Sunday, May 31, 2009

NBA Finals Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic

Point guard: Derek Fisher vs. Rafer Alston
I must admit that Skip surprised me in the Eastern Conference Finals. He can be somewhat flaky, but stepped up when needed; if Lewis or Turk weren’t hitting shots, Alston either hit a 3 or went to the basket. I really enjoyed watching him play most of the time. He has to go up against a savvy PG in Fisher, but he can’t guard Alston for 35-40 minutes a game. Advantage: Magic.

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Courtney Lee
So here we have a shooting guard with a mask and a headband, good midrange game, hits a floater every now and then, he kind of reminds of a certain Piston. When you’re Courtney Lee and you played like you played in the Playoffs, even having surgery (on his face!) and coming back from that and still contribute and being one of the better defenders of the team? We can clearly state that Lee is not a rookie anymore. And Kobe will remind him he’s not a veteran either. Advantage: Lakers.

Small forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Hedo Turkoglu

Both of these players played great in their respective Conference Finals series. While Ariza has to do a little bit of everything, Turkoglu is mostly known for his offense. Turk often brings the ball up, and not only creates for himself, but also creating for his teammates, as evidenced by the 6,6 assists per game he averaged against Cleveland. Advantage: Magic.

Power forward: Pau Gasol vs. Rashard Lewis
Lewis continues to be a mismatch because of his three-point shooting. It will be interesting to see what the Lakers will do with Lewis; will they keep a body on him at all times, maybe switching Ariza or Odom on him? Will Gasol let Lewis shoot and provide help defense on Dwight Howard? But who of the Orlando Magic is going to guard Gasol? Since we’re living in a time where a Dwight Howard continues to foul out, which not always is entirely his fault, it wouldn’t make sense to put him on Pau. But Rashard Lewis can’t guard him either. Advantage: Lakers.

Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard
Speaking of fouls, Bynum can’t do anything right at the moment. No offense Mountain Drew. Side note: Howard shot 71,6% (48-67) from the free throw line against Cleveland. Not bad for a guy who 59,4% during the regular season. A beast: shot clocks beware. Advantage: Magic.

Michael Pietrus, who has been rather inconsistent in previous rounds, gave Orlando exactly what it needed during the Eastern Conference Finals: a scoring punch off the bench. He played very opportunistic basketball, either slashing to the rim but also hitting huge treys in the heat of the moment. Pietrus also saw a lot of minutes guarding LeBron, which is tough for any player in the League to do, but at least he made James work for some of his shots. Marcin Gortat got some extended minutes at center due to foul trouble to Howard. Anthony Johnson, as always, does his job as a solid back-up point guard. The Lakers on the other end got some great games out of Lamar Odom, filling in for Bynum as Gasol moved to the center spot, and Odom being the power forward. When he gets his rebounds and a couple of buckets on some nifty drives, the Magic won’t have an answer for that. Shannon Brown can be used as an energizer, and Luke Walton can be counted on to hit the open shot or hand out the assist. What the Lakers can get out of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, varies with every game. Advantage: Lakers.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Stan Van Gundy
The last two games against Denver was great Lakers basketball. Kobe was used as a decoy, being more of a facilitator while waiting to pick his spots on the offensive end. Van Gundy must remind his three-point gunning team that Dwight has to get some shots, feed him the ball, and let him get into it early. You witnessed what happened in Game 6 against the Cavs: he got a couple of quick dunks early in the first quarter, and ended with 40 points. But Phil Jackson is on a mission. He must get his tenth championship, making him the most successful coach in NBA history. Advantage: Lakers.

What I’d say:
Lakers in six. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Lakers will need a game or two to adjust to Orlando’s transition 3’s, and of course, Dwight Howard. What the Lakers absolutely need to do is get Pau Gasol involved. He can shoot but also score down low, and I can’t see it happening that Howard will be on him all the time, so L.A. needs to take advantage of that. A big game by Gasol during the Finals, guarantees a win. I think Orlando will steal a game in L.A., and are difficult to beat at home. They’ve come a long way, but it looks like the Lakers finally understand what they are playing for, and will show that starting Thursday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic

Point guard: Mo Williams vs. Rafer Alston
Williams and Alston have one thing in common: they’re inconsistent. Orlando will be Cleveland’s most difficult matchup so far, and it’s important for those teams that both players step up their game, and just make their shots. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but this is what their respective teams need from them right now. Since the Cavs need slightly more offense from him than the Magic need from Alston, I’m saying: Advantage: Cavaliers.

Shooting guard: Delonte West vs. Courtney Lee
This is easy. I think it’s time to put Courtney Lee back into the starting line-up. But for now: West plays D, passes, rebounds, scores, does everything. A great player in the Cavs’ system. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Small forward: LeBron James vs. Hedo Turkoglu

Turk played great in game 7, but he’s going up against the MVP now. Let’s keep this one short, shall we? Advantage: Cavaliers

Power forward: Anderson Varejao vs. Rashard Lewis

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lewis play against the Celtics. A true scorer, and seems to be the number one offensive option for the Magic. Varejao is a scrappy defender and a great actor, but he can’t stop Lewis. Advantage: Magic.

Center: Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Dwight Howard

Two completely different players. One, a crafty veteran with a deft shooting touch, the other a brute force with unmatched athleticism. Z can lure Howard out of the paint, creating space inside for LeBron to drive, but on the other end, how the hell will Z stop Howard? Advantage: Magic.

Except for Ben Wallace and Joe Smith, I have never been impressed by Cleveland’s bench, but Orlando on the other end has Michael Pietrus, Anthony Johnson, J.J, Redick and Marcin Gortat to give the starters a breather (and sometimes Tony Battie is thrown in there, too). Pietrus can score in bunches, and even finished some of the games against the Celtics. Advantage: Magic.

Coaching: Mike Brown vs. Stan Van Gundy
I’m not a big fan of either, but while watching Orlando battling Boston, I can understand Dwight Howard’s frustrations more and more. There are some decisions when the game is on the line that I simply don’t understand. And while I’m at it: Dwight Howard still doesn’t get enough touches. He only had two 20-point games against the Celtics, and the most shots he got were 16 (Game 6). Advantage: Cavaliers.

What I’d say:
Cavaliers in six. Like I said earlier: I do believe the Magic will cause some trouble, especially with the match-up problems because of Turk, Lewis and Howard, and let’s not forget a decent bench, but the Cavs have been playing at such a high level, Orlando needs more than magic to beat them in a seven-game series. Man, what a lame last sentence. Sorry ‘bout that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Western Conference Finals Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Point guard: Derek Fisher vs. Chauncey Billups
We all noticed how Fisher had trouble in the previous round trying to keep up with Aaron Brooks, and Phil Jackson even put Jordan Farmar in early and often, who matches up with Brooks in terms of speed. So if Fisher had trouble trying to contain Brooks, how will he perform against Billups? Now Billups might not be as quick, but other than that, Denver’s hometown hero is one of the best players of the Playoffs so far. Advantage: Nuggets.

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Dahntay Jones
Jones will have the task to stay on Kobe and trying to prevent that he gets hot early. But Jones isn’t the reason Bryant should be worried; guys like Nene, Kenyon Martin and the Birdman are. When Kobe starts driving to the basket, he will meet these guys around the rim. But when it comes to guards, Kobe will have his way. Advantage: Lakers.

Small forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Carmelo Anthony

Charles Barkley has said numerous times on Inside the NBA this past week that Carmelo Anthony is one the best scorers in the NBA. But also during the show they showed that Melo hasn’t played all that well against the Lakers this season. I’m a big fan of Trevor Ariza, who can do a little bit of everything, and doing it at both ends of the court. He’ll keep a hand in the face of Anthony at all time, but I think that the talented Nuggets forward is on such a roll (averaging 30ppg against Dallas, shooting 51% from the field and almost 55% from 3), and won’t be the same Melo that the Lakers saw during the regular season. Advantage: Nuggets.

Power forward: Pau Gasol vs. Kenyon Martin
Gasol has a height advantage, but like Martin says about himself: he won’t back down from nobody. I think without Martin, the Nuggets would have looked like a completely different team on the defensive end. Because not only is he a guy who is good in coming over from the weak side to block shots, he is also an annoying (and “annoying” is a good thing obviously) one-on-one defender. Gasol however, has proven to be the most consistent player for the Lakers so far. Advantage: Lakers.

Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Nene

Bynum didn’t play all that much against the Rockets, but when he did get some minutes you always notice that there’s a lot this kid can do. A little baby hook, and offensive rebound there; I think he’ll be needed against the Nuggets, who have a physical player of their own in Nene. As I stated many times (well, at least two times), when Nene has a good game, the Nuggets have a good game. Advantage: Nuggets.

Except for Lamar Odom, L.A.’s bench is as thin as my hairline. I must say that Jordan Farmar has been playing with more confidence, but the inconsistency of Farmar, or Sasha Vujacic, doesn’t help this Lakers team. I like Shannon Brown, but it’s unfair to count on him in clutch situations. The Nuggets of course are famous because of the guy who fires quicker than Viggo Mortensen in “Appaloosa”: J.R. Smith, and fan favorite Chris Andersen. Anthony Carter gets his 15-20 minutes off the bench, a reliable veteran point guard which pretty much completes the eight-man rotation George Karl is using. Advantage: Nuggets.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. George Karl
So far, when it comes to coaching, I always give the Lakers the advantage. You can’t argue with Jackson’s legendary status, but it must be said that his team still isn’t always playing with intensity, something that I do see watching Denver or Cleveland for that matter. I also wonder how much you can blame Jackson for this. It’s the players who have to perform on the court, and to execute the game plan. George Karl acknowledges his team got far, and it’s good to hear him say that neither he nor his team think it’s over. They aren’t getting complacent just because they got the WCF. They want to go all the way, they stay hungry, and they stay motivated. It won’t be the coaches who make the difference in this series. It’s not about X’s and O’s this round. Advantage: none.

What I’d say:
Lakers in seven. Could’ve been a coin toss really. Yes, I think the Nuggets are that good. This series has nothing to do with star power. The Lakers can’t simply rely on their talent and hope they’ll get by. It’s plain and simple: the team that wants it the most, will win it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Semifinals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Point guard: Mo Williams vs. Mike Bibby
It might be a bit simplistic to say that the roles of these players in their respective teams, is just to shoot 3’s. But that’s what it all comes down to. Mo Williams isn’t the main facilitator of Cleveland’s offense, where Mike Bibby might have more of a leadership role on a relatively young team. Advantage: none.

Shooting guard: Delonte West vs. Joe Johnson

I always liked Joe Johnson, back when he was still a member of the fun Phoenix Suns. It’s good for him to finally have some success again these last two seasons with the Hawks. In Game 7 against the Heat Johnson was superb, shooting 3’s like he was only a few feet away from the basket. Delonte West needs to stay close to Johnson at all times, maybe they even put LeBron on him. Give Johnson an inch and he’ll score on you, Wade can tell you that. I expect him to have a better series than he had against Miami. Advantage: Hawks.

Small forward: LeBron James vs. Maurice Evans

Evans will start, but Mike Woodson already stated that Marvin Williams, as one of the team’s premier defenders, will also see a lot of minutes against James. Something tells me the freshly crowned MVP won’t have too much trouble with this. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Power forward: Anderson Varejao vs. Josh Smith
Varejao is a scrappy power forward, your typical blue collar guy. Josh Smith is built like a tank, and his athleticism is something that will get him past, or over his defenders. What Smith has to remember is that the offense shouldn’t stop with him. Pass to the open man if he has a better shot. Smith also needs to continue attacking the basket, and not settle for jumpers. Advantage: Hawks.

Center: Zydrynas Ilgauskas vs. Al Horford
How much effect will Horford’s ankle injury have on him? Z is so tall and a good shooter, which enforces Horford to use his quickness to bother him as much as possible. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zaza Pachulia comes off the bench early and often, to make this a better match-up. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Flip Murray played a lot of minutes against the Heat, but hasn’t shot as well as he did in the regular season. Still, he’s a valuable back-up who you can insert at both guard spots. Zaza Pachulia is a strong big guy, not afraid to make the hard foul, and a good rebounder. Speaking of rebounders, the Cavs have Ben Wallace on their bench, and if he’s healthy it’s an extra big body to bring in. Joe Smith is a veteran who will score a little, and always works hard. Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson were too inconsistent in the first round to be considered as a factor in this series. Advantage: Hawks.

Coaching: Mike Brown vs. Mike Woodson

What annoys me watching the Hawks play is that they sometimes forget to pass. One guy tries to create something for himself, oblivious if any of his teammates are open. You hardly see any movement out there, and that’s the reason why they needed seven games to get rid off Miami. In Game 7 we finally saw how good the Hawks can be: there were moments that the ball was going through four players and all of a sudden Johnson was wide open in the corner for a 3. That’s how they should do it, and Woodson should remind his players of that in every single time-out. The Cavs don’t have that problem. James, Williams and West are all good passers, and not reluctant to do it either. But besides offense, they’re also a strong defensive team that works together instead of counting on the individual. Brown has been to the Finals, has learned a lot in the last couple of seasons, and has his team working well together. From James to Tarence Kinsey. Advantage: Hawks.

What I’d say:

Cavaliers in five. The Hawks showed me too many times that they aren’t willing to change. Team oriented basketball is optional, not a must. This will give the Cavs a huge advantage, because if the ball isn’t moving in the Hawks’ offense, it’s not that hard to stop them. And that leaves us with LeBron James. He might endure some trouble with the athletic Hawks, but I don’t see anyone really having an effect in stopping him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Semifinals Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Point guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Rafer Alston
It must suck sometimes to be Rajon Rondo. First you get all bruised up playing those pesky Bulls for seven excruciating games, going up against Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, who might equal the quickness you have. And only two days later the Magic is waiting for you. Going in the paint will be a daring task, with the Defensive Player of the Year waiting there to eat you alive. Guess there will be more bruises then. Alston is nowhere near the player Rose is, but Alston can score, run the floor, dish the ball, and is a great replacement for the injured Jameer Nelson. But Alston also probably wished Courtney Lee was healthy, because now he has to guard one of the better players of the playoffs in Rondo. Advantage: Celtics.

Shooting guard: Ray Allen vs. J.J. Redick

In the year 2021 J.J. will write a book about his playing career, from the slow start in his early years, to the moment which changed it all and made him realize what to do to be a good player in this League: the semifinals of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, where he had to guard one of the best shooters in the NBA. It will be called “The Chronicles of Redick”, and one chapter will entirely be dedicated to Ray Allen. Advantage: Celtics.

Small forward: Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu

Turk shot about 36% from the field in the first round; he’s not himself right now. Stat-wise it looked like Pierce wasn’t the best Celtic against the Bulls, but few have made more clutch shots than him. His jumper from the right elbow is his bread and butter, no matter how closely he was guard by John Salmons. Turkoglu is taller than Pierce, but health is keeping him from playing up to his usual standards. Advantage: Celtics.

Power forward: Glen Davis vs. Rashard Lewis

I didn’t expect to see Big Baby average 18 points in the first round, but he did. He has a good shooting touch, and is surprisingly agile for such a big man. Rashard Lewis really came through in Game 6 and 7 against the Sixers, scoring 24 and 29 points respectively. A great shooter from every distance imaginable, but also fast enough to drive to the basket. Davis and Lewis are two completely different players, but the Magic forward must be closely guarded at all times. Advantage: Magic.

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Dwight Howard
Like Davis, Perkins had a great series against the Bulls, being a strong defensive presence the Celtics needed after the loss of KG, and getting some buckets too (at 62%). The problem for Perkins will be that he doesn’t have any help defending Flight Howard, since Orlando has more shooters than there were in “3:10 to Yuma”. Mikki “The Snake” Moore and Brian Scalabrine won’t be very helpful in this department. Advantage: Magic.

Boston’s bench is thinner than Lindsay Lohan. They haven’t provided much against Chicago, with Starbury shooting about 25%, and Tony Allen being a non-factor on both ends of the floor. Only Eddie House made some huge shots, and Moore and Scal played decent in Game 7. Orlando’s bench was slightly better, but not much. They simply couldn’t shoot. Michael Pietrus was horrible, No-Neck Johnson is a great veteran and a smart player, but also shot below 40%, Tony Battie brought some D being subbed in for Howard, and we even saw the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, who had exactly one memorable moment. Ask Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert more about this. For the sake of argument let’s expect Pietrus to play better, therefore I will say: Advantage: Magic.

Coaching: Doc Rivers vs. Stan Van Gundy

I don’t know what to think of SVG. He’s quite a character, colorful and I like his honesty, especially in dealing with media. But watching him on the sidelines even makes me a little nervous. Doc Rivers came a long way with his Boston team. From hardly winning any games only a couple of seasons ago, to winning it all. He lost Garnett, he lost Leon Powe, his bench is crap, but he still gets the most out of every player. They’re scrappy, they have that sense of urgency, and they are lead by one of the NBA’s finest young coaches (if I may still call him that). Advantage: Celtics.

What I’d say:
Magic in six. Boston almost played eight games in the first round (seven OT’s!). They had two days of rest, while Orlando finished up their first round series on Thursday (and Howard hasn’t played since last Tuesday). The Celtics are battle-tested, but do they have enough gas left in the tank to go up against Howard and his 3-point shooting crew? Some say that you forget about being tired in the playoffs, but again, the Celtics have played so many minutes, it must have had an impact or some sort of lingering effect on them. They’re tough as nails and as a collective unit still better defensively than the Magic, despite the shot blocking prowess of Dwight Howard. But can they stop him? If Howard dominates from the start, and Rashard Lewis doesn’t wait for four games to finally be the effective scorer that he is, Boston’s season will end here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Semifinals Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. Dallas Mavericks

Point guard: Chauncey Billups vs. Jason Kidd
Not that long ago these two were playing against each other in the East, a couple of years younger, still considered to be amongst the NBA elite. Kidd is still leading his team on the break, and Billups has rescued the Nuggets for being a playoff afterthought, to a possible contender. Kidd will have long nights in trying to contain him. Advantage: Nuggets.

Shooting guard: Dahntay Jones vs. J.J. Barea
Antoine Wright was the starter for Dallas during the regular season, but the Rick Carlisle changed that. Carlisle believed that starting Barea brought an extra scoring punch to the starting line-up, a gamble you can take when you have Jason Terry on your bench. Jones is brought for his D, so he has to run around chasing Barea or the Jet all night long. Advantage: Mavericks.

Small forward: Carmelo Anthony vs. Josh Howard
If it wasn’t for Josh Howard, would the Mavericks be in the playoffs right now? Howard may not be completely healthy, but he certainly didn’t show any signs of slowing down against the Spurs. Melo is so well-rounded offensively, that it’s difficult to stop him, and also averaged 5 assists per game against San Antonio, while still getting his points. Tough call, because they are equally important to their respective teams. Advantage: Nuggets.

Power forward: Kenyon Martin vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki clearly has a height advantage over Martin, but the latter is a very aggressive defender, something Dirk doesn’t always cope well with. Nowitzki has unlimited range, so he can stretch the Nuggets’ D by opening up the lane for guys like Terry and Barea. I’m impressed with Martin’s play and always have a soft spot for him since I’m a Nets fan, but he’ll have his hands full with Nowitzki. Advantage: Mavericks.

Center: Nene vs. Erick Dampier.
Damp is huge, a good rebounder and will block a couple of shots every game. Nene played decent against the Spurs, but it would be very welcome if he stays on the court a bit longer, avoiding foul trouble. Advantage: Nuggets.

On one bench you have the Sixth Man of the Year in Jason Terry, along with Antoine Wright, and the highly entertaining Ryan Hollins. On the other bench you have two players named J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen. I’m a fan of these guys, so I’ll keep it short and simple: Advantage: Nuggets.

Coaching: George Karl vs. Rick Carlisle
Carlisle maybe hasn’t been around as long as Karl has, but his coaching career has been quite successful so far. Karl’s team has the chance to go a long way, but to choose between either of them in this series is pointless. Advantage: none.

What I’d Say:
Nuggets in seven. Both the Nuggets and Mavericks play a team-oriented style of basketball, but Denver is better defensively. Also, both teams had a relatively “easy” first round, so the wear and tear of the playoffs shouldn’t bother them too much. The Nuggets are playing at such a high level right now, which makes me wonder if the Mavericks can find ways to stop all those guys who can easily put up 20 points if needed: Melo, Billups, Nene, Smith, and even Martin can all score. Good luck with that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Semifinals Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

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.