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    09/07/2011 9:56 PM
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NBA Finals 2009 Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic

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Point Guard

In theory the Point Guard position is the weakest link of the Los Angeles Lakers. Derek Fisher brings the championship pedigree over Alston but despite his experience Fisher can't match lightning-quick point guards. Rockets' PG Aaron Brooks scored 19, 34 and 26 points in the Rockets wins while shooting 27-47 from the field (51% clip). That's the biggest explanation of why PG Jameer Nelson enjoyed two huge games vs. Lakers in the regular season. Remember that in those two games Nelson was the Magic leading scorer with 27 and 28 points. With his quickness and explosion, Nelson explored the LA's biggest weakness. If somehow (honestly I don't expect) Nelson could play in the Finals the Magic would get a great edge.

Without him Rafaer Alston has had some big games in these Playoffs but he was pretty inconsistent. He shot 'only' 38.3% from the field overall (35.1% from three) and it's important to refer that both the Celtics and the Cavs left Alston (offering him the weakest side) wide open several times and still he couldn't get full advantage from that. Nevertheless he is one of the X factors for the Magic. Remember that in three home games in the Eastern Conference Finals, Alston averaged 19 points a game on 45.7% shooting but in the three road games, he put up just six points on 22.2% shooting. Defending Derek Fisher should be easy for him not only because Fisher isn't exactly a versatile Point Guard but also because Fisher shot only 35.6% from the field and 23.5% from three-point range.

Off the bench the Lakers have two options with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown and Phil Jackson can use them depending of what the game demands. Farmar is quicker and at times a more creative playmaker and Jackson can use him to speed up the pace and Brown is more athletic and a talented defender so Jackson can use him when Fisher is struggling in defending the Magic's PG's. Meanwhile the Magic play Anthony Johnson behind Alston.  Johnson is a solid backup but don't expect him to excel more than 15 minutes per game. Note that he struggled with his shot by shooting only 37.6% from the field.

Shooting Guard:

Naturally that in this position we have to talk about the Magic game plan to stop/limit Kobe Bryant. After a tough series against the Houston Rockets' top caliber defensive duo of Shane Battier and Ron Artest, Bryant had an easier task against the Nuggets and he averaged 34 points on 48.1% shooting and 12 free throws a game.

Courtney Lee is a nice surprise for the Magic this season and in these Playoffs (when healthy) but we can expect Pietrus to be on the court in the crunch time as he is Orlando's best perimeter defender and did a 'good job' against Lebron James in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Kobe is a different type of player than Lebron so it will be pretty interesting to observe Kobe's numbers in this series. Coincidently or not, Kobe at home vs. Orlando in the regular season finished the game with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists and Pietrus... did not play! It's also important to say that Pietrus had was a huge offensive spark off the bench vs. Cleveland with 13.8 points on 50.9% shooting (including 47.2% from three).  Lakers' backup Sasha Vujacic is playing in a diminutive role this season and I don't expect much to change in the Finals.


Small Forward:

Small forward should be one of the more intriguing matchups of the series. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis were a nightmare matchup for the Cavs and Hedo is in my opinion the most important Magic player. If the Magic manage to win the Championship then Turkoglu surely will be a MVP's top choice. We all know that Turkoglu is the Van Gundy's first option down the stretch but it is his playmaking ability that makes him so decisive for this team. Do you want facts? In the Eastern Conference Finals his two highest scoring games with 29 and 21 points were Orlando... losses but he averaged eight assists per game in the Magic's wins against just three in losses.

However the Lakers have in Trevor Ariza a good defensive stopper. Ariza is a versatile defender with long arms that can offer some problems to Turkoglu. As a bonus Ariza is having a great offensive role in these Playoffs. He's averaging 11.4 points per game hitting 55.8% from the field and a remarkable 30-60 clip from behind the arc.  The Lakers SF backup Luke Walton is a smart playmaker and key player when the second unit is on the court. He averaged three assists a game in 16.5 minutes vs. Denver but his lack of quickness can hurt him vs. Turkoglu so I'm expecting Van Gundy to use Turkoglu when Walton is on the floor.

Power Forward:

The power forward position is probably the X factor of this series for both teams. Looking for a Gasol vs. Lewis matchup a mismatch will happen but for whom? Gasol is one of the league's most talented big men and once in the post he will crush Lewis with his inside scoring, rebounding, passing or even shot-blocking, this is a huge edge for the Lakers.

However, off the post Lewis is a lethal weapon and a difficult cover on the perimeter. Gasol is a versatile PF but still he is not as fast and mobile than Lewis so Lewis can offer the Magic some poison behind the arc like he did vs. Cleveland. Lamar Odom can be a huge factor in this series. Remember that Odom should have more success keeping up with Lewis as like Lewis he is a combo SF/PF that can play inside out without any problems. He enjoyed a great series vs. Utah, and then he disappeared vs. Houston with a minor injury just to make two huge games in games 5 and 6 vs. Denver.

Center

Zydrunas Ilgauskas didn't have a chance guarding Dwight Howard.  Howard was an absolute beast in the close-out game against the Cavaliers with 40 points and 14 boards and during the series the Cavs couldn't match Howard's explosiveness and let's see what the Lakers can do vs. Howard. Andrew Bynum can offer more resistance then Ilgauskas but he's not at his best after the return. However he was more aggressive in the last games in the Western Conference Finals and this is important because Howard surely wants to avoid being in foul trouble. Phil Jackson will use Pau Gasol at this position and I wouldn't be surprised if D.J. Mbenga could get some minor minutes against Howard as well. A special note also for Marcin Gortat who is having a nice postseason offering solid minutes to the team when Howard is out.

The Lakers have some theory advantage on the bench. Odom, Walton, Brown, Farmar and Vujacic offer a deeper bench to LA however it will be the Odom vs. Pietrus matchup that will define the best bench in this series. Phil Jackson has the nine rings and all the experience but Van Gundy is an underrated coach and like Doc Rivers last season that didn't stop him to win the championship.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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