Welcome to our first ever NBA Playoff Blogger Faceoff, where we pit our favorite team-related writers against each other to let them tell why the teams they represent will win their matchups. We gave them no set format, no style guide – we just told them to do their thing. Check it out and join in the debate in the comments section.
Last up: Lakers vs. Magic:
WHY THE LAKERS WILL WIN
Written by Kurt of Forum Blue & Gold
The Lakers have said all year that the blowout loss in game six of last year’s Finals against Boston is what motivated them to get back. But what it gave them more than anything was an understanding of the level of play and intensity needed to win an NBA Title. Last year, the Lakers as a team just didn’t understand that, this year they will, and that experience is an underrated advantage.
They have some other on the court advantages as well. They have some big men in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (and expect some D.J. Mbenga as well) who can slow down Dwight Howard in the post. The Lakers are not going to double Howard in the post. None of the Lakers can stop him — the guy is one of the two best centers on the face of the earth — but if they can make him work for points and stick with the guys standing around at the three point line they can make the Magic less efficient. They are willing to let Howard get 25+ if they shut down the perimeter.
The Lakers also have better perimeter defenders than the Magic have seen in the playoffs. Trevor Ariza is going to come back and haunt his old team with his ability to defend Hedo Turkoglu. Lamar Odom is going to matchup on Rashard Lewis and can hold his own.
Then, in the end, the Magic don’t have anybody who can check Kobe Bryant. And he wants this title and can will his team to it.
WHY THE MAGIC WILL WIN
Written by Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse
One of the talking points favoring the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals is that they “want it more” than the Magic, that Orlando is simply “happy to be here.” Forgive my skepticism, but this line of thinking indicates that the team that won’t be satisfied with second place is automatically the winner. If that were the case, the Magic wouldn’t have even made it this far. The Cleveland Cavaliers were supposedly destined to win the championship this year, while the Magic could have just been happy to reach the Eastern Conference Finals despite missing their All-Star point guard for roughly half the season. They were happy to be there, sure, but not happy enough to roll over against the mighty, heavily-favored Cavaliers.
(And yes, for the record, I was one of the people favoring the Cavs in that series, but it had nothing to with the “Cleveland wants it more” line of thinking.)
If the Magic lose this series, they will do so because the Lakers are an offensive juggernaut, have the best player in the series on their side, and have some legitimate low-post scorers, which Orlando has not had to defend in these playoffs. Heart, desire, and “just being happy to be there” don’t figure into the equation at all.
With that said, I don’t think the Magic will lose this series. The advantage Pau Gasol has over Rashard Lewis offensively is overstated, as Lewis has proven time and again in Orlando he has the strength and moxie to defend true power forwards in the pain. Also, they probably will see less of each other than perhaps expected, because Andrew Bynum is bound to get into foul trouble and force the Lakers to use Gasol at center, although they’d like to keep Bynum on the floor because he has the physicality to at least pester Dwight Howard.
These are two fairly deep, talented, well-coached, titanic basketball teams, and we’re in for a hard-fought series. It could come down to a couple of points either way, as the first five games of the Magic’s series against Cleveland did – a total of two points separated them after 245 minutes – before they took control in Game 6. Incidentally, six games is how long I believe this series will last, and Orlando will once again cone out on top. It’s very hard to pick against a great team like the Lakers, and I wouldn’t bat an eye at all if they won the series. But I just feel more strongly about Orlando.
Magic in 6.