Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Finals Pick

The case for LA: A coach with more rings than anyone alive. Home court. The best guard, and in all likelihood, the best player. Active offensive bigs, which will pose a matchup issue that Orlando has yet to deal with in the playoffs. Playing their best basketball now, and close enough to the prize that their usual heart and concentration problems should not be an issue. As healthy as any team can be in June. When they want to, a great defensive team especially in covering perimeter players, with Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom capable of lockdown defense. A large number of fouls to throw at Dwight Howard, and a coach that's willing to use them all.

The case against: Can be had defensively at the 1, and Orlando might get Jameer Nelson back in this series. A heavy favorite against a team that is playing with house money and a unique offensive complement and scheme. Can be counted on to quit when the going gets tough. For much of the playoffs, not getting enough from the bench. Can give away games, especially at the line and with turnovers. Not really as airtight as you'd like your presumptive Finals favorite to be.

The case for Orlando: Underrated for every series up to now, so being an underdog now should make them comfortable. Surprisingly competent coaching and bench play. Nelson's return could give them a boost, especially if it means JJ Reddick doesn't take off his warm-up sweats all series long. In Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, have three matchup nightmares on offense, making double-teams problematic at best. Balanced offense means that Bryant won't be able to float on defense.

The case against: Going against the most experienced coach and superstar on the planet for a championship. Not having home court in the idiotic 2-3-2 format is a very big deal. Nelson could jeopardize the team's chemistry at the worst time of the year for such distraction. Rafer Alston can shoot you out of a game. Howard could be in constant foul trouble from having to guard Pau Gasol. Poor free throw shooting could easily help them blow a game.

The pick: It's chalk, but better to be live chalk than what's being chalked off. Lakers in six.

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