Sunday , May , 31 , 2009 Oly Sandor

NBA Finals Preview: How Orlando Magic can upset Kobe Bryant and L.A. Lakers

On Saturday evening, I, like most of you, was proven wrong. Orlando advanced to the NBA Finals, dethroning King James and Cleveland with an easy 103-90 win to take the Eastern Conference Final 4-2. After beating the heavily favoured Celtics and Cavaliers, the Magic will again play the underdog against the Lakers. The purple-and-gold shouldn’t get cocky, though. The Magic, if they follow these keys, can compete and even win the ‘Larry’ O’Brien trophy …


NBA Finals Preview: How Orlando Magic can upset Kobe Bryant and L.A. LakersI’ve learned my lesson.

A few weeks ago, I would’ve bet the car and house (what little of it I own after the mortgage meltdown) on a Cleveland Cavaliers-Los Angeles Lakers final. Like most fans, the suits at league head office, and ABC, I wanted the dream duel of LeBron James versus Kobe Bryant.

I slept on the Orlando Magic. It was easy enough. Orlando is the land of boy bands, Disney World, and Amway. With this in mind, I overlooked Dwight Howard’s offensive upside, the greatness of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, and Stan Van Gundy’s bench.



On Saturday evening, I, like most of you, was proven wrong. Orlando advanced to the NBA Finals, dethroning King James and Cleveland with an easy 103-90 win to take the Eastern Conference Final 4-2. After beating the heavily favoured Celtics and Cavaliers, the Magic will again play the underdog against the Lakers.

The purple-and-gold shouldn’t get cocky, though. The Magic, if they follow these keys, can compete and even win the ‘Larry’ O’Brien trophy. 

1.. Turn Kobe into a Volume Shooter 

L.A. excels when Bryant is facilitating for others. For instance, in the first half of game six of the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers dominated by spreading the wealth. Of course, their superstar was still the hub.

So the Magic must goad Kobe Bean into forgetting about teammates and firing away from the outside. After battling James for an entire series, Mickael Pietrus has the athleticism to make life difficult for #24.

2. Run the pick and roll 

Houston’s Aaron Brooks showed that L.A. struggles defending the pick-and-roll. Until game seven of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Lakers had no answer for the tiny Rocket slithering off screens and setting up teammates.

Look for Rafer Alston to challenge the defense. ‘Skip to my Lou’ must go at veteran Derek Fisher and, instead of looking for the first roll option, should find Lewis and Turkoglu for three-pointers because their checks will likely be cheating.  But … 

3. Live by the outside shot, die by it 

Orlando can’t become an outside-inside team. Even with sharp-shooting forwards, they have to work the ball in to Howard and get half their three-point attempts off the attention he attracts. Establishing an offensive balance between the paint and perimeter is a must.

4. Forget the refs   

Fair or not, the Lakers always receive their share of calls. This drove George Karl and the Nuggets crazy in the Western Conference Final. Instead of getting distracted by the whistles, the Magic has to focus on nothing but the game.

Bottom line: Orlando has great timing. After struggling down the stretch with injuries and working in a new point guard, their superstar, Howard, and blending stars, Lewis and Turkoglu, are peaking when it matters most. I expect the Lakers to prevail in seven games –if they don’t sleep on the talented Magic.      

Can Orlando beat L.A.? Or is Kobe and company too strong? Give us your prediction in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe the Blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of summerinla23.