A few of you may be wondering, “Why didn’t this kid post something after the Lakers took the Western Conference Finals?” Please don’t get the wrong impression. I’m proud of the boys in purple and gold. But to be honest, this comes as no surprise to me.
In fact, before the playoffs began, here’s what I predicted:
Eastern Conference Finals
Orlando over Cleveland, 4-3
Western Conference Finals
Los Angeles over Denver, 4-2
Los Angeles over Orlando, 4-3
(see Season of Redemption)
The teams dribbled down a different lane than I anticipated, but they made it. Okay, okay. I rescinded my picks a few times throughout, but in my heart I believed, maybe. I figured you were all in the know as well.
These are the Lakers. We’re talking Kobe Bryant and company, Phil Jackson and crew. Lest you forget, they’ve been here many times before.
In fact, the Lakers reappearance in the NBA Finals only settles one debate for me. After weeks of heated deliberation, it’s finally clear. Kobe is the superior muppet. Then again, what’s a muppet anyway?
When asked this very question, a wise man once said, “Well, it’s not quite a mop, not quite a puppet, but man… So, to answer you question, I don’t know.”
That wise man was Homer J. Simpson. And although this episode of “The Simpsons” is an all-time favorite of mine, it is not nearly as entertaining as the recent marketing campaign Nike featured throughout the NBA Playoffs. I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of the spots.
I understand why one would deem Kobe “Unstoppable”. However, I’m glad this campaign has stopped, for now. Should we expect a parody with Kobe and Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy? That’s probably unlikely. Van Gundy wears dress shoes.
But this marketing campaign was just too perfect, wasn’t it? Kobe-Lebron. Lebron-Kobe. This campaign sent the same underlying message as the Vitamin Water campaign and ESPN’s “Dream Season: 23 & 24”. I even delved into the NBA conspiracy for a few days. I tossed and turned at night, haunted by the idea. It was too perfect of a marketing campaign for the NBA to let slip by the wayside. They even had muppets as figureheads of the movement. Come on. You can’t say no to muppets.
However, in the end, one muppet did not make it to the next act. A major critic of the campaign made sure of that.
“I told ya’ll the other day that we find it really disrespectful that everybody seems to be pulling for LeBron and Kobe to get to the Finals,” said Orlando center Dwight Howard.
“Every time I look at TV, it seems like that’s all anybody is talking about,” he continued. “It’s like nobody is even giving us a shot at winning this series and we’ve used it as motivation.”
Call it what you will, Dwight. You’ve earned a trip to the Finals, muppet advocate or not. Though, the Finals are a whole new game, and you may wish you had that kind of commercial support.
The Lakers have looked “unstoppable” this postseason and their averages top Orlando in every category. But save scoring (102.9 ppg to 98.5 ppg), the averages remain close.
I’m not confident “close” is enough to give the series to the Lakers. Orlando matches up with the Lakers better than any opponent thus far. In fact, the Magic took the regular season series, 2-0. If the Magic plays the way they did in these match-ups, the Lakers will have their hands full. There, Orlando averaged 4.5 more points per game, shot 5.9 percent better from the field (7.4 percent better from beyond the arc – 41.4 percent to 34.0) and grabbed 7.0 more rebounds per game.
Moreover the Magic have used this kind of play to propel them this deep in the postseason. Orlando has gone 12-7 and has taken some impressive wins, including a Game Seven in Boston. They have not looked this good since the last time the team made it to the NBA Finals in 1995. The team’s driving force back then was also a center. I believe he went by the name of Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Diesel hit a spike strip in this series. The Magic were swept 4-0.
However, although they’ve conjured up some new mystique, the Magic are facing a Lakers team that is driven by redemption. In the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakeshow came up just short of adding another trophy to Jerry Buss’s mantle and another ring to muppet Kobe’s display case. Ah, muppet Kobe. You’re the main reason the Lakers will take this series. Well, you’re human counterpart is, but you understand.
Orlando can come away with a few wins if they are able to keep this a low-scoring series. This postseason, the Magic are 9-0 in games where they keep their opponents to below 90 points. Kobe will not let this happen. As we saw in the last few games of the Western Conference Finals, Pau Gasol and friends will make sure of it.