Sunday , May , 17 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Eastern Conference Finals Preview: How Orlando can challenge LeBron James and Cleveland

Eastern Conference Finals Preview: How Orlando can challenge LeBron James and ClevelandIt’s Mission Impossible.

I’m not referencing a Tom Cruise flick or the T.V. series, but the task facing the Orlando Magic after winning game seven against the Boston Celtics and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers haven’t lost a playoff game, disposing quickly of the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. They are rested. And superstar LeBron James is hitting his stride. While Orlando won’t self-destruct in five seconds ala Ethan Hunt, nobody is expecting Dwight Howard and friends to advance to the NBA Finals.

Still, the Magic can compete with the Cavaliers if they follow these keys. They may even steal a couple of games and make it a series. After all, David beat Goliath once, but not four times in seven games.

3) Bring the D … 

Orlando must get-stops against Cleveland’s improved offense. Stan Van Gundy’s side are the underdogs and don’t have homecourt advantage, so playing airtight defense on every possession is paramount.

Of course, the Cavaliers are an elite defensive team. They’ll go after Howard and force Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu off the three-point line. This could be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair.

2) Ignore Sideshow Bob … 

Plain and simple, Anderson Varejao is a pest. Like Bruce Bowen and James Posey, the Brazilian provides toughness, aggression, and a certain intangible that tends to alienate. The young Magic can’t get flustered, but also have to stand firm against Varejao. 

1) Turn The King into a scorer … 

Stopping James is a waste of energy. The all-world three-man will get his. Instead, Orlando should try controlling the King and focus on taking away opportunities for his supporting cast.

For example, James is at his best when scoring, rebounding, and, most importantly, setting up others. Why not try to turn James into just a scorer and limit chances for teammates?  This means a diet of one-on-one defense. Absolutely no double-teams or weak-side help.

This strategy has worked before. In the 2005-06 playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Phoenix Suns by making Steve Nash a scorer and limiting assist opportunities. Nash had a great series, but his squad struggled, while Team Cuban won the series and went onto the NBA Finals. This approach could help the Magic win a game and get momentum. 

Does Orlando have a chance versus Cleveland? Why? Why not? Get at us in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe The Blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of webcoderguy.