After a tough conference finals, my picks for the NBA playoffs stand at a respectable but not impressive 9-5. The one thing I have going for me, is that from day one I talked up Orlando as my sleeper pick. I thought they had shown all year that they could play with Boston and Cleveland, but I didn’t go with my instincts and still picked the Cavs. So here is the look back at my last picks and a preview of the finals.
RESULTS MY PICK
CLE/ORL Magic in 6 Cavaliers in 7
I thought the series would go down to the wire. The Magic impressed me with their ability to overcome early deficits in this series and stick to their gameplan.
LAL/DEN Lakers in 6 Nuggets in 6
I guess I got caught up in how good Denver looked in their first two series. They were unable to contain Kobe in the 4th quarters and he finished them.
2009 NBA FINALS
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic
season series 0 2
Phil Jackson Stan Van Gundy
1,041 regular season wins 223 regular season wins
205-90 in the playoffs , 9 titles 34-23 in the playoffs, 1st finals
This is no contest. I like what Van Gundy is doing in Orlando and thought he should have gotten more consideration for coach of the year; but on the other side is a man going for coach of all-time. Jackson already has nine titles and over 1,000 wins. He has never lost a playoff series after going up 1-0. He is the Zen Master. Enough said.
(stats are from the playoffs only and are rounded off)
16- Pau Gasol 12- Dwight Howard
18pts 11rbs 2blks 22pts 15rbs 2blks
Gasol is a solid player and will give Orlando matchup problems, especially when he and Bynum are in the game at the same time. He can score in different ways and plays well with Kobe. That said, Howard is a beast. 22 points and 15 boards a game in the playoffs and he’s beginning to shoot a decent percentage at the foul line. If he make the Lakers constantly double team him in the post , the three point shooters will put a lot of points on the board. The Defensive Player of the Year just better make sure he stays out of foul trouble and stays on the floor.
7- Lamar Odom 9- Rashard Lewis
12pts 9rbs 2assts 19 pts 6rbs 3assts
I think Rashard Lewis has really made his presence felt in these playoffs. Lamar Odom on the other hand has always been an enigma. Does he shrink from the pressure in big games, or is he just overrated. Odom has rebounded well this playoffs and has given the Lakers good minutes, so the key to this matchup will be if he hinders Lewis’s 3 point shooting. If Lewis can continue to rain jumpers from outside the line and put up 20 a game, Orlando will be feeling pretty good.
3- Trevor Ariza 15- Hedo Turkoglu
11 pts 4rbs 50% 3pts 15pts 5rbs 5assts
These two are very important to their teams success. Ariza gives a lot of defensive energy and picks up the garbage points. The little things he does lets his teammates loose to play their games. Turkoglu may be the most important man on the Magic. From the small forward position he essentially runs the offense, especially in crunch time. He leads the team in assists and can score from three and off the dribble. The only real play that Orlando runs regularly is the pick and roll with him and Howard and he runs it well. It will be up to Ariza to put the defensive clamps on Turkoglu and disrupt what he’s trying to do. Otherwise Kobe will have to take that assignment and that might detract from the offensive output they need from him. This matchup will be crucial to the series.
24- Kobe Bryant 11- Courtney Lee
30 pts 5rbs 5assts 2stls 9pts 2rbs 2assts
I won’t talk about this too much. I grew up near Western Ky. and am a huge Lee fan, but even I know this is a mismatch. There is a world of difference between a good role player and possibly one of the best of all-time. Lee and Pietrus’s role will mainly be to make Kobe work hard enough that he isn’t fresh in crunch time. If he is, then watch out Magic. It’s essentially the plan Orlando used on Cleveland and LeBron. They’ll try to make it two in a row.
2- Derek Fisher 1- Rafer Alston
7pts 2rbs 2assts 13pts 4assts 2stls
This is an interesting contrast. Fisher brings a world of experience in big time situations, Alston almost has none. Unless of course you count important AND 1 events. Fisher has taken and hit big shots in the most pressure packed games. If he is hitting them now , he will factor huge in the series outcome. If he is not, he will be a liability. 7 points and 2 assists is not what you want to get from your starting point guard. Are his legs quick enough to keep up with the Magic guards. Alston has stepped up big in the playoffs with some big scoring games and with all around better play than we got from him in Houston. I think he will give Fisher fits.
17- Andrew Bynum 20- Mickael Pietrus
4- Luke Walton 7- JJ Redick
12- Shannon Brown 8- Anthony Johnson
5- Jordan Farmar 13- Marcin Gortat
18- Sasha Vujacic 4- Tony Battie
14- Jameer Nelson
25pts 11rbs 6assts combined 25pts 9rbs 5assts combined
The teams have gotten similar contributions from the bench in the playoffs. The key will be how much Bynum gives to the Lakers and how they play when they go BIG and put Bynum and Gasol on the court at the same time. The Lakers will want to see Lewis have to guard Gasol. For that to happen regularly Bynum will have to contribute more than he has been. For Orlando there will be two keys. One is how will Pietrus do guarding Kobe and will he continue his hot 3 point shooting. Two, is how much of a factor will the return of Jameer Nelson be. I can’t imagine that he is in basketball shape; but if he can give a solid 10 minutes a game it could change the series. Nelson vs. Farmar in the second quarter is alot more appetizing to Orlando than Anthony Johnson vs. Farmar. LA will ask for more from Walton and Vujacic than they have been getting, especially since they’ve been in these situations before. Orlando will be hoping Gortat will be serviceable when they are resting Howard or if he’s in foul trouble.
Both teams have had a good run in the post season imposing their offensive will. Orlando has perfectly run their offense, which essentially consists of one beast inside and 4 perimeter players that can all dribble and shoot. If Howard is being a force it is almost unstoppable. The defense that Gasol and Bynum can put on Howard without needing help will be figured out early and then one team will have to change their philosophy. LA , of course, is all about Kobe offensively. Will he be able to do what he wants? What can Lee and Pietrus do to disrupt him? If they can’t, not only will Kobe go wild, but it will open up a lot of opportunities for Gasol and Lamar Odom. If they get going, we may see Howard in foul trouble and that will be fatal for Orlando. I have to say, I love the way Orlando has been playing. If their shooters don’t wilt under the Finals spotlight, I think this will be the most exciting finals since at least the Bulls/ Jazz in the late 90’s. Lewis and Turkoglu haven’t been in the finals, but they are true veterans; and I don’t think Orlando’s two wins over LA earlier this year are a fluke. I am going with the upset.
MY PICK: MAGIC in 7
Game 1 ORL
Game 2 LA
Game 3 ORL
Game 4 LA
Game 5 ORL
Game 6 LA
Game 7 ORL (clinch)