My viewing of the NBA playoffs is slowly decreasing, not for lack of interest, but lack of time. I watched the second round obsessively on a week long foray to the East Coast, where games being on at a late hour was a great advantage. But, regardless, here are my thoughts.
Logic tells me the Lakers will win, and win easily. Its not hard to see why. They have the most talent, and the better coach. However, their Jekyl and Hyde act, a staple of the Lakers under Phil Jackson, has bitten them in the past. And sometimes, the bursts of dominance, the teases, hide the real truth, that they might not be all that good. The 2004 Lakers were bothered by inconsistency as well, but were still the heavy favorites against the Pistons, who summarily dispatched them with ease.
The Magic are growing on me, mainly because they keep proving me wrong. They have shooters, lots of them, a horse in the middle, and athletic guards that can give the terrible point guards of the Lakers fits. The whole reason Denver hung around against LA, despite the bench not showing up for any road games, was the disparity among the guards. When the Aaron Brooks of the Rockets played well, the Lakers lost, when he played poorly, they won. With Jameer Nelson supposedly back, this could be another series where Derek Fisher and friends get toasted.
The Magic run their offense similar to how they ran it with Shaq in the mid 90's. One big man on the block, shooters lined up on the perimeter, and(when Nelson is healthy) a point guard that can penetrate and create. I'm not dogging Skip To My Lou Alston here, but he's not a playmaker.
I think Phil Jackson will find a way to break the Magic. I think his team will be able to stay focused long enough to put the Magic away. I think Van Gundy's way of overcoaching will come back to bite him, and I never trust teams that rely on the three point shot. However, f
f the Magic somehow steal one of the first two games, its an entirely different series. This Lakers team is nothing like the Lakers of earlier this decade. Those teams would sleepwalk, but would awaken with enough desperation and confidence to eventually win. Those Lakers teams could close games, I haven't seen it from these guys. They don't strike me as champions, they strike me as an uber talented squad with no character and no toughness, their big guns are too inconsistent, Odom and Gasol are completely inpredictable, they don't look like they enjoy playing basketball.
With all that said, I still can't see the Magic winning it all, or even pushing this to seven games, the talent and coaching disparity is simply too large.
Lakers in five.