So the Finals are here – or at least they will be on Thursday. Sure, David Stern is probably sitting and sulking in the corner as his dreams of the orgasmic Kobe vs. LeBron matchup will have to wait another year at any rate, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t bask in this series sunlight.
There should be very little surprise that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic emerged victorious from their respective conferences. For starters, these are the two most talented teams with the most potent characteristics: depth, versatility, speed, height, mental toughness…you name it, they have it.
Both squads can beat you from inside and out, in transition and half court, on offense and defense. If it’s not Kobe Bryant, it’s Pau Gasol. If it’s not Dwight Howard, it’s Hedo Turkoglu. If it’s not Gasol, it’s Lamar Odom. If it’s not Turkoglu, it’s Rashard Lewis. If it’s not Odom, it’s Trevor Ariza. If it’s not Lewis, heck, even Michel Pietrus can provide some instance offense off the bench. Hold on, my head is spinning in circles.
When it comes down to it, this matchup is one big parody party – except Al Yankovic isn’t on the guest list. You have two teams who measure up almost identical to one another which should provide for a highly-entertaining, down-to-the-wire series…that will end in six games with the Lakers hoisting their fifteenth championship banner.
There is one simple difference – the X-factor, if you will – that separates the Lakers from the Magic: experience.
The Finals are a different playoff breed compared to any of the other rounds. Instead of the spotlight shining on a series one night and another the following night, the spotlight doesn’t shift. It permanently fixates on each franchise, each player and each move – from sunrise to sunset, for the next few weeks.
The Lakers understand what it means to talk into 23 microphones, answer questions as if they’re being cross-examined by an opposing lawyer and sense the suffocating atmosphere that are the Finals. They were there just last year despite tippy-toeing to defeat. Now, their hands are washed, palettes clean and appetites ever-expanding.
The Magic, meanwhile, are about as experienced a team as George W. Bush was for the presidency in 2000 – and even 2004. Backup point guard Anthony Johnson is the only Magic player to have played in the Finals (in fact, he played in two with the Nets in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003), but it’s hard to fathom that a 34-year-old who has played under 15 minutes per game in these playoffs is the solution to Orlando’s lack-of-experience problem.
Or at least as hard as it is to believe that Manny Ramirez wasn’t on PEDs at some point during his career.
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Written by Josh Hoffman