So, here we are; Western Conference Champions.
To say it was unexpected is a blatant lie, and to further imply that this will be an easy series would be an even bigger one.
Not only did the Orlando Magic turn the tables on the highly publicized “Kobe vs. LeHype” theory (I guess, Nike will have to shelve those Kobe and Lebron puppets for later exploitation), but they made it look easy. The Cleveland Cavaliers were tough, but their nucleus (and a big one at that), was Lebron. A team centered around one player often crumbles if antagonized, and that is what ended up bring Cleveland’s run to a screeching halt, and resulted in their eventual collapse under the pressure.
Many would like to say the same for the Lakers, stating that, the Lakers are constructed from the foundation of the Black Mamba, but that is only dictated by one factor: Who decides to show up when it’s game time.
With the eve of Game 1 looming larger and larger on the horizon, Laker veteran and current assistant coach, Brian Shaw (Oh, and did I mention that he also does scouting for the Magic?) came forth and said, “I feel like we have to be concerned about doing what we do.” His reasoning subtly underlines the issues that plague the Lakers the most, and will eventually be our Golden Ticket if diminished.
As always, our weaknesses in this particular series will be emphasized in how Game 1 goes, so until then, we must once more, hypothesize. Orlando’s offense revolves around three major aspects: their long-range shooting, Dwight Howard, and smooth transitions.
Their quick ball movement caters well to their fondness for launching off shots from beyond the arc. Orlando was the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA this season, and that efficiency cannot be left unheeded on our end.
Every jumper must be contested.
This may not be an easy chore for the Lakers, considering their tendencies to linger around the paint in a loosely set-up zone and you can often find them lagging to contest the outside shot. But with the right amount of adjustment (mentally and physically), it is a threat we can easily take care of.
Dwight Howard needs to be shut down.
The last two occasions in regular season in which we found ourselves opposite Orlando, Howard had a ridiculously large amount of rebounds (12 and 20) and was solid in offensive play. He also happens to be one of the first players, on either team, to arrive at either end of the court. Maybe instead of starting Bynum, we can throw in Lamar and see how well he fares. He would be able to keep up with Howard more so than Bynum (Bynum has a tendency to be one of the last few up the floor), and in order to keep Howard at bay, we need someone like Lamar who can put a body on him and limit his offensive touches. Bynum has a tendency to get into foul trouble, and the last thing we can afford to contribute is a slow start.
The Lakers’ should also keep in mind how well the Magic shifts from defense to offense. Too often we’re left scrambling to get set up and are getting blown by on penetration plays (unless our backs our turned, which is a completely different story), which leaves us the vulnerable party while running the floor (Just another good reason for Lamar to start over Bynum).
Effort and intensity can easily lay this problem to rest as well, but that falls on our boys in Gold.
Thankfully, we have a size advantage over the Magic, and if we utilize that, there is no way we can be stopped (and no, that does not necessarily mean that Bynum NEEDS to start). Hopefully, our second unit will rise to the challenge as well.
We know Kobe is going to bring his A-game for another ring, but we cannot rely on Kobe to win it for us (nor the duo of Kobe and Gasol). Only a group effort will bring us our 15th championship, and I sincerely hope this mindset is employed as we delve into the NBA Finals come Thursday.