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.
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 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 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
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.
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
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.