Your NBA Finals Preview (and Game One Breakdown)

Starring: The Gasol Mismatch, Dwight Howard’s Minutes, Magic’s 3-Point Shooting, Stan Vs. Phil, Hype, Intensity, Kobe Vs, Lee/Pietrus and The Jameer Factor


THE GASOL MISMATCH – As an Orlando Magic fan, the Pau Gasol matchup scares me. Critics call him soft but I’m not buying it. Pau’s a 7-foot Spaniard who has averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds in the playoffs, also his career averages. When the Lakers pillaged the Memphis Grizzlies last season to add Gasol to their roster, L.A. became immediate contenders. He’s a big reason the Lakers have consecutive Finals appearances. Kobe can’t do it by himself. So how will Orlando defend him? Los Angeles runs their triangle offense through Gasol. Rashard Lewis is a long 6’10 but probably can’t stick Gasol in the post. Lewis’s best bet will be to keep Gasol honest when he’s on the defensive end. If the Lakers are able to set an offensive rhythm through Gasol, it could be a long series for Orlando.

Game One result: As expected, Gasol was a steady 16 and 8, going 7-of-12 from the floor and only missing shots when he rushed them.

DWIGHT HOWARD’S MINUTES – The Magic will likely not be able to win this series without Superman providing a MAJOR contribution in the middle. Dwight was overpowering in Game Six against the Cavaliers, scoring 40 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Yes, the Magic closed out the 76ers without Howard in the lineup but the Lakers are no Philadelphia. Dwight will not only have to log serious minutes, but do so efficiently while facing more effective double-teams. That includes shooting a high percentage from the floor, free throw line and playing smart defensively. Dwight has spent much of these playoffs on the bench for silly fouls . Expect Phil Jackson to go at Dwight every chance he gets.

Game One result: Dwight played most of the first quarter until picking up his second foul with two minutes left. He logged 35 minutes for the game but they weren’t efficient, shooting 1-6 from the floor. He got to the stripe 16 times but only finished with 12 points. 

MAGIC’S 3-POINT SHOOTING – Orlando can be deadly from the perimeter. To paraphrase Cavalier Mo Williams “It seemed like they shot 100% from three for the entire series.” Anybody on the Magic roster can shoot from distance. Lewis, Turkoglu, Alston, Reddick and Pietrus are all shooting over 35%. The Magic are at their best when they’re taking threes in the flow of the game. It spreads out the offense and makes them very difficult to cover. They’re at their worst when they’re forcing shots.

Game One result: The Magic shot 35% (8-23) for the game but hit cold stretches and took many of those shots out of the flow of their offense. For example, the Magic were 1-of-2 in the first quarter when they were in many respects in control of the game.

STAN VS. PHIL – In a pre-game press conference, one sportswriter asked Magic coach Stan Van Gundy if he was intimidated by Phil Jackson. Van Gundy answered “Why? Is he going to come kick my ass?” Van Gundy acknowledged obvious respect for the Zen Master. It’s hard not to for a coach that has championship rings for every finger but one. Jackson has made his mark over the years with timely substitutions and creative adjustments. Expect more of the same against Orlando. Van Gundy has preached the disrespect card all playoffs and it’s paid off. Four more Gipper-like speeches and he could pull off the impossible.

Game One result: Jackson played his entire bench although some of it in mop-up time. Van Gundy’s going to have to do his best to ensure his players put this one behind them.

HYPE – Both cities house Mickey Mouse but Orlando doesn’t feature quite the glitter of tinsel town. Church Street is no Rodeo Drive. The Magic have remained level-headed throughout the playoffs in the face of controversy. They’ll need to maintain their composure in this series. They can’t let the glamour of L.A. and the presence of Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington and Dyan Cannon (is she still famous?) psyche them out. Kobe is the biggest star they should be worrying about.

Game One result: I saw Jack and Denzel, but no Dyan. Perhaps John Cougar should rewrite his 80s classic.

INTENSITY – The Lakers want this one bad! The last two times Kobe and Phil made the Finals, they came home empty-handed. The Magic cannot just be happy to be there. Second place is the first loser. If they don’t match L.A.’s intensity, the Lakers could make quick work of them

Game One result: One down, three to go.

KOBE VS. LEE/PIETRUS – Can they stop him? Can they contain him? Can they not become mesmerized by him? Kobe’s going to get his. He always does. Lee, although a rookie, is not easily intimidated. Pietrus is French so he probably already thinks he’s better than Kobe. The trick might be how much Kobe can involve his teammates when double-teamed. Kobe logging major numbers in both points and assists is a lose-lose situation for Orlando.

Game One result: Kobe manhandled both Lee and Pietrus. He went 40-8-8, while shooting 16-34 from the floor and reminding viewers he’s the best player in the game.

THE JAMEER FACTOR – The Magic’s all-star point guard went down mid-season with a torn labrum. Rafer Alston and Anthony Johnson have filled in well in his absence. After recovering sooner than expected, Orlando announced they would activate Nelson for the Finals. As if Van Gundy didn’t have enough to worry about in matching up with the Lakers, now he may have to adjust his guard rotations. Will playing Nelson be the right thing to do?

Game One result: Nelson started off well but one can’t help but wonder whether messing with the rotation and chemistry was detrimental to the team.

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29 Replies to “Your NBA Finals Preview (and Game One Breakdown)”

  1. Chris
    Dwight suffered last night and he had an exceedingly poor game by his lofty standards. And as I alluded to earlier I don’t see what purpose it served in playing Nelson. He was as rusty as hell ! Everything else you’ve alluded to in the piece I completely agree with.

  2. The way I see it, the Nelson situation lose-lose for Van Gundy. If the Magic get run and he doesn’t play Jameer, the media will ask why he didn’t start his all-star PG. If he plays Jameer and gets run, they’ll ask why he played him so many minutes.

    Chris Webber said it best last night in his breakdown on NBA TV. He wondered how Anthony Johnson and Rafer Alston felt with decreased minutes all of the sudden when they’re the ones that got them there.

    Dwight is going to have to battle through some difficult and LONG double-teams. He can. He just needs to man up.

  3. Nice Post, I smell a big old fashion Sweep. The lakers are to good and their defense is to strong. I knew at some point the three’s were going to catch up with the Magic, it did and they are doomed.

  4. No one in the East can compete with the West/Lakers
    Perhaps the Celtics could have done it, but not without Garnett.
    Gasol was the difference maker for the Lakers, post Kobe.
    And when Beasley’s on, watch out
    I smell sweep too

  5. Chris

    Whilst Nelson may well have been viewed as having something of a solid year. What with being named an All Star. You’ve got to admit the guy still had the propensity to turn the ball over at the most inopportuned of times. Does everyone all of a sudden simply forget that as a PG his T/O ratio was amongst the highest for a player at his position ?

    Never mind the fact that he still rusty. What the hell was Van Gundy expecting ? This’d be the same guy who looked like the second coming of the Big O when they faced the Lakers in the regular season . Hell no that was never going to repeat itself in any way shape or form. So for those who felt he’d be a game changer. I’ve got a few words for you ….. stay away from the hallucogenic mushrooms and step towards the light. As here’s where reality begins and there’s where the fairy tales are told.

    This is my most recent piece after last night’s debacle at the hands of the Lakers. In order to view just click on the text .

    Shark Infested Waters ? Or Was It That The Magic Forgot How To Play And Were Frightened ….?

  6. This is going to be a tough series for both teams ,Is a tittle up for grab I see the Lakers up as favorites just because of their history like everyone else. But game 2 is the pivotal game for the Magics is they loose it then I’ll say they are goners but if they make it then we have a series . Lets go Magics.

  7. Billy B, King Fingerroll and Number One Sheed fan in G’ville makes his first appearance. Very nice.

    You may be right (unfortunately) and if L.A. keeps these roster pieces in place, Kobe may be gunning for a fifth ring before we know it.

    How’s growradio, bra?

  8. Al… bottom line is Nelson is 5’10”. As soon as he got in the game, the Lakers found yet another mismatch they could exploit. D Fish was using him up.

    That can’t happen.

  9. The Magic took a pounding but I still think that they can do the job. Who knows why things didn’t gel for them in game 1? Maybe they were a little cocky after drilling the Cavs. Now it’s time to settle down to the business at hand and kill the Black Mamba.

  10. I would have definitely played Jameer Nelson. He looked great in practice and he was all healed up. Why not. What does the team have to lose? A player is either fit or he isn’t. The Magic certainly didn’t lose to the Lakers because of Nelson. They lost because the Magic, as a team, played like pussys. I’m looking for the boys from Orlando to win the next 4 in a row.

  11. Chris
    Much ado about nothing as far as I’m concerned with regard to Nelson. He’s no game changer and he’s certainly nowhere good as advertized. In all honesty the PG’s in the Eastern Conference aren’t all that good to begin with. Other than Rondo and perhaps Harris. Who is there to your mind that’d really give you cause for concern in the Eastern Conference ?

    SVG sought fit to fly by the seat of his pants and it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t worth the risk at all. And if an ol’ geriatric like Fisher can make Nelson look so damn slow. I’d hate to see what someone like Farmar might do to his rear end. It’d be a no contest for sure ! SVG should go with the horses that got him to where he now is. And not curry favor with fools who’ve got pie in the sky ideas. It won’t amount to hill of beans !

    Who’s Now Getting More Bang For Their Buck ? Kobe , LeBron ? Or Quite Possibly Nike …..?

    Click on the above link to see my most recent piece. It has its fun moments. Especially if you like the old Spike Lee Jordan Nike ads.

  12. Snake… Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the loss on Nelson. But I’m not so sure I would have played him that many minutes. Maybe used him as a decoy or a spark off the bench. But he was in there quite a bit and Alston had been playing pretty well of late.

  13. Al… I agree. Had Nelson not had the season he had, there would have been considerably less pressure to put him in. He is a liability on the defensive end where even a mid-sized guard like Derek Fisher can just shoot over the top of him. And now we have Rafer complaining about his minutes to the media. Who couldn’t see that one coming?

  14. Chris
    One of two things’ll now happen. The Magic retains their composure and comes back to win game 2 . Or they come out and again lay another goose egg. And if we base our assumptions on what we witnessed in game one . Then it’s liable to be the latter of the two scenarios I put forth.

    As for Alston I can well understand his feelings. Those who buy into the asinine notion that merely because Nelson became an All Star ….. he’s that much better than Alston have been drinking far too much of the Kool Aid ! As I’ve already alluded to he’s a defensive liability and has the tendenct to turn the ball over at the most inopportuned of moments. Especially in transition. OK so he has his moments when he’s playing well. But if it weren’t for the early part of this season. He’d as such still be having by all accounts just another hum drum season. It’s taken him a while to get his mind into the game and be the player that some thought he could be.

    As for game 2 , if SVG can’t get this team regrouped and ready to play. Then look for the Lakers to take full advantage of the situation and then put themselves in the driving seat , by going up 2-0 in the series. Thereby placing all of the pressure on the Magic for games three through five. And then and only then will we see if they can really handle the pressure in this series.

  15. Chris
    Nothing like a little complaining to throw the boat adrift. And with the sense of urgency needed. This is the last thing that ought to be happening within the locker room. And for that I blame both Otis Smith and Van Gundy. Their’s was a stupid decision to begin with to even let Nelson play.

    I could’ve understood had Alston , Lee or Turkoglu been injured. But this was a vain attempt at massing Nelson’s ego. And it backfired and has now placed the team in something of precarious situation. A loss tonight in LA . And they might as well hoist the white flag of surrender. Cause it’s sure as hell going to happen that the Lakers’ll take one if not two wins at the Amway Arena in Orlando. Especially as evidenced by the team’s futile display in game one.

  16. Yeah, Al. I don’t like that SVG admitted post-game that maybe he played Nelson too long. What’s that about? Is this a scrimmage of the NBA Finals?

    Plain and simple, the Magic are going to have to make shots tonight, and for the rest of the series.

    I won’t call it over if L.A. wins tonight. I mean was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

    But… 4 out of 5 will be tough.

  17. Chris aka sportschump……..
    Is this Magic’s team looking to break the hearts of the fans and disappoint them at the same time ? Cause that’s in effect what they’re now doing with their inept play at this juncture.

    As as much as Van Gundy appears to be doing. None of it seems to be sinking in with some of the players at all. Granted Lewis had a very good game 2. The rest of the team were basically inept and abhorrent. The Lakers did all that Jackson asked of his team and made the Magic on appearance look completely out of their class.

  18. That Courtney Lee missed layup at the buzzer was a heartbreaker. It’s one he’ll always remember.

    Ya know… Barry says it best in his post-game analysis and he’s been saying this all along.

    Dwight Howard’s post-game is not refined. The fact that this guy cannot get a quality shot off, even in the presence of a double-team, is really having its effect on the series.

  19. Chris
    To me Dwight and Bynum are somewhat alike. They belive the hype that’s out there concerning them as to their game. The fact of the matter is that neither have yet to reach their full potential . For the moment they’re both tilting at windmills and whatever direction the sun is heading in.

    And one would’ve thought that with what both Kareem and Patrick Ewing as their mentors they’d be taking in every damn thing that those two’d be teaching them about the nuances of the game.

    Here’s my latest within

    Click on the text shown to view.

    What If’s , But’s , Should’ves And How The Hell Did That Happen ….. ?

    As and when you’re ready I’ll look forward to reading your comments.

  20. Y’all posted comments exactly 24 hours apart – June 7 @ 11:51 am and June 8 @ 11:51 am. Kinda Twilight Zone-ish! lol

  21. Good analogy. Very interesting comparison. Bynum’s longer but Howard’s stronger. Unfortunately, Bynum will likely have his ring first.

    It helps that Bynum isn’t the focal point of his time though.

    Ath… that’s how we roll. Great minds think alike.

  22. Chris ……..
    If only guys like Bynum and Howard’d take time to listen to their elders. Instead of already buying into the hype that’s already being said about them. As this series seemingly is about to reach something of a finality. I can’t help but wonder what the players themselves are thinking about this all ?

    Howard knows that he’s been a big disappointment. And it’s now time for him to step and show some resolve.

    As for Van Gundy , for all of his guile. He’s just no match for the likes of Phil Jackson on any level when it comes to the game. The Magic have been exposed as a team that’ve far exceeded their own limitations.

    The shame about this all. Is that it may well be their last visit to the Big Dance for a while.

    What’s Up Next Once The Season Is Over ……?

  23. Chris…aka sportschump

    A great win last night for the Magic ! And it was great to see that four of their quintet of starters got into double figures. And once again Pietrus came of the bench to perform in his usual perfunctory manner scoring a solid 18pts for the team.

    Now all we’ve got to wait to see is they show the same passion and resolve in game 4. If they can come out and fire on all cylinders. Then this series ought to truly become a highly contested one, once and for all ! If not then the Lakers’ll take care of business.

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