Archive for June, 2009

The Lakers Return to Familiar Place Hoping that History Does Not “Magically” Repeat Itself

June 3, 2009
Kobe's Lakers and Dwight Howard's Magic meet in the 2009 NBA Finals

Kobe's Lakers and Dwight Howard's Magic meet in the 2009 NBA Finals

Welcome back to the finals, Lakers!

This finals has the makings to be one of two outcomes.

Outcome one is the sigh of relief in the words of “finally!” for many of the young Lakers including those who experienced the heartbreaking and embarassing game 6 loss to Boston last year after getting where many did not expect them to be. The Lakers didn’t expect to get there either, cruising past the Western Conference only to run into a brick wall of defense and physicality by the name of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics consisted of three all-stars who had yet to taste the flavor of an NBA Championship and had a “win or fail” mentality. The Lakers consisted of a young team who seemed to have the mentality of “Wow! We’re here! Let’s win this, but if we don’t, we’ll get Bynum back next year!” And thus we all know what happened. Kobe‘s sigh of relief is the removal of that monkey on his back that he faced ever since he and Shaq parted ways– can he lead a team to an NBA Championship in the post-Shaq era? Not only that, Kobe would love to experience this once more, knowing that though they beat the odds of returning back to the finals following an NBA Finals defeat, returning a third year after losing…well… Odom and Gasol would love to redeem themselves and actually show up during these finals and grab that illusive ring for the first time. Phil Jackson would probably love to catch Red Auerbach and further solidify his place in the coaches Hall of Fame.

Outcome two is the painful repeat in what would be even more disappointing considering this team was picked to win it all from the outset of the season. First picked to win 70 games (almost), then picked on for lackluster games against poor teams and a playoff series that should have all but ended sooner. They would run into another brick wall, the same brick wall that the other puppet in the commercials – Lebron James and company ran into— Orlando Magic. They would go through the rigors of winning 60+ games and battling through to the finals only to lose again.

I say outcome two is unlikely!!!

Game On!

This will no doubt be a hard series at first, but I expect the Lakers to win for a few reasons. One, this Laker team is experienced and knows what it’s like to be in the finals and what’s more, to LOSE in the finals.

The Lakers remember this day...and should refuse to let that happen again.

The Lakers remember this day...and should refuse to let that happen again.

Any team, especially a GOOD one with pride will not let a 39 point game 6 elimination go unavenged. The aforementioned mentalities have now switched. It is now the Lakers who say “anything less than a championship is a failure” and will play as such. Game 6 in Denver showed a Laker team that was dedicated to smart offense and disciplined defense on the way to a sound 27 point elimination of Karl’s Nuggets. Two, the Lakers as opposed to the Cavs boast a stronger supporting cast including an all-star power forward in Pau Gasol. There is no “all you have to do is stop Kobe.” in this series. Speaking of stopping Kobe, after dealing with Shane Battier and Dhontay Jones in previous series, I see nobody who boasts a “slow Kobe down” individual defensive ability on the Orlando Magic. Double teams and wide open looks for his supporting cast should be expected. Three, the Lakers can be happy to be facing the Magic because now they have what they worked for all year — Homecourt advantage. This, if all else fails will be thier security blanket, especially for the bench. Four, the Lakers have battled some very physical teams en route to the finals in the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets. As far as I know, this Orlando Magic team is far from these teams in terms of physicality and do not possess the stifling defense of the Rockets. I said this before the Lakers faced Denver to point out that offensively, the Lake Show will be able to get whatever they want. I think this will also work to thier advantage.

Having said all that, what needs to happen for the Purple and Gold parade???

Andrew Bynum needs to live up to the hype in these finals. 

1. Defense is key! How do you defend Orlando? Orlando possesses the ability to three-point shoot you into oblivion and practically everybody on that team can shoot threes. If that doesn’t work, they have  Superman Dwight Howard. Perimeter defense is essential. Aside from Dwight, I don’t see a need to double-team anybody (even if Jameer Nelson does return). Thus, effective man-to-man coverage will insure that there is a hand in the face of anybody shooting a three pointer. They are bad enough when covered– don’t give them any open looks. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will be essential in slowing down Dwight Howard. I don’t expect Phil Jackson to use the double team as he used it sparingly on Yao Ming during the Houston series. Hassling the passers, denying Dwight the ball and hounding the shooters will keep Orlando from crushing you inside and dismantling you from the outside. Finally, Fisher, Farmar, Vujacic and Brown will have to step it up majorly if Jameer Nelson is inserted into the lineup. Another great point guard– ahhhhhhh!!!! The Lakers MUST– I SAY MUST PREVENT DRIBBLE PENETRATION! Keep in mind that, Orlando has a tendency to live and die by the three pointer. If you defend the shooters, they will DIE by it.

 2. Smart and Efficient Offense. Much like in Game 6 in Denver, the Lakers have to take thier time and run thier offense. They have to go inside out, utilizing Pau and Drew as much as possible. Once Pau (cause I don’t know if Drew can get hot just yet…let’s hope) gets going, he will demand the double team which will start opening up the perimeter. Of course you know they have to hit shots. If Ariza and company start draining shots, the Black Mamba can really takeover and now you have an offensive jaggernaut! Okay, I know, I know! Superman, Dwight, shot blocker, etc. It is IMPORTANT that the Lakers go at Dwight Howard offensively and force him to play defense. This could get him in foul trouble. Getting Dwight Howard two quick fouls in the first quarter can change the game tremendously. Now the Lakers can get anything they want inside and defensively they can guard the perimeter more effectively and force Orlando to depend on the three point shot.

3. Kobe does not go for 50! What that means is the other players must support Kobe. Odom is a very important component for the bench. He has to take care of business.

Both Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol must be huge offensively and defensively.

Both Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol must be huge offensively and defensively.

You may seen Odom inserted early if Hedo gets too much to handle defensively. But Odom has to be the one to attack the basket as well as Ariza. Speaking of Ariza, he needs to continue to be effective from three as well as slashing to the basket (my personal pick to become the next James Worthy). Gasol has to be that second scorer to force Orlando to decide who to double team. Equally important is Andrew Bynum. He needs to get effective offensively to make Dwight work. THIS IS THE BIG STAGE WHERE LEGENDS ARE MADE, DREW— WE NEED THE OLD DREW BACK! The bench which was basically non-existent in last year’s finals and much of the playoffs, HAS to be there. I know Shannon Brown will come to play (where did this dude come from. He’s on fire! good trade!). The bench must outplay Orlando’s bench. I believe we really need Sasha Vujacic to return back to “machine” status. If Kobe doesn’t have to carry his team for much of the game, the Lakers will eat Orlando up.

Trevor Ariza is the necessary spark the Lakers need in this series.

Trevor Ariza is the necessary spark the Lakers need in this series.

4. “No Mercy”. I believe that’s what Kobe told his team in Game 6 against Denver. Cleveland led this Magic team by as much as 23 and still couldn’t put them away. This Laker team is also notorious for that and we can’t forget the 24 point lead blown in Los Angeles against Boston last year. I know they won’t forget. The Lakers have to jump on Orlando early and maintain the lead. It’s very hard to play from behind especially against a three point shooting team. Those threes then become back-breakers!

OOPS! I ALMOST FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING– THE LAKERS WILL HAVE TO WIN GAME ONE!! The Lakers have not beaten Orlando all season long and a game 1 loss will no doubt get them thinking, much like against Boston. So it is IMPERATIVE that the Lakers get that monkey off of their back and win game one decisively to set the tone AND to take care of homecourt– it’s very hard to win in Orlando.  

This is going to be exciting even though they’ve already created the Lebron and Kobe puppets. Go ahead and add a Dwight Howard puppet to the mix. I expect this series to be over in 6. My previous predictions were as follows: Lakers over Jazz in 5 (correct), Lakers over Rockets in 5 (prior to the Yao injury which changed the course of the series- wrong, very wrong) and the Lakers over Denver in 6 (correct). Let’s hope I’m correct this time.

Alright Laker fans! It’s on!

ENJOY THE NBA FINALS!