Well, after what seems like 2.5 years, and what was actually 2+ months, the matchup for the NBA Finals is set. We’re attempting to be the first outlet in all of Blogfrica to bring you a Finals preview with a skosh of analysis. So, without further ado, let’s dig in.
On paper, this looks like a no-brainer. After all, the Lakers have Kobe. And they play in L.A. Those two factors have to be worth at least 2 or 3 games, right? As Lee Corso (get well soon) might say, not so fast my friend. The Sexytime Magic are the NBA equivalent of Utah or Boise State in a BCS bowl game. Sure, their roster isn’t as talented. Of course, they’ll have the coaching matchup appear on the debit side of their ledger. However, they’re just awkward enough to beat teams they shouldn’t. After the jump, more analysis fun.
First and foremost, the Lakeshow needs to find a way to mitigate their large disadvantage in the post. Namely, how to keep Dwight Howard from racking up insane amounts of offensive rebounds. Seems easy on its face, what with Gasol and Bynum, no? Let’s actually examine it though. Not sure where we heard this (ahem), but let’s go ahead and dispense with the notion that Pau Gasol is anything other than a liability on the defensive end of the floor. In Bill Simmons’ marathon chat a couple of weeks ago, someone remarked that Gasol originally had the first name Paul, but was outrebounded for the L, so he was Pau from then on. The sad fact is, that’s completely plausible. As gifted as he is on offense, Gasol has the tremendous ability to disappear and give the impression that he doesn’t give a shit on the defensive end. He’s turrrrible. Howard will eat his lunch and dinner if Phil Jackson is dumb enough to let that matchup run too much in this series. With Sexytime’s penchant for chucking from everywhere, rebounding on their offensive end will be at a premium. Add to that the fact that the Sexytime Magic have legitimately four players on the floor at any given time that can fill it up, and the Lakers can’t really afford to leave guys alone to crash, or cheat toward the basket. What’s that you say? Andrew Bynum? Well, on potential, that seems like a valid point. However, as we have discussed in this space before, he looks and plays like Tracy Morgan in a fat suit on stilts. Bynum has to be working his way into the conversation with other players who have all the talent in the world (supposedly; after all, that’s what we were all told), yet can’t seem to put it together in any meaningful way. We’re really supposed to believe that a player that has a career average of 4.2 defensive RPG, and a 2009 playoff of 2.3 defensive RPG (Bynum), coupled with another guy with a career average of 6.1 defensive RPG, who have both struggled with bigs this postseason, are going to shut down probably the strongest center in the league, who, by the way, averages 3.6 offensive boards per game in his career, and over 4 per game in these playoffs? Especially with Sexytime throwing it up from everywhere on the floor? Sorry, we’re not buying it.
Granted, the Lakers do have the biggest advantage in this series, Kobe Bean Bryant. Just keep in mind, the Cavaliers had a similar advantage in this past series. Bottom line, the Finals won’t come down to what the Lakers can do on the offensive end. They have to a) find a way to stop the Sexytime Magic, and/or b) hope that they have multiple cold nights from the field. Don’t forget, the Cavs were the best defensive team in the league by any statistical measure. Even given that fact, they were unable to hold multiple double digit leads, and unable to answer the bell in game 6 against a team that, make or miss, never stops shooting. The Sexytime Magic are, to a man, unafraid of missing shots, and unafraid to keep putting it up. If any of you happened to watch the 90 minute political ad known as “Kobe Doin’ Work”, then you’d know that Kobe functions best as a defender when he can help off of his man, and play center field, so to speak. That is something he won’t be able to do against Sexytime. With so many options, and so many guys who don’t shy from any shot, be it ill advised or not, the Black Mamba will certainly have to stay home on his man, which will no doubt create other opportunities for the other 3 shooters, and will serve to assist Superman in tackling the offensive boards.
We say all of that to say this. Look, if forced to pick, we’d probably take the Lakers. Probably in 6 games. The point of all of this is to point out that just because LeBron isn’t here, that doesn’t mean that the Lakers will roll to the title. We wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Sexytimes managed to somehow pull this one out. If you recall our analogy from earlier, Oklahoma and Alabama were supposed to dominate lowly Boise State and Utah, respectively. The lesson, as always, is that’s why they play the games. Until next time, so long everybody.