Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lakers/Magic, Getting Defensive

Unlike the majority of Lakerland and the mainstream media, I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings about how these Finals will play out for the Gold & Purple. I'm not ready to crown the Lakers before either team has taken the floor. Give me until at least the end of the first quarter. I need to see which Lakers team decides to show up for this, the 30th Lakers Finals appearance. Is it going to be the disinterested bunch that surrendered leads like they enjoyed the drama or is Kobe going to be able to instill that oh-so-lacking sense of urgency and 48-minute commitment in his supporting cast?

Regardless of which Lakers persona takes the floor tonight at Staples Center, this series does not hinge entirely on if they decide to win. What scares me most are the match-ups, the lack of offensive rebounding, and the inability to close out on the three ball. Each of those three areas are out of Kobe and Zen Master Phil's hands, and far more important than whether or not Pau Gasol gets his touches or Lamar Odom plays like he's on a sugar-high or in a sugar coma. The Lakers will score, there's no question, but defense, the part of the game that fans don't really care to pay attention to or talk about, is going to decide this series.

The defensive problems for the Lakers are that their Bigs don't play like Bigs, and the perimeter defenders like to take too many chances, leaving guys open to knock down shots without a body within five feet. These are two HUGE problems heading into a series against the Orlando Magic, who have super-fit big man Dwight Howard inside, and then a firing squad of sharpshooters sitting around the arc. Sure, there's the old idiom, "Live by the three, die by the three," but in the case of these Magic, they've been thriving by the three. They've made it through the two Eastern Conference favorites (Celtics, Cavs), and in the Conference Finals against the Cavs, they won in convincing fashion. Neither the Celtics or Cavs have the Lakers' offensive firepower or range of athletes, but those were two solid wins that say a lot about this Magic squad.

I'm not going to go into position by position match-ups at this point (though I seriously considered it), but I will say that I'm really looking forward to this series. It has the potential to be a classic after some real dullards over the past 5 years. With tip-off looming, get your lucky pre-game traditions in order, send the LeBron lovers to YouTube to watch more puppet shows, and say a prayer to the to the great playoff god in the rafters (or whoever/whatever used to possess Robert "Old Reliable" Horry come playoff time).

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