Point guard: Derek Fisher vs. Aaron Brooks
So on one side you have a veteran who has seen it all, on the other side you have a youngster who has been pushed into the starting line-up and is playing with great confidence. I do think that Brooks can be bit trigger-happy sometimes, not always taking the advantage of the opportunities that present themselves when playing with a giant like Yao Ming. He might be a lot faster than Fisher, but I’m going with veteran leadership when it comes to winning playoff rounds. Advantage: Lakers.
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Ron Artest
Artest doesn’t really have a position, since he’s bulky enough to play power forward in the right situation, crafty enough to play small forward, but often he fills the shooting guard role for the Rockets. This can be a good and a bad thing. He has a questionable shot selection, but if there’s one thing you can always count on, it’s his defense. He is so strong, but we must realize he’s playing against Kobe Bryant here. Although Kobe hasn’t had a great series against the Jazz, I think a premium defender like Artest will bring out the best of Kobe. Advantage: Lakers.
Small forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Shane Battier
Who did play great against the Jazz was Trevor Ariza. It’s nice to have someone like the HighRiza who is known for his defense, but also throws down a nasty reverse like it’s nothing and is dangerous from the 3-point line. Battier’s role on the Rockets is all about defense. He can shoot with range, but will also be a factor in containing Bryant. Ariza however is a player you should keep your eye on; they can’t leave him unguarded. Advantage: Lakers.
Power forward: Pau Gasol vs. Luis Scola
Beards. Long hair. Both are also star players outside of the NBA. Gasol is a finesse player, Scola more of a banger with a soft shooting touch. But like I said in the preview of the Lakers-Jazz series; Gasol’s height is a problem on both ends of the floor. Scola is a skilled defender, who might try to push Gasol away from the basket, but then what? Gasol can shoot, and is so long it will be hard for Scola to keep Gasol from getting his points. Advantage: Lakers.
Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Yao Ming
You never know what Phil Jackson will do, but it seems like a smart move to put a big body on the NBA’s biggest body and best center: Yao Ming. That means Lamar Odom goes back to the bench, and Mountain Drew Bynum gets his wish: playing Yao Ming in the playoffs. Yao will have a difficult time playing against two 7-footers, but same thing goes the other way around: the Lakers will a hard time containing Yao. Advantage: Rockets.
This will be a problem for the Rockets. Except for Von Wafer, they don’t have anyone on their bench who can add some firepower, something that is desperately needed against the Lakers, who basically won against the Jazz by simply outscoring them, instead of playing great D. The Lakers have Lamar Odom on their bench, which almost isn’t fair to any opponent. He had a great first round scoring nearly 18 ppg and grabbing 11 boards per game too. All that while shooting 62% from the field. Advantage: Lakers.
Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Rick Adelman
Adelman is one of the best coaches in the game; Jackson is the best coach in the NBA. Jackson needs to get his team play better defense, because in the playoffs they can’t keep on coasting through every game. But if the Lakers regain their focus and truly commit in stopping their opponents, they will win it all. Advantage: Lakers.
What I’d say:
Lakers in six. It’s a great match-up; offense vs. defense. If you would look at the regular season, you would see that all four games were won by L.A. with an average margin of 13 points. The Rockets can’t put enough points on the board to keep up with the Lakers, and like I said before: if the Lakers improve their D, they shouldn’t give the Rockets a chance to stretch it to seven games.