Thursday, June 04, 2009

Believing in Magic

Pardon the headline, which probably appeared in about 800 Florida newspapers this morning.

I think the Orlando Magic are going to win this series. I hope they win, but I also think they will.

I heard a preview of the series this morning on the one sports-talk radio show I can stand. The hosts talked about wanting Orlando to win but not believing they can, making several arguments along the lines of “no one expected them to be here,” and “they don’t have the same level of talent,” and “Kobe has a lot to prove, wants to win a championship without Shaq, and will simply will the Lakers to the title.”

My preview will be a quick response to each of these arguments:

It’s true that Orlando wasn’t the most popular choice to be in the finals, but I like to reserve the phrase “no one expected them to be here” for teams that no one expected to be somewhere. For instance, if the Philadelphia 76ers had made this year’s finals? Then the phrase would apply. But the Magic won 59 games this year, only six less than the Lakers and five more than any team other than L.A. in the deep West. Fifty-nine wins is a great year. Since 1999, only six teams have won more than 61 in a season.

Talent. Here’s where I strongly disagree, because of both talent and match-up -- the latter of which, as the Cavs could tell you, counts for a lot. Dwight Howard is a monster. The Lakers don’t have anyone down low who can dominate like he can. They’ll have their hands full. And while the Magic don’t have much more than him inside, they have a lot outside -- and, even more importantly, it’s big. Rashard Lewis is 6-10. So is Hedo Turkoglu. Mickael Pietrus (I love watching him play) is 6-6. Courtney Lee is 6-5. All of those guys can kill you from the outside. Who’s 6-1 Derek Fisher going to guard? I think the Lakers’ formidable size -- Bynum, Gasol, Odom -- isn’t built to handle the multiple-threat perimeter game of the Magic, especially when they have to devote resources to Howard in the paint. The radio guys also mentioned being scared by teams that live or die by the three-pointer. It’s true that can be dangerous, but much more so if you depend on just one or two guys who could get cold. The Magic have five or six guys out there, and there’s no reason they can’t just ride whoever is hot. It might be everybody, as it seemed to be against the Cavs. The Magic went 2-0 against the Lakers in the regular season. And if not for LeBron’s miracle shot in Game 2 of the conference finals, they would have swept the 66-win Cavs. And there wasn’t a moment in that series where I thought Orlando was in trouble. Not a moment.

The last story line is the one that will be milked most by the media: Kobe’s quest to add a ring without Shaq’s help. Kobe is a tremendous player, but what I find mystifying is this argument that he will simply not allow the Lakers to lose the series because of what’s at stake for his legacy. Was he not concerned about that when the Lakers lost to Boston last year in six? Win or lose, the story will be crammed into a Kobe-shaped hole, but it will take more than Kobe for L.A. to win this.

I say Magic in six. I’ve been wrong before.


Blogger Dezmond said...

Lakers in six.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Gifting Is Legal said...

I picked LA in 6 but after tonight it looks like 5. Tons of match-up problems and the best scorer in basketball make this a mis-match.

11:51 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Yes, I'm not sure any post of mine has ever aged worse and more quickly. (Even those involving Air Supply.) The very coldness I thought the depth would guard against is what killed them -- 30 percent from the field?? On the one hand, that's not likely to happen again. But you're right, I didn't address the reverse match-up problems that L.A.'s front court causes when the Lakers have the ball.

Plus, Kobe. I blind myself to just how great he is (or at least peek through my fingers) because I do dislike him so. I'll hang my tattered analytical hat on that FG% for now. If Orlando's gonna shoot 30%, they obviously have zero chance. But I doubt they'll shoot that for the series.

1:08 AM  

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