Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Wed Jun 03 09:00am EDT

Finals pick? Lakers in six

One thing we've learned in watching this league over the years is just how hard it is to beat a great team four different times in four tries. Or five tries.

Even if there is a talent disparity, paired with a matchup advantage for one side, it's just hard to do.

There's no real reason for it -- the less talented team isn't getting any better, the adjustments aren't enough, fatigue isn't playing a part -- the better team just loses, sometimes. If anything, it's the old notion of a home court advantage that swings things around.

Or a bit of complacency, especially when it comes to the 2-3-2 format. Knowing that, once you've defended your home floor (and I think you'll agree that, usually, the team with home court advantage is the better team overall), you only really need to take one in three tries on the road to really wrap it up.

So you'll usually see the blowout win for the home team in Game 3, followed by the "crap, we don't want these guys to tie it up" close win for the visitors in Game 4 (that's the one NBA TV shows, a few years later), followed by a bit of complacency and a desperate win for the home team in Game 5.

I don't go down this path lightly. I know bringing this up denigrates the talent of the Orlando Magic and the interest and competitive spirit of the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Lakers, like many champions who have come before them, can't always win in a fight over human nature. And as great as the Magic are, I don't believe they have the talent to match the Lakers in this fight.

Orlando took both games in the regular season. That's important. And as I mentioned yesterday, it isn't important because the Magic swept the season series. No, what's important and telling is the way the Lakers lost the season series. I know, I know; national guy making everything about the Lakers all over again. Don't get angry, just read on.

The Magic won one game by three, and another by six. That's hardly a swift bit of domination. I didn't read much into the Magic losing a regular season game in March to the Cavaliers by only four points, and I tend to regard close games like these (the six-point one is pushing it, though) as coin flip situations that could go either way.

Then you remember what happened. Jameer Nelson(notes) went off. That's not happening again. Pau Gasol(notes) didn't get the ball much, and that's probably not going to repeat itself. Kobe Bryant(notes) dominated the ball, and with the eyes of the world on him in the Finals (as opposed to a Friday and Saturday game in winter), you'd think that Kobe would want to prove that he's an equal opportunity guy. You'd hope that, at least, for the betterment of the game we love.

So a few things had to swing Orlando's way, and they rode the hot hand of a player who won't be nearly as effective (if he plays at all) this time around. And they needed all that for a three, and six-point win. That's really nothing to bank on.

So when I figure in Los Angeles' offense (at its best, the best in the NBA; too often it is not at its best) going against the league's best defense, I can't call it a wash. If run properly, I still think the Lakers can really take it to the Orlando D for enough stretches to pull out a series of close wins.

It really does depend on that offense. If they don't run it properly, and Dwight Howard(notes) has the lay of the land, then the Lakers deserve to be out. Quickly. Because if the Lakers aren't running their offense properly, they turn out to be a pretty good team. And you can beat a pretty good team four times in four or five tries.

Let's assume they run it properly. Let's say, four wins in six games for the Lakers. Sounds about right. We'll see where that ends up.

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