Intro: Interior of Kobe and Lebron’s apartment, empty
Shot of the front door as sounds of keys entering the lock.
Enter Lebron Muppet, calling "Kobe, I’m home." He waits for a response for a second before looking around.
Montage of Lebron muppet wandering through the apartment calling Kobe’s name.
Finally Lebron sees a note on the table.
Close up of note, "Lebron- Gone to NBA finals, back in 2 weeks. -Kobe"
Lebron muppet hangs his head sadly. Fade out.
Onto the Finals.
Orlando (follow them on Third Quarter Collapse, the SBN Magic blog): I was living in Orlando back in 1995 when the Magic last made it back to the Finals, led by an explosive center and a bunch of swing men who could shoot triples. Ultimately, they ran into a team with championship pedigree and more skilled center.
Flash-forward 14 years and they face a similar situation. But not quite. Howard might not be quite as polished on the offensive end as Shaq was, but his defensive game is certainly up to par, he kept LeBron James out of the paint for most of the series and forced him to take tough jumpers, and in Game 6 he wrecked his way to the Finals (40 points, 14 rebounds, a performance that will go unheralded unless Orlando wins it all). He probably won't have his way with Gasol (who battled him to a standstill in the Olympic play) or Bynum (much more athletic on the block, although absent-minded defensively), but he still should be the better center.
For those who haven't watched the Magic this season, their offense is predicated on more than just 3s. It's ball movement, penetration, kick, rotate it to the open man. It's disturbingly Spurs like in its efficiency, although unlike Duncan, Howard isn't always the focus of the Magic offense; their forwards, Lewis & Turkogulu have their own offensive talents (Hedo, their SF, often has as many assists as the Magic's point guards; Rashard can post up and shoot 3s). Add in former Warrior swingman Mickael Pietrus, rookie Courtney Lee, Skip To My Lou Rafer Alston, the recently reactivated Jameer Nelson (who killed LA in the regular season), and you have a very scary offensive team if the 3 ball gets going. Every one of Orlando's guards/forwards can slash, drive and kick. They're a surprisingly efficient team, quite different from the '95 Magic too (that was a team purely built on youthful exuberance).
LA Lakers (follow them on Silver Screen and Roll, the SBN Laker blog): This is arguably Kobe Bryant's last chance to win a title as The Man. He's wrapping up his thirteenth season in the league. He's played over 1120 games in the league, more than MJ during his entire career as a Bull. The slippage starts now, and soon the team totally belongs to Gasol or Bynum (this is a big if, the likelier bet is Gasol) the way it belonged to Shaq. Bryant would again become the second option, and he would be doomed to deal with the fact (even if he won more rings) that he could never win a title as
The key to this series is how quickly the Lakers get into their offensive sets and establish themselves with Gasol getting that ball on the block in the Triangle offense, how much Kobe can play off of it, how well Odom and Ariza can finish, and how Fisher, Farmar, Vujacic and Brown can nail down open jumpers. The offense has to run through Pau; if he sees that ball late in the shot clock, if the ball stays hung out on the perimeter, than the Lakers can expect to get torpedoed. Lee & Pietrus are not even close to being Battier and Artest, but they can keep Kobe in front of him and force him to take jumpers (as can Howard if Kobe drives). However, if Pau has it, things become much easier offensively.
Now, if Lamar Odom plays like Odom at his best for four games, the Lakers are getting their rings. But none of us are expecting that--LA should be happy if they get two and hope Kobe and Pau can win them two more. The Lakers do have the size to compete with the Magic's forwards in Ariza and Odom, but they also can fall asleep on closing out at the three point line (their two losses to the Rockets post-Yao a good example).
If I had to pick, it's probably the Lakers, because Orlando, despite their monumental success, would not have gotten here if KG got injured. They got here a year early and they might play like it; the urgency isn't quite there like it is for Los Angeles and Bryant. Dwight Howard is 23 and will be back. Who knows how many more times we'll be able to say that about Kobe.
Finally there's no Leon Powe or Francisco Elson to latch onto this season for Cal fans. So we're just going to have to resort to an old fashioned hate-fest.
FARMAR!!!! Curse you and your Jew-fro (god I want a Jew-fro)!