June 2, 2009

Where dream matchups don’t happen

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

So, how about that LeBron-Kobe matchup? Well, the finals are here, but one of those two couldn’t get his team there – and it was the guy that you might’ve expected to get there the easiest. Yep, LeBron James couldn’t lead his Cavaliers past the Magic, even with home court advantage. That leaves us with arguably the most dominant big man in the league right now, Dwight Howard, facing off with Kobe Bryant, one of the best players in the league and a man who’s looking to solidify his reputation as one of the best ever. So, despite the lack of the King/MVP, there’s some intrigue in this matchup.

Firstly, even if Jameer Nelson does come back for the finals, he’ll only be a shadow of himself. Seriously, I’d think a Nelson comeback would only be a lateral move from having Anthony Johnson as the backup PG. There’s no real point even discussing a potential impact from the all-star.

Next, the point that’s being driven home by anybody analyzing this series is past results. The Magic did beat the Lakers twice during the season, just like the Celtics did the season before, and everyone wants you to know that. Granted, it should be weighed in when looking at this series, but don’t you think those past two matchups will make the Lakers more prepared? I really don’t think that two close regular season games matter as much as everyone will lead you to believe. After all, had this series been a Lakers-Celtics rematch or Cavs-Lakers, do you think that people would be citing the regular season matchups where Los Angeles dominated all four of those games? I don’t think so. This argument is selective thinking at best.

The real problem the Lakers will have are some of the matchups with Orlando’s great shooters. Pau Gasol may have to man up with Dwight or guard Rashard Lewis at the three-point line depending on who else is on the floor. It doesn’t really bode well. On the other end of the floor though, Gasol could run rampant over either of those two. How this plays out could be the deciding factor in the series.

Otherwise, the biggest matchup problem, predictably, is Kobe Bryant. You have to give some respect to Mickael Pietrus for at least doing a serviceable job on LeBron James, but will he have enough to take of Kobe now?

Of course, Dwight Howard’s influence shouldn’t be discounted either. But on a team with shooters usually playing the four spots around him, shouldn’t he be putting up the massive rebounding numbers like he is? I’m not taking away from his talent, but when you’re the only real natural rebounder on the floor, you will pull down a large percentage of your team’s rebounds.

Finally, I actually read an Associated Press breakdown of finals match ups and, since it’s a lot easier to pick one guy over the other on paper, you shouldn’t screw up like this: In coaching, apparently Stan Van Gundy and Phil Jackson are even. That’s right, SVG is on par with a man that’s won nine championships in his career. How that makes sense to anybody is ridiculous to me and quite frankly, I think coaching will be what wins this series, therefore…

Pick: Los Angeles in seven.

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