knows what’s at stake, and it’s time to show why we missed him so much last Finals.

  209. The Dude Abides May 31, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Yeah, the media has actually made a bigger deal about Lebron skipping the postgame press conference than his refusal to shake hands with the Magic players. Idiots. It’s much worse to walk off without shaking hands with your opponent. That shows terrible sportsmanship. Even Kenyon friggin’ Martin exchanged post-series handshakes with the Lakers.

  210. Dex, I have been ranting about this all day…can you imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media if this was Kobe? 4:30 Pacific and still nothing on ESPN except for a third-rate article by Broussard that actually includes the following sentence:

    “He felt so awful that he not only walked off the court without congratulating the Magic but also left Amway Arena without speaking with the media.”

    Get that? Poor LeBron felt awful…unbelievable…

  211. Yeah, that LeBron not talking to the media and offering “I’m a winner, I don’t congratulate after a loss” thing was just funny.

    Anyway, I shouldn’t feel so defensive for a guy making so much money and with so much talent, but this LeBron hype is making me become a Kobe fanboy.

  212. Dude – That’s exactly what amazes me. Who cares if he skipped the postgame podium session? Other players have done that before. What was classless was refusing to shake hands with the Magic players, and no one’s talking about that. Even if this were a team full of thugs, it’d be unsportsmanlike – and the Magic are pretty good guys overall.

    Absolutely amazing. Dex really nailed it with the “I’ve always been a great admirer of Bryant’s, and God knows he has talent; but this confirms why I’ve always loathed the overrated bastard.” Off the top of my head, I can picture a hundred basketball fans who would come at me with that line. “So talented, but this is why I dislike him.”

    Lebron is reaching that no-criticism zone that MJ had with the media. Jordan was a jerk compared to Lebron, but if Jordan had pulled the same act he wouldn’t have been criticized either.

  213. The Orlando-Cleveland series showed us, again, that individual games in the regular season do matter. Not every game carries the same weight, but there are certain critical games that affect playoff psyche (which we’ve seen so clearly affects on court play — execution, confidence, and unity).

    Orlando rolled into the eastern conference finals bruised and universally dismissed. They “barely” beat a Garnett-less Boston team, and struggled against Philadelphia. Cleveland was the toast of the league, having won the most games in the regular season and all 8 of its playoff games by double figures. They also had a supposedly bulletproof home court advantage, losing only one meaningful game there all year. On paper, and in the media’s eye, Orlando had no chance against Lebron’s anointed Team of Destiny. But, fresh off of beating Boston less than 48 hours before, Orlando was able to block all of that out and immediately begin dismantling Cleveland’s confidence. And Cleveland, despite such a sparkling record of dominance, was almost immediately mentally shaken to the core.

    Why? Because both teams remembered what happened in a few critical games during the regular season. The Magic beat the Cavs two out of three times, and outplayed them handily along the way. They also swept the season series with the Lakers. Cleveland, despite their 66 wins, felt the nagging doubt that comes from losing almost every “test” game against the league’s elite (going 2-6 against LA, Boston, and Orlando). Both teams knew this, and Orlando had no reason to fear Cleveland. The Emperor had no clothes and everyone suddenly knew it.

    Now, I don’t think Orlando possesses some meaningful psychological advantage because they swept the season series from us. But, despite the fact that we will be favored and have the home court, I don’t think that will mean anything to them. They, rightfully, don’t fear us. We won’t be able to shake this team like we could others — even if up 2-0 or by 25 in some critical game. We will have to keep our foot on their necks until the last buzzer of the last game, which is how it should be.

    I expect a furious battle with several desperate moments of panic and doubt along the way. When those moments come, let’s remember the lessons of Houston and Denver — Jekyll always shows up when the chips are down.

    Lakers in 6, winning games 1, 3, 5 and 6 (meaning we endlessly debate meaningless rotation possibilities after games 2 and 4; and bask in self love on the other nights).

    Unsung hero: Ariza. In a somewhat bittersweet break out for the Lakers, he contains Turkoglu, swings several close games with open 3s and steals, and earns himself the right to a contract that forces out Odom this offseason.

    Sung hero: Pau. Bynum spends the whole series in foul trouble, leaving Pau to battle Howard alone. He finally persuades the blind that he is indeed tough, battling Howard on every possession and bothering him on both ends with his length and quickness. Kobe awkwardly mauls him when they finally win it.

    Opponent we fear: Lewis. Our PFs (primarily Odom) prove incapable of not rotating off of him. Lakerdom swears in unison as he shoots at least 25 semi-open 3s.

    Opponent we hate: Pietrus. He battles Kobe relentlessly and selfishly makes a living with the corner 3.

    Kobe: rightfully enters the kingdom of Magic, Bird, and Duncan.

  214. Exactly: Lebron’s unapologetic “What you all have to understand is that I’m a winner” defense of his poor sportsmanship doesn’t hold a lot of water with me.

    Not to mention that self-identifying as a winner under these circumstances is a tad laughable.

    By the way, I actually like Lebron … at least his public persona … and I readily acknowledge that he’s probably the greatest talent in all of basketball. I’m just so relieved that these Finals aren’t going to be reduced to a tedious Kobe vs. Lebron storyline now!

  215. Why not. Some favorite Simmons quotes from right before the conference finals. I wish Minnesota had named him GM — it’s always nice to have someone with poor judgment and strong opinions on the other end of a trade negotiation. Resist the temptation to find my own empty prophesies…

    “The ’09 Cavs are the ’91 Bulls reincarnated… everyone keeps underestimating them and nobody realizes that they are about the blow thru these last 2 rounds.”

    “The Cavs have the best team – they can play D, they can shoot 3’s, they can post up Z, and they have LeBron. They have an answer for everything. Watch what they do to Orlando. They’re going to single-team Howard (which Boston should have done), stay home on the 3-point shooters, swarm high screens and drive the shooters away from the basket … and Orlando is going to flounder offensively. You watch. Dwight Howard couldn’t score 40 points in a game if he was going against Yi Jianlian’s chair.”

    “Don’t start thinking Orlando is good please.”

    “Let’s all settle down on the Magic. They will be lucky to win 1 game.”

    “What we’re watching this spring is basically the 2006 Lakers, only with Gasol replacing Chris Mihm, Kobe being 15% worse, Bynum being 20% better and Ariza being a slight improvement over Ariza. It’s a limited team that lacks toughness and can be beaten.”

    “Kobe had a fantastic career but cannot get it done EVERY night anymore and needs a ton of help from refs to get his points. He’s a jumpshooter at this stage of his career, and if he’s not scoring, he can’t really affect games.”

    The last sentence is the one that makes my blood boil with hot violent rage. Either he does not watch basketball or he is dishonest.

  216. Kurt, can you please make “Master of Panic” shirts for the finals? I’m thinking they’d have Van Gundy’s head in the middle of a hypnotist’s swirl with “Master of” curling around the top and “Panic” curling around the bottom. Seriously. The design’s all yours, I just want to buy one.

  217. One thing not mentioned in the Cavs’ revisionist post-mortem is that they failed to win even a SINGLE ROAD GAME against the other 3 elite teams – Boston, the Lakers, & the Magic – all season. That’s regular season, plus playoffs.

    The flipside of their incredible home record was that this was a team that couldn’t beat a contender on the road. Not even once. They even lost @ Bos in the preseason. Counting that preseason loss, we’re talking about a whopping 0-9 record on the road to these 3 teams.

    It’s why I was hoping we’d get Cleveland, and also why I was expecting that we wouldn’t.

  218. I don’t know, Kobe has refused to congratulate his opponents before (2006 suns I believe). what he didn’t do was not show up to the postgame press conference, because he’s a professional.

  219. Lebron is just too young and he will learn these lessons as he grows.

    Let’s see…at 24 Kobe was flying from Colorado to LA so that he could play in a game after being in court all day.

    Oh, and he already had 3 rings and had proved that he was entirely capable of 1) carrying a team all by himself (Pacers in playoffs) and keeping Shaq happy with expert assists (Portland – see current NBA adds).

  220. Wow, just watched the Lebron interview. I’m stunned that he ‘doesn’t understand’ why anyone would expect him to shake the hand of the team that beat him. We are all witnesses… to childishness nonpareil. Shameful.

  221. Great talents are now discovered in childhood and ‘channeled’ into professional leagues from that point on.

    These are the privileged few – sort of like the English aristocracy in Jane Austin novels.

    The result is people who are used to success and haven’t really had to face failure. Failure requires a discipline all its own. When failure does strike, mistakes are made and people change.

    We will see if Lebron can change. I hope so. He is too great a talent.

  222. I like Lebron’s honesty. You know, he has a point. As long as he congratulates them later on.

  223. After all this media hype, I truly, really, sincerely, honestly, desperately, must see Kobe win the championship.

    That will be the only way I can recover from the damage inflicted to my fragile psyche by the flood of LeBron hype.

    But… even then…

    If Kobe scores a lot to defeat the Magic, we’ll see how he still hasn’t learned to incorporate his teammates.

    If Kobe assists a lot to defeat the Magic, we’ll see how he has a superior supporting cast compared to LeBron.

    If Kobe strings together 30-10-5 type games, we’ll see how LeBron had triple doubles against the magic with an inferior cast.

    … and on and on…

    God forbid we lose. Yes, that God, the one Howard thanked.

  224. New post up from Bill Bridges — Why the Lakers will win.

  225. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy any of what Lebron says about his actions after losing. The entire Bad Boys (sans Dumars, I believe) team did this same thing to Jordan and his mates after the Bulls finally broke through in 1991. Zeke and Co. were skewered by everyone and to this day have not lived that moment down.

    After Magic Johnson hit his Baby Sky Hook in game 4 (not a clincher, but still…), Larry Bird faced the media and basically sung Magic’s praises as the best he’d ever seen.

    Lebron himself HAS LOST IN THE FINALS. He’s been swept in the most important series he’s every played in and gracefully faced the media after that defeat. Duncan (in a true touch of class) sought out Lebron in the hallway outside the media room and told Lebron that his time was coming and the the future was his. At that point, Lebron, full of grace and composure, faced the media and talked about his team and their triumphant opponent.

    So, please save it. I love Lebron as a player. But you don’t get to be anointed the best player, a guy mature beyond his years both physically and mentally, be called the most charismatic leader since Magic Johnson, and also be hailed as the face of the league and then skip out on saying anything to the team that just beat you and then also skip out on your media obligations. Just can’t do it. Not when you’re *that* guy. Mo Williams can do this. Big Z can do this. Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom can do this. Kobe, Lebron, Duncan, KG, Wade, CP3, etc, etc, can’t do this. So, sorry Lebron. None of that crap flies. You are the one of the best in the league and a fixture for the present and future health of this entire enterprise.

  226. Usually a signifier for being ahead of the curve, the fact that James did come to the NBA straight from high school entered my mind when watching him “finally” speak to the media. He tried to maintain the blank-canvas stance all Jordan heir apparents must have, repeating the bullet points on what Madison Avenue could continue to expect from him as an image and icon, if not puppet. That was drivel enough, but then his inability to comprehend shaking hands? His statements came across as so infantile and deluded, it made me wonder if he might’ve forgone continuing his education even earlier than we thought. Lebrawn could use a little more lebrains to figure out the concept of sportsmanship…

  227. anyone have a link to the interview transcript or article?

  228. 199, Burgundy, The Magic left Alston wide-open in favor of covering Lewis, Turkoglu, Lee, and Pietrus. They were practically begging Alston, who shoots a career 35.4% three point percentage, including an anemic 31.7% since joining Orlando, to shoot threes. Alston just found the shooting touch and torched Cleveland, including going 8-16 from three in games 3 and 4 combined for 18 and 26 points in the two games. Excluding those two games, Alston shot 6/21 from three, or 28.6%, and 11/43 from the field, or 25.6%. Needless to say, his shooting was just not that good in most of the series. So long as he is not left wide-open, he will not go off for 15+ points.

    I agree that Alston is perhaps a slightly better point guard than Fisher, but Brown and Farmar should be able to take advantage of Johnson, so long as they don’t give up a ton of open threes. That’s why I said the PG match-up is pretty even.

  229. nevermind, found it – that’s the worst justification for failing to congratulate an opponent i’ve ever heard.

  230. j.d. hastings, why aren’t you working for Nike?!?!