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"Undersized Power Forward": Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson versus the Magic; NBA FINALS Matchups

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"Undersized Power Forward": Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson versus the Magic; NBA FINALS Matchups

WHY THE LAKERS WON VIA The Boston Globe
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They advanced to the championship round by stunning the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. Even with the NBA's best all-around player in LeBron James on Cleveland's roster, the Magic were noticeably better.

The chiseled, powerful, and athletic Howard was too strong and quick for aging Cleveland centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace. The Cavs had no one to guard versatile 6-foot-11-inch forward Rashard Lewis and no one Lewis had to guard to keep him honest defensively. Cleveland had no one tall enough to guard 6-10 forward Hedo Turkoglu. Delonte West? Come on, Cleveland. Magic guards Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, and rookie Courtney Lee couldn't have played better, either.

There was no team that mighty Cleveland matched up worse with in the East than Orlando. But the Magic powers that conquered the Cavs won't be as powerful against the athletic, tall, and experienced Lakers.

The Lakers have three 7-footers to toss Howard's way in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and D.J. Mbenga. None of them will be able to guard Howard as well as Boston's brawny Kendrick Perkins did in the second round, but having three young 7-footers with 18 fouls to give certainly will help. Gasol also has the offensive gifts to make Howard work on the defensive end, as does Bynum at times.
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WHY THE CAVS GOT SHAQ: MATCHUP PROBLEMS
The chiseled, powerful, and athletic Howard was too strong and quick for aging Cleveland centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace. The Cavs had no one to guard versatile 6-foot-11-inch forward Rashard Lewis and no one Lewis had to guard to keep him honest defensively. Cleveland had no one tall enough to guard 6-10 forward Hedo Turkoglu. Delonte West? Come on, Cleveland. Magic guards Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, and rookie Courtney Lee couldn't have played better, either.
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Suns notebook: Suns go ‘big’ to defend against Gasol
Mike Tulumello, Tribune

April 29, 2005 - 7:02AM

He’s argued against the idea pretty much all season, once even going toe-totoe with a front-row fan who’d been urging him to try it.

But now, with the Suns trying to defend 7-foot Pau Gasol (OF ALL PEOPLE WOW) down low, coach Mike D’Antoni is using both Amaré Stoudemire and Steven Hunter in the lineup at the same time.

"In certain situations, it works pretty good," D’Antoni said.

Because Gasol uses his height to post up the shorter Shawn Marion or Stoudemire, "He causes us problems," the Suns’ coach said. (WOW Mike D'Antoni says it, but "okee" says it so it must not be true)

The more conventional "big" look tends to slow the Suns’ pace to a more traditional one. But because "Hunter is playing pretty well," having the duo in the game simultaneously doesn’t necessarily hurt the club.
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WHY THE LAKERS WON: EXPLOITING HEIGHT AND SKILL/MATCHUP PROBLEMS
Power Forward - Pau Gasol vs. Rashard Lewis: The power forward position boasts an obvious mismatch for both teams. The question over seven games will be who can exploit it?

Gasol is one of the league's most talented big men. He should be able to eat up Lewis in the post. Be it inside scoring, rebounding, passing or shot-blocking, Gasol should have the edge.

Equally, Lewis is a difficult cover on the perimeter. His clutch three-point shooting won at least two games for the Magic over the Cavaliers. Rashard isn't shy about it either, hoisting 4.8 three-pointers a game throughout the postseason so far.

Against the Cavs, Lewis averaged 18.3 points a night, shooting 49.3% from the field and 48.4% from three.

While Gasol may be more mobile than the Cleveland opposition, will the Lakers be giving three points for two?

Behind Gasol is Lamar Odom who should have more success keeping up with Lewis. Surprisingly Lamar is a higher percentage long-range shooter than Lewis this postseason (55.6%) albeit on a much smaller scale (nine attempts).

Through 18 games Gasol is averaging 18 points, 11.3 boards and two blocks. Odom is at 12.0 points, 9.5 boards and 1.4 blocks. They've combined to hit 55.1% from the field.

Should the Magic look to go big against Gasol, Marcin Gortat has shown flashes as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Orlando also has Tony Battie for spot minutes; the Lakers Josh Powell.

Advantage: Lakers

Center - Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard: The center position is where the Magic are special. Howard was an absolute beast in the close-out game against the Cavaliers with 40 points and 14 boards. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Howard's inside game on both sides of the ball is what separates this Magic team from the typical run-and-gun outside shooting team.

The Lakers have their own young, developing big in Andrew Bynum. Before a torn MCL earlier in the year, Bynum was showing some Howard-like potential. Slowly returning to form throughout the playoffs, Andrew is nowhere near top form.

Coach Phil Jackson wants defense and rebounding while it seems at times Drew disappears from the game if he doesn't get enough touches. Fortunately for L.A., it looked like Andrew was starting to get it late in the Denver series. While he didn't put up impressive numbers, he delivered a number of hard fouls and deterred the Nuggets from scoring in the paint.

Now, can the foul-prone Bynum stay on the floor against Howard? If not, Pau shifts to center and the Lakers lose a key offensive advantage (Gasol/Lewis). Where L.A. gains in finesse and skill, they lose in toughness against arguably the best center in the game.

Behind Howard (who also tends to pick up fouls) is the serviceable Gortat. D.J. Mbenga could get spot minutes against Howard though that may be a stretch.
Advantage: Magic
Bench - Odom/Walton/Vujacic/Brown/Farmar vs. Pietrus/Gortat/Johnson: The Lakers have the best player coming off the bench in Odom. If Pietrus continues to shoot well from the outside and can slow Bryant, he'll be a huge reserve for the Magic.

Orlando may need a lot out of Gortat to match L.A.'s size. If Orlando turns to a Howard/Gortat frontcourt, they lose an outside shooter.

What happens to Orlando's rotation if Jameer Nelson does return? Does he come off the bench and if so, at what level? If he's close to what he was against the Lakers during the regular season, the complexion of the series could change dramatically.
Advantage: Lakers
--------------------(DJ Mbenga was not listed as a key part of the bench lol)

Read more NBA news and insight: http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=12818#ixzz0jeqcuBG6


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"Matchups are everything in

"Matchups are everything in a playoff series. The Magic just had it where the Cavaliers did not. Be it size, athleticism, inside scoring, outside shooting, etc - the Cavaliers were just outmatched. While they could boast LeBron James, Cleveland didn't have much of a low post threat or balanced offensive attack to prevail.

Where the Cavaliers were weak, the Lakers are strong. There will be games where Howard punishes L.A.'s big men (especially Bynum), Turkoglu gets his passing game going and Lewis pours in some clutch threes.

Game in and game out, the Lakers should have the advantage with a balanced offensive attack, the 1A to LeBron's 1B (or the 1B to LeBron's 1A, depending on perspective) in Kobe Bryant and a longer, more versatile group of defenders.

Where the Lakers are most vulnerable defensively, the Magic have a question mark in Jameer Nelson and his shoulder. If he returns and is effective, Nelson's ability to drive into the paint to collapse L.A.'s defense could be the difference between a couple of Orlando wins - and four.

As far as intangibles go, there's no questioning Orlando's desire to win the title but after having a year to just stew on the failure of Game 6 in 2008, the Lakers may have a slight edge on hunger."

NOT MY OWN WORDS SINCE I CANT CONVINCE YOU GUYS OF ANYTHING THESE ARE A PROFESSIONAL WRITERS WORDS.

Read more NBA news and insight: http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=12818#ixzz0jer0tnYC

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If the Magic can shoot as

If the Magic can shoot as well as they did against the Cavs, they can win this series, but that will be tough because the Lakers don't plan on double-teaming Dwight Howard. They won't be able to stop him with single coverage, but Howard also can't beat them by himself. The Sixers (GO DALEMBERT!) and Celtics both gave the Magic some trouble by single-covering Howard and staying at home on Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, but neither Philly nor Boston had enough offensively to beat the Magic four times. The Lakers have enough offensive weapons and depth to hurt Orlando. And with Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, they have the length and quickness to match up well with Turkoglu and Lewis. Lakers in six.
-- John Schuhmann

Some series are hard to break down. This one, I think, is easy: Pau Gasol vs. Rashard Lewis. Whoever impacts the series more tilts it toward his team.

The suspicion here is that Dwight Howard will have a couple of monster games against the Lakers' frontcourt, getting Andrew Bynum in foul trouble early, but will struggle more than he dominates against L.A.'s numerous and long bigs. And I am equally suspicious that Kobe Bryant will have a couple of 40-point games in leading the Lakers to wins. He's not going to settle for jumpers just because the Magic's guards play off of him.

That leaves a pivotal, swing game in the hands of either Gasol or Lewis. Each has strengths against the other; Gasol can take Lewis down low in the paint and shoot over him; Lewis can make Gasol come out and guard him on the perimeter, and go by him. But it says here that Gasol will do a little better against Lewis, in no small part because Lamar Odom will get his turns on Lewis as well.

I think the Magic can beat L.A., especially if Jameer Nelson can be a factor later in the series. But I think the Lakers will beat Orlando, because of their frontcourt depth. L.A. in six.
-- David Aldridge

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Lakers in 6. Just like the

Lakers in 6. Just like the Magic-Cavs series, this one is going to come down to which team can dictate the outcome through exploiting unique mismatches. The Magic ousted the Cavs because Cleveland's big men were immobile. Big Z and Big Ben couldn't check Dwight Howard -- neither could Anderson Varejao. And, for that matter, Varejao couldn't chase Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis through and around screens. In fact, other than LeBron James, Cleveland didn't have one athletic wing between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-10. That spelled their surprised doom.

The Lakers don't have the same degree of problems. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are capable defenders and, perhaps more importantly, serious offensive threats (Gasol definitely, Bynum potentially) that can get D12 in foul trouble. Meanwhile, whoever Odom has to chase around will have the equally difficult task of keeping long Lamar off the boards and out of the paint. L.A. also has two expert perimeter defenders in Kobe and Trevor Ariza that they can use on Hedo or 'Shard. In the end, I think Orlando will have more trouble with L.A.'s bigs than the Lakers will have with their usual problem of defensive rotation on the perimeter. And we haven't even talked about the unlikelihood of Kobe letting his squad lose two Finals in a row.
-- Vince Thomas

http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/06/04/predictions/
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The majority opinion seems to be that Gasol versus Lewis was a key matchup in the ORL versus LAL series, Mbenga, Bynum, played a huge role providing fouls to prevent Gasol from covering Howard and risking matchup problems.

Size Matters, Skill Matters too but Gasol has both and that is a very direct reason why the Lakers won the championship in 5 games.

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