If you’re a sports fan, you know that the NBA kicks off its main event tonight, as the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Orlando Magic in a best-of-seven series for the league championship. (The NBA and its sponsors would prefer if you’d ignore all those Kobe/LeBron ads running every commercial break, thank you very much. They were supposed to coincide with the dream matchup between the league’s two best players, but the Magic derailed that plan by knocking LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the playoffs. Sometimes, things don’t work out according to plan.)
Anyway, here in Central Oregon, we’ve got a few bona fide NBA experts on the local music scene. Among them is local hip-hop duo Top Shelf, aka Amsterdam and Middle, who follow the sport closely when they’re not living the big-time rap lifestyle. So Frequency asked the guys to break down the Finals matchups and predict a winner. Here’s what they had to say:
Center: Andrew Bynum (Lakers) vs. Dwight Howard (Magic)
Amsterdam: Orlando’s biggest advantage lies in D12, the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. While his offensive game is ugly at times, he sets great screens and allows the Magic’s perimeter players to have more time to catch and shoot. Although they occasionally feed the big man in the post, they usually regret it shortly afterward. Whatever, his defensive prowess more than makes up for it.
Middle: Seems like swagger-jacking the late, great Magic center Shaquille O’Neal’s nickname has done wonders for this youngster Dwight Howard. Bynum is going to have problems making it out of this matchup unscathed; he’s too short on experience and not long enough on skills. Yadigg.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol (Lakers) vs. Rashard Lewis (Magic)
Middle: Gasol has the best game face in basketball right now (sorry KG, yours is too contrived). Pau is a beast and, in my opinion, the most important key for L.A. If Gasol took anything from last round’s Cavs-Magic series, its that he should be fine as long as he guards Lewis the last couple minutes of the game!
Advantage: Gasol’s face
Amsterdam: Hold up. First off, I gotta stick up for my man Kevin Garnett. Anyone who saw last year’s NBA Finals knows who the real beast was in that series. Contrived or not, Pau Gasol wants no part of KG’s face. Moving along. Rashard Lewis is really a small forward but plays power forward in Orlando’s system. He’s been Orlando’s most clutch shooter throughout the playoffs and creates wicked matchup problems from the wing. Gasol should be able to dominate Lewis in the post, although Gasol really can’t guard Lewis either. It will be interesting to see which coach blinks first. Will Stan Van Gundy bring in Marcin Gortat to cover Pau or will Phil Jackson give the nod to Lamar Odom (Mr. Enigma himself) to guard Shard?
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza (Lakers) vs. Hedo Turkoglu (Magic)
Amsterdam: Turkoglu is the Magic’s most prominent ballhandler and playmaker. He handles the rock very well and his height (listed at 6’10”) provides a mismatch for undersized opponents. He’s been pretty streaky in the playoffs so far but hits tough shots at a good rate. Ariza is a very solid individual defender and spot-up three point shooter, but you’ll be seeing a lot of Odom at small forward as well. All three of these forwards are playing for their next contract, so we’ll see who wants that paper the most.
Middle: Turkoglu’s awkward way of moving has proven to give natural athletes like Ariza a little trouble in the past. Even when his 3s are off he will slowly walk by you to the hoop and leave you wondering how he got there. He reminds me of my boy Amsterdam in this regard. Ariza is like a high school senior in an AP course, he’s going to have to step his game up if he wants that college credit!
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant (Lakers) vs. Courtney Lee (Magic)
Middle: Ask yourself this: If you tagged yourself after the world’s deadliest snake, as Kobe Bryant did two years ago (he refers to himself as “Black Mamba”), are you really worried about a man named Courtney?
Amsterdam: So let me get this straight: Orlando’s hopes of stopping the league’s preeminent closer fall into the hands of a rookie out of Western Kentucky and a Frenchman (Mickael Pietrus) who has admittedly been wearing Kobe Bryant’s sneakers all season long. Kobe may have the corniest nickname in the league, but I don’t think Orlando will be slowing Mr. Bryant down too much. And for the record, I dated a girl named Courtney in high school. God bless her soul.
Point Guard: Derek Fisher (Lakers) vs. Rafer Alston (Magic)
Amsterdam: Let’s get something out of the way: Derek Fisher and Rafer Alston are collectively the two worst starting point guards in NBA Finals history. Fisher has struggled shooting the ball throughout the playoffs and should be looking over his shoulder at Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown (who have both played well as of late) if he continues missing. Alston can play with as much freedom as he wants considering the Magic’s starting point guard, Jameer Nelson, has been injured since before the All-Star break. Mark my words, the point guard play in this series will be ugly.
Advantage: Skip to my Lou (Alston)
Middle: Fisher is consistently consistent, plays great D and doesn’t waste possessions. Alston is streaky and doesn’t have near the amount of experience. Alston is going to have his work cut out for him.
Edge: Fisher’s muscles and experience
Middle: Wait, Orlando has a bench? Could have fooled me. This is an easy call. Between Odom, Brown and Farmar, the Magic bench is no contest for the Lake Show.
Amsterdam: Not even close. While Pietrus and Gortat provide some help along the frontline, L.A.’s depth is simply overwhelming. Odom, Brown, Farmar and Luke Walton (along with his myriad of female stalkers) will get the job done. J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison should play one-on-one at halftime, both teams would save money on entertainment.
Coach: Phil Jackson (Lakers) vs. Stan Van Gundy (Magic)
Amsterdam: Call me crazy, but I’ll take the coach with nine rings over the “Master of Panic” (© Shaquille O’Neal) each and every time the question’s posed. I’m still waiting for Stan’s voice to violently pierce and ultimately damage one of his players’ eardrums. Although you can’t argue his success, Van Gundy is one of the NBA’s quintessential coaches you wouldn’t want to play for.
Edge: Big Chief Triangle
Middle: Nine titles vs. the Ron Jeremy lookalike. Unless Phil’s custom chair collapses and hospitalizes him, Jackson wins this hands down. I mean, the man has his own throne!
Edge: Zen Master
Middle: We are from the West Coast so you already know it’s Disneyland all day!! Not to mention there are not nearly enough cute actresses in Orlando.
Amsterdam: Seeing how we’re headed out to L.A. on tour in a couple weeks, I gotta go with the City of Angels here. Bigger celebrities, cuter cheerleaders and, um, plenty of plastic surgery. Really can’t go wrong.
Amsterdam: Magic in 6. They beat the defending champions, they beat the best team from the regular season, and they’re mentally tougher than L.A. More importantly, my undying love of the Boston Celtics won’t allow me to predict championship-level success for the Lakers.
Middle: Lakers in 6. They’re deeper, they have home court advantage and the best player in the series. See you at Disneyland! Swaggabunga.