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Finals foes offer plenty of matchup issues for each other

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Jun 2 2009 2:51PM

If you paid any attention to the Eastern Conference finals, you heard and read a lot about matchups. The Cavs admitted that the Magic provided matchup problems for them, and that was a big reason Orlando advanced to The Finals.

With a 6-foot-10 point forward in Hedo Turkoglu, a 6-foot-10 power forward that's quick and deadly from deep in Rashard Lewis, and Superman II at center, it isn't easy for any team to guard the Magic's frontline. But with two 7-footers up front, Kobe Bryant in the backcourt and a versatile big man like Lamar Odom coming off the bench, the Lakers aren't exactly easy to match up with either.

2009 NBA Finals: Position-by-position
Los Angeles Lakers Orlando Magic
PG: Derek Fisher
Fisher, doesn't handle the ball much in the offense. He's needed to knock down shots but hasn't done so consistently of late.

PG: Rafer Alston
Alston does a great job of pushing the ball up the floor. He doesn't handle the ball much in the half-court, and he's a streaky shooter, which could win or lose his team games.
SG: Kobe Bryant
Bryant is the most dangerous offensive player in the world, but the Lakers are best when the ball keeps moving.

SG: Courtney Lee
Lee doesn't play like a rookie. He doesn't make many mistakes, is a solid defender and he's hit some big shots in big moments all season long.
C: Andrew Bynum
Bynum has been inconsistent and hasn't played big minutes since returning from his knee injury. He's been in foul trouble often, but he and Gasol must stay out of foul trouble.

C: Dwight Howard
Howard proved to be unstoppable against the Cavs, did a good job passing against double-teams and running the floor. Defensively, he can be a force, as long as he stays out of foul trouble.
PF: Pau Gasol
Gasol fits perfectly in the triangle offense. He isn't quick enough to guard Lewis, but his occasional matchups with Howard may be most important.
Advantage: Even PF: Rashard Lewis
Lewis is a deadly shooter who can also drive and make plays. Defensively, he gives up strength but will work hard to deny post position.
SF: Trevor Ariza
L.A. got Ariza from a 2007 trade with Orlando and he's been a steal. He's a terrific defender whose jumper has improved dramatically.

SF: Hedo Turkoglu
Turkoglu's jumper has been inconsistent lately, but he seems to always hit big shots. He makes plays for teammatesand while he's not too quick defensively, he has good length and gives effort.
Lamar Odom will be used heavily to match up with Lewis, and when he plays well, the Lakers usually win. Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmer, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic all bring energy, but none has shot the ball particularly well in the postseason.

Mickael Pietrus will be asked to keep Bryant contained as well as knock down shots from the perimeter. Anthony Johnson and Marcin Gortat don't help or hurt their team much. Tony Battie may see more action against the Lakers' size, and it's unknown if Jameer Nelson can contribute.
Coach: Phil Jackson
Despite the padded chair, Jackson takes a far more subtle approach than Van Gundy. He has his own way of motivating, but he's also a master tactician.
Advantage: Even Coach: Stan Van Gundy
No coach gets his team more prepared than Van Gundy. He puts in long hours in the film room and has convinced a group of free spirits to become the best defensive team in the league.
The Lakers have much more postseason experience than the Magic, as well as the memory of last year's loss to Boston to motivate them. Most important, the team that starts at home has won 18 of the 24 Finals since it switched to the 2-3-2 format in 1985.

Through the first three rounds of the postseason, the Magic have survived quite a bit of adversity, and they've already won two series as the lower seed. Defense wins championships, and Orlando has proven to be the better and more consistent defensive team.
Prediction: So far in this postseason, every team that has won the regular season series has also won the playoff series (11 out of 11 -- three series were between teams that split in the regular season). The Magic beat the Lakers both times they played this season, but both of those meetings were a long time ago, before Jameer Nelson got hurt and before the Lakers acquired Shannon Brown.

If the Magic can shoot as well as they did against the Cavs, they can win this series, but that will be tough because the Lakers don't plan on double-teaming Dwight Howard. They won't be able to stop him with single coverage, but Howard also can't beat them by himself. The Sixers and Celtics both gave the Magic some trouble by single-covering Howard and staying at home on Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, but neither Philly nor Boston had enough offensively to beat the Magic four times.

The Lakers have enough offensive weapons and depth to hurt Orlando. And with Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, they have the length and quickness to match up well with Turkoglu and Lewis.

Lakers in six
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