Los Angeles Lakers vs Orlando Magic : A positional breakdown for the 2009 NBA Finals

We are newbies to the itnernet domain game, not afraid to admit it. Big brother (and shameless Laker fan) Glenn Reno is helping us out with a little position breakdown for the playoffs. We’ll be throwing in our Finals preview tomorrow, after, you know, we’ve made a wager. With no further ado……

Los Angeles Lakers vs Orlando Magic : A positional breakdown for the 2009 NBA Finals
by: Glenn Reno (http://www.glennreno.com)

The NBA finals are here, and there is no better time to talk about some of the key match ups between the two teams. It’s been joked many times before that the NBA is just a one man sport where one player can make the difference between the team winning or loosing and in a sense it’s absolutely right. Don’t get me wrong you need a solid 1-2 punch and a deep bench to get your self through the playoffs but to make sure you come out ahead in a best of 7 series you need to have a difference maker, a player who is so clutch even if you’re up 10 at the start of the 4th you’re still nervous and impatiently waiting for the next 12 minutes to finish up, or if you’re on the other side of the ball down 10 in the 4th quarter with plenty of time remaining you’re not even anxious  more so calm than anything.

Starting off with the point guard position, as always the Lakers biggest weakness has been quick point guards but keep in mind has never been the difference maker between a series won or lost.  Looking back on the regular season the Magic are 2-0 vs the Lakers, and Jameer Nelson was the leading scorer in both games. Now Nelson has been out for quite some time now but there have been rumors that Nelson plans to suit up and play some minutes but as Brandon has said and I believe it’s more of a confidence boost for the Magic rather than a true threat to the Lakers. Rafer Alston who in my opinion has been the biggest injury replacement in the league and a savior to the Magic’s season can shoot the ball a bit better than Fisher and defiantly has the speed advantage but Fisher has an unlimited amount of experience and leadership and has the determination to never quit. Anthony Johnson is third string at best and you throw in Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar and you have to give the Lakers the edge at the point guard position.

Point Guard: Lakers 1 – Magic 0 (Ed. This is A HUGE STRETCH…)

At the shooting guard position there really isn’t a comparison. I’d be lying if I said there was Kobe Bryant is the absolute best player in the NBA currently and if you disagree then you don’t know basketball. You’re team could be up 10 at the start of the 4th quarter and you’re still sweating the seconds out impatiently hoping that some way some how it doesn’t get closer and come down to a last second shot and the ball is in Kobe’s hands. The guy is the Mariano Rivera (in his prime) of basketball. Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus will have their shot at Kobe but it’ll be nothing but a speed bump to Mr. Kobe, throw in J.J. Redick and that’s nothing but a tiny pot hole for Kobe’s 18 wheeler (no homo). Pietrus is a solid defender and between the two they pretty much split the position 50/50. I believe Pietrus is a better defender and shooter but Lee is a better free throw shooter (Ed. Lee is a tougher matchup, they need to both be on the floor). Coming off the bench the Lakers have Vujacic due to a three point guard rotation, Sasha plays a limited amount of time because Kobe is generally in for the majority of the game he’s came up big a few times but as long as he plays smart he’s doing his job.

Shooting Guard: Lakers 2 – Magic 0

No Glenn, not the Closer, the Executioner.

No Glenn, not the Closer, the Executioner.

The forward position is there things start to look promising for the Magic. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are tall players who play perimeter basketball, this will be a key matchup where Lamar Odom will need to step up his defensive game and stick around outside rather than midrange or in the paint and Trevor Ariaza will have to continue to make amazing plays on the defensive end to make up for the shots Hedo and Rashard are bound to make. Rashard Lewis is the best three point shooter in the game until the fourth quarter comes around and Kobe just seems to swag splash on everyone.  Pau Gasol will be a major player in this series because he tends to play low in the post on offense and that’s where he scores most of his points, and Hedo and Rashard are opposites.

Forwards: If Hedo and Rashard can continue to drain three’s like crazy it goes to the Magic, otherwise it’s Lakers all day. Lakers have too much depth in these two positions between Gasol, Odom, Ariaza and Walton. Lakers 2.5 – Magic 1.5

The center position for the Lakers is some what questionable, the only true center they have on the team is Andrew Bynum, some say he was the key reason the Lakers lost the finals last year vs the Celtics. I believe this as well, I would of liked to have had Bynum in last years series vs the Celtics and seen what he would of done vs big baby and Perkins who seemed to somehow score at will every time the game got close. Dwight Howard has without the advantage at the center position, this man is the best center in the league and he does his job well, however this will be the first time Howard is tested in the playoffs. If Bynum and Gasol are together in the paint they’ll have the advantage but this isn’t going to happen all the time and the Lakers can’t let it because a double team on Howard means that Hedo or Rashard are probably going to be open. This is going to be a big difference maker and a great matchup to watch, will it be the matchup that decides the series?  Not really sure but I can at least say it’ll play a big part. (Ed. Had to butt in here, if the Lakers don’t outrebound this team, they have ZERO chance to win the series… I’ll tell you why tomorrow).

Center: Magic 2.5 – Lakers 2.5

This was just as easy.

This was easy.

The Lakers have the better bench with or without Jameer Nelson playing for the Magic, at any given time they have solid backups at every position plus the Lakers have been here before, they have some season vets, and the majority of the team already knows what it feels like to loose a championship. Throw Phil Jackson in the mix who will absolutely son Stan Van Gundy and you have a recipe for a championship.

Bench / Coaching: Lakers 4.0 – Magic 2.5

Final Comments:

Kobe will have his championship pinky ring, LeBron James will have had gone M.I.A (We’ve already seen it last week when they lost game 6) and Shaq will consider coming back for LA (I wish)

This will make me sick if he gets to do this again.

This will make me sick if he gets to do this again.



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6 responses to “Los Angeles Lakers vs Orlando Magic : A positional breakdown for the 2009 NBA Finals

  1. Sanel C

    very well put article. obviously if the magic start drilling 3’s, we stand no chance and as one espn analyst previously stated “the magic are breaking one of the 10 commandments of basketball: Thou shall not live by the jumpshot”.

  2. The Magic shoot too many three’s, if the Lakers can’t take advantage of missed shots by rebounding the ball they won’t be able to breathe. Nobody wants to see Rashard or Hedo have a second chance at a missed three… They don’t miss twice in a row.

    Nice touch with the introduction and added pictures.

  3. caporegime16

    The Magic are by far the most confusing team in the playoffs, they’re team makes no sense…THE LAKERS BY ALL ACCOUNTS SHOULD KILL THIS TEAM…

  4. caporegime16

    I’m going to give you a stat tomorrow that is going to fuck with you’re guys heads tomorrow. Because, as a basketball guy, I still don’t understand it.

  5. ripped this from ESPN Insider… enjoy.

    Most important player in the finals? Gasol.
    The names on the marquee are Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. And over the next two weeks, those two players undoubtedly will receive most of the ink.

    But if there is a key player in these NBA Finals, it isn’t one of those two. No, the most important player, the one most likely to determine whether it’s L.A. or Orlando that hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy later this month, is the Lakers’ “other” star, Pau Gasol.

    The NBA postseason is all about matchups, and as the last round showed us, Orlando is a very peculiar matchup for a lot of teams. At almost every point in every game, it is Gasol who will be in the crosshairs with one odd matchup or another, and how he deals with them likely will determine the victor.

    Let’s start on offense, where Gasol befuddled the Nuggets once the Lakers got around to getting him the ball. This is the first reason he’s such an important player — the Lakers periodically forget about him, most notably in Game 2 of the Denver series, and when they do, they suffer. With his length and dexterity, he’s an extremely difficult cover for nearly everyone, and he punishes double-teams by finding open teammates. Lamar Odom in particular seems to benefit from this skill, since Gasol is as adept at flicking the ball to an opening in the interior as he is at kicking it out for a 3.

    This matters a great deal in the coming series for a couple of reasons. First, when Andrew Bynum is on the floor, Gasol will be defended by Orlando’s Rashard Lewis. Lewis is a converted small forward who stands 6-foot-10; as such, he should be no match for Gasol. Gasol can shoot right over Lewis on his post-ups. And if the Magic double him, he should open things up for the Lakers’ shooters on the perimeter.

    Unfortunately, in two regular-season games against Orlando, the Lakers went into forget-about-Pau mode. He took only nine shots in a 106-103 loss to the Magic on Dec. 20 and 13 in a 109-103 defeat Jan. 16.

    And when Gasol doesn’t get the ball, it allows Lewis a free pass on defense. He played a combined 79 minutes in the two games and committed just six fouls; one of the primary benefits of going to Gasol in this matchup is that he can put fouls on Lewis and get him on the bench, but it didn’t happen in either game.

    Of course, Gasol matches up against Lewis only if Bynum is on the floor, and that’s been something less than a certainty of late. If Bynum is again plagued by fouls in his matchup against Howard — which seems likely, given Howard’s penchant for drawing whistles and Bynum’s equally strong tendency to attract them — before long, Gasol will be playing center and Howard will be guarding him.

    This, too, is an opportunity for Gasol. If he can occupy Howard and prevent him from blocking shots, it will be a big victory for the Lakers’ guards — particularly Bryant. He can do that by attacking Howard and scoring on him, or better yet, by drawing fouls on him.

    Gasol did this particularly well in his only other game against the Magic as a Laker, in February 2008. With Bynum out of the lineup, he matched up against Howard all game and put him in early foul trouble, helping the Lakers to a 117-113 win.

    So offensively, we can see how he’s vital. He has a great matchup to start the game, he’s the one guy who can put fouls on the Magic’s two most important players and his offensive involvement has been a useful indicator of L.A.’s success.

    Yet he might be even more important at the defensive end in this series, and again, the matchups are a reason why. This time, the conditions aren’t nearly as favorable for him. He’s a 7-footer who lacks a wide body and a physical nature, and he hasn’t always been comfortable stepping out on jump shooters — witness all those open 17-footers the Rockets’ Luis Scola got in the second round.

    He’s going to have to get used to stepping out, though, because Lewis is going to involve Gasol in pick-and-pop plays and will bust a 3 on him if he isn’t willing to go out to 23 feet to cover him. Lewis appears to have the advantage on the drive, and it will be a challenge for Gasol not to pick up personals defending him on the perimeter. This is the matchup that so badly screwed up Boston and Cleveland in the past two rounds, so Gasol will be in the spotlight.

    That spotlight will grow only brighter if Bynum can’t handle Howard. In such an event, Gasol slides down to the center spot and has to check the Magic’s most dangerous offensive player. Physically, this one is a total mismatch, and it will be a challenge for Gasol to push him out far enough that the Lakers can bring some double-team help — the same problem that bedeviled Cleveland’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the last series.

    Additionally, Gasol won’t have the option most bigs use against Howard — intentionally fouling. The Lakers need to keep him on the court and can’t afford to have him piling up fouls against Howard, who led the league in free-throw attempts in the regular season. This is a huge problem, as without Bynum, the Lakers become an extreme finesse team; and the only cure is for Gasol to find reserves of physicality that were glaringly lacking against Boston’s bigs in last year’s Finals.

    So it’s Kobe versus Dwight. These two will get the attention and accolades, and one of them almost certainly will win Finals MVP when it’s all said and done. But the MIP — Most Important Player — of these Finals isn’t either of them. Whether the Lakers have the ball or the Magic do, the key to success or failure will be the play of Pau Gasol.

    • If you’re trying to read the tea leaves on how long Phil Jackson will stick around coaching the Lakers, keep an eye on assistant Kurt Rambis. Widely suspected to be the heir apparent in L.A. once Jackson steps down, Rambis also is interviewing for the open Sacramento job. If he takes it, that could be a sign Jackson plans on sticking around for a while longer. Should he turn it down, I’d read that as a signal Jackson will be stepping aside soon.

    Of course, Rambis might not get the chance to decide. Former Suns and Sonics boss Paul Westphal and ace Boston defensive assistant Tom Thibodeau also are in the running in Sacramento, with a decision expected soon.

    • Don’t hold your breath on Jameer Nelson’s playing. As much as the Magic would like to have him back, “a miracle has to happen” was the money quote from Nelson in Tuesday’s Orlando Sentinel.

    And in the odd event he does come back, we should temper our expectations. This isn’t a Tuesday in February against Memphis. He hasn’t played in four months, and he’d be stepping onto the court for an NBA Finals game; even if he were 100 percent physically, the increase in intensity would be a pretty serious adjustment.

  6. a second article pulled from ESPN..
    Smackdown Breakdown: Magic-Lakers

    In essence, every single stat expert thinks the Lakers will win this series.

    (My mom does not. She is adamant that the Magic will win because, in her words, they play as a team and are not all about one player. With apologies to my mother, however, she is not a stat expert.)

    Looking at the standings, however, and realizing they needed to mix it up to have a shot at advancing up the leaderboard, both Jeffrey Ma and Sandy Weil went against their best analysis and picked the Magic.

    Weil is in particular trouble. His model seems quite good, but he already has overruled it with his human intuition five times, and three of those times he has been wrong. As a result, he heads into the Finals having to make a high-risk pick to avoid becoming the first Stat Geek to lose to my mom.

    Said Weil, “Well, the model says the Magic in a photo finish if all games were neutral-court; but favoring the Lakers with home-court factored in. Given that my only hope to pull out of the basement of the standings is to go a different direction than Mom and Ilardi, and get it right, I’m going to take the Magic in 6. No one else will take that, I suspect. If the Magic win in six (my model’s second-most-likely scenario, after Lakers in seven), I could pull it off.”

    The bad news for Weil: His fate is sealed. As luck would have it, the Magic in six pick he found unlikely to be popular was the exact pick my mom thought seemed most likely of all.

    In the meantime, David Berri is in the catbird seat heading into the Finals, and he’s not playing any games with his pick. “Assuming [Jameer] Nelson comes back, and he plays as he did earlier in the season (big if), I think the Magic can make this close. But I am still taking the Lakers since they have home-court for both Games 6 and 7.”

    Kevin Pelton also is taking the Lakers, and explains that Orlando’s unforeseen win against the Cavaliers might be a different situation than what it’s facing now. In hindsight, he writes, “Orlando’s upset win in the Eastern Conference finals looks more predictable because of the importance of matchups in the postseason. The Magic had won the season series 2-1, and convincingly so. Orlando’s upset meant every playoff series so far has been won by the team that won or tied the regular-season series, a trend the Magic certainly hope continues, having swept the Lakers this season.

    “This time, however, the evidence isn’t as strong in Orlando’s favor. The two wins were both close, coming by a combined nine points, and the Magic relied heavily on the production of Jameer Nelson. The odds of his matching that even if he does play — or any of the other Orlando point guards replicating it — are long indeed. This time around, the matchups are not so strongly tilted in the Magic’s favor. When the Lakers go small, they match up very well indeed — with the notable exception of the middle.

    Although it’s possible to envision a scenario in which Dwight Howard is too much for either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol to handle, the shooters make their shots and the Orlando defense is solid enough to hold the Lakers at bay, the more likely scenario is that Howard will come back to Earth slightly after his conference finals, and the Lakers’ offense will prove more potent.”

    As Hollinger and Berri have both picked the Lakers, Jeffrey Ma is the only person besides Berri with a chance to win. Once again, he writes, “I find myself in the unenviable position of making a pick simply to be contrarian and hoping for the best. Here’s how it could happen: Orlando is able to spread the floor and hit its 3s, and Howard is able to get Gasol and, more importantly, Bynum in foul trouble. The 6-foot-10 wing players create mismatches, and Pietrus annoys Kobe enough to make him take too many shots.”

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