Before I start my hat goes off to Orlando. They weathered the storm and knocked out the defending champs in Boston in spite of a media and leadership meltdown. Of course the series would’ve been different if KG wasn’t injured. Still, he couldn’t do much beyond cheer and jeer while his team got ran by 19.
Now let’s get to the focus behind this debate. Who REALLY believes that Orlando will beat Cleveland? Don’t get me wrong, I like Orlando. Dwight Howard is a great player, Hedo Turkoglu aka The New Peja is making everyone remember that Eastern Europeans can ball. Rashard gets his points and is entertaining because he looks like Chingy’s older brother. Skip has played decent ball at best. Plus, Orlando’s bench has been solid with contributions from Mickael Pietrus and Courtney Lee.
I can’t convince myself that Orlando has an iota of an edge against Cleveland even with all those factors laid out on the table. Cleveland’s starting lineup is more balanced and they have a better supporting cast: especially in backup guards and big men. They can play the game inside and out better than the Magic. Which is ironic since that’s where Orlando’s bread is buttered.
Moreover the Cavs are a better defensive squad than Orlando. Orlando had troubles on the perimeter with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and even Big Baby. Delonte, Mo and Lebron (on occasion) can hit the long ball. The Magic will still have problems in this area as this 1-2-3 combo will make it rain.
The Cavs are strong in the paint as well. Z, Varejao and Ben Wallace will do a good job in containing Dwight. Varejao will have issues guarding Rashard, but Lebron will keep up with new Peja. Additionally, Lebron gets in the paint at will. I’m willing to bet he’ll make a poster out of Dwight before everything’s all said and done.
Still, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves now. The James Gang definitely had the easiest road to the finals. The Pistons barely showed up and The Hawks learned that running four forwards in your starting lineup isn’t the smartest move. Orlando is better than both of those squads but they’re playing without home court against a healthy squad.
Orlando also doesn’t have a consistent closer: key word being consistent. Hedo can hit a game winner but he’s the type of player that needs to have a good game going into a last second shot. Without that he’s clanking potential game winners all day. Let’s not forget that Orlando has gotten extra nervous on multiple occasions against both the Sixers and Celtics. Plus the Cavs have an uncanny ability to pull away in the fourth when things start to look shaky.
I said the Cavs would win in 6 at the start and that sounds about right. Orlando is too good to get swept. Yet, I can’t see the Magic taking the Cavs, even if they push it to seven. At least Howard and company will go home to good weather and can hit up Walt Disney World when it’s all over.
Previously Posted — TSS NBA Playoffs Preview: The Western Conference Finals | TSS NBA Playoffs Review: The Conference Semifinals |TSS NBA Playoffs Review: The First Round | TSS NBA Playoffs Preview: The Later Rounds | TSS NBA Playoffs Preview: The First Round