Finals analysis: Why the Lakers won

After a grand total of 1,230 regular-season and 85 playoff games, there's one team left standing. It's interesting to note that the Ming-less Houston Rockets actually provided the most stubborn resistance for the Lakers, but Orlando wasn't exactly a pushover.

In any case, here's how L.A. beat the Magic:

Overall, the Lakers were quicker, longer, more athletic and more talented than the Magic.

Given a full season with the Lakers, the addition of Gasol proved to be as important to L.A. as obtaining Kevin Garnett was for the Celtics. Likewise, having a healthy Ariza available provided another critical improvement over last season's squad.

Luke Walton had a splendid series off the bench, avoiding over-handling the ball, playing sturdy defense and taking advantage of every mismatch created by L.A.'s S/Rs.

Jordan Farmar stayed in front of Alston on defense, and also contributed several important buckets.

Contrary to Stan Van Gundy's claims, the Lakers' experience was a significant factor. Playing effectively in the Finals requires an ability to concentrate and execute on an elevated level that cannot be duplicated in any other situation. Kobe, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson were all veterans of numerous championship series, while all of the Magic were strangers in paradise and couldn't access that extra edge that such experience brings.

Jackson simply outcoached SVG. For example, after getting burned in Game 3 by Howard's dive cuts in the wake of high S/Rs, the Lakers adjusted their defensive rotations and rendered the same play virtually useless thereafter. Also, after Howard gained excellent position by sprinting to the front of the rim as Orlando pushed the ball, the Lakers bigs adjusted by simply side-stepping Howard and fronting him.

While a title quest motivates everyone, the Lakers had extra incentives that were unavailable to the Magic: Seeking redemption after losing to the Celtics last year. Kobe's desire to prove that he could win without Shaq. Gasol's proving that he was indeed tough enough. And Jackson's opportunity to surpass Red Auerbach.

However, certain problems must be addressed for the Lakers to repeat:

  • They must find a way to re-sign both Odom and Ariza.

  • Andrew Bynum has to spend his entire summer working on his game. Specifically, he has to sharpen his focus on defense, and understand that he doesn't have to score to be useful.

  • Josh Powell is barely adequate and must be replaced. Ditto for Sasha Vujacic, although his over-the-top contract will make him difficult to deal.

  • Jackson has to return.

    Here's why the Magic lost:

    Their point guard situation was dysfunctional. Rafer Alston made too many ill-advised decisions, missed too many open shots and wasn't nearly as effective going left as he was going right. Nelson wasn't ready for prime-time competition. The Magic missed Anthony Johnson's toughness.

    2009 NBA Finals

    Sunday's Game 5

    • Lakers 99, Magic 86 (Lakers win 4-1) analysis

    • Playoff results, schedule
    • 2009 NBA Playoff Central
    • Rosen: Why the Lakers won
    • Behrendt: L.A's title sequence
    • Rosenberg: Kobe not done yet
    • Tomasson: Kobe proves critics wrong
    • Feigen: Jackson in class of his own


    • Postgame: Lakers celebrate 15th title
    • Postgame: Kobe leads Lakers to title
    • Postgame: Magic discuss Finals loss
    • Marques Johnson's NBA Finals recap


    • NBA Finals, Game 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

    Courtney Lee was afflicted with rookie-itis.

    As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar correctly observed, Howard's post-up moves were indeed predictable.

    Rashard Lewis tended to vanish at inopportune moments.

    Their S/R defense was hampered by Howard's disinclination to show with force on the weak side. Also by the hesitancy frequently evidenced by both Lewis and Turkoglu when playing weak-side defense.

    When driving into the lane, Pietrus had eyes only for the basket.

    When Howard attacked ball-penetrators, the utter lack of protective baseline rotations behind him allowed the Lakers to convert on numerous easy putbacks.

    When their perimeter shooters were pressured, Orlando lacked alternative ways to juice their offense.

    Lewis didn't get enough shot opportunities, i.e., post-ups and isolations.

    The Magic failed to execute at both ends of the court during end-game situations, and this is where their lack of championship series experience hurt them the most.

    Most often, teams have to lose in their initial appearances in the Finals to fully understand what it takes to win. Yes, they played well in Games 2, 3, and 4, and Magic loyalists will claim that they coulda/shoulda/woulda won had this shot been made or that shot been missed. But, as the old adage says, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

    What, then, does Orlando require to get over the top next year?

  • Howard has to attend summer school to develop a go-to move and a counter-move.

  • Perhaps a healthy Nelson could pick up the Magic as much as a healthy Ariza did for the Lakers.

  • Marcin Gortat must be retained, or else a comparable backup must be signed.

  • Redick must continue his improvement. Plus, he has to get beaucoup playing time during the regular season to keep his jumper sharp.

  • Getting a wing-man who can create his own scoring opportunities off the bounce is a must.

  • A decision has to be made concerning the future of Alston and Johnson. Can the former accept a tempo-changing backup role? Since the latter will be 35 in October, is it worthwhile to commit to him? Or is there a better alternative in the draft or free-agent market?

  • They also have to break the bank and re-up Turkoglu. By the way, he was obviously quite distressed at the limited number of shot oppportunities he got in Game 5.

    In the end, the final verdict is as simple as this: A great team beat a very good team.

    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website:
    Added: June 16, 2009