Ted Green: Five reasons the Lakers will win the NBA title
All Orlando really did was beat the Celtics without Kevin Garnett and a totally one-man Cleveland team with statues and stiffs named Zydrunas and Wally.
Back on planet Earth, here are five reasons why the Lakers will win the 2009 NBA championship series in five games, six tops:
1) Kobe's mission: This is the culmination of a five-year journey that started when Jerry Buss sent Shaq on his fat and merry way. Kobe's first ring without The Big Whatever is now squarely in his sights. His first championship as solo leader of the Lakers isn't just a goal for Kobe, it's a spiritual quest, an obsession, even his own religious experience, and I just don't see him letting it slip away.
2) These aren't last year's Lakers: Despite clueless studio talking head Jon Barry telling us that last year's Lakers team was better than this one, the opposite is true. Pau Gasoft is a little harder now; he now tends toward monster second halves in key games. Trevor Ariza is exceeding expectations by miles and fully engaged in the mix. And Kobe's trust in his teammates has never been greater. If Lamar lays off the candy and doesn't crash from his sugar highs, the truth is, no team can touch them. If Andrew Bynum doesn't have three fouls before he even gets out of the Staples Center tunnel, if he makes any kind of meaningful contribution, game over, school's out for the Magic.
3) Been there, done that: Look back in NBA history to find numerous examples of teams who need to lose first in the NBA Finals before they fully grasp what it takes to win a championship. The '83 Sixers and '89 Bad Boy Pistons are two prominent examples of the Rite of Passage Rule. The Lakers will be the latest example. Losing to the Celtics in the manner they did, being blown out of Boston and embarrassed in the last game, seriously intensified their resolve to finish the job this time.
4) The Wilt Rule: If the Lakers smartly opt to concede that Dwight Howard is going to get his, while staying at home more frequently on the Magic's three-point shooters, the Wilt ChamberlainRule will take effect. Which is, if Howard gets 35 or 40, like Wilt did routinely against the Celtics, only to lose virtually every time, and the Lakers keep Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu and everyone else reasonably in control, the Lakers have too many weapons for the Magic to win.
5) Stars in their eyes: Although the Magic is battle-tested against the Celtics and Cavaliers, the Finals are a different animal. It's quite possible a young Orlando team will be a little awed on the game's biggest stage, especially having to open twice at Staples Center before getting back to Florida. If Orlando goes down 0-2 in L.A., it could be a short series, with the final celebration taking place on the Magic's home court.
Green formerly covered the Lakers for the Los Angeles Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.
Photo: Dwight Howard knocks the ball away from Kobe Bryant in a game last season. Now the Magic and Lakers meet with the NBA championship on the line. Credit: Los Angeles Times