Scout's Take: Finals breakdown (cont.)
3 Key Magic Players
1. Dwight Howard. He's realizing this is the big stage and he can be a dominant player if he takes that attitude. After people had been waiting to see if he could control the game offensively in the post, that last 40-point game [in the East finals] was a coming-out party for him. But if you're asking if he can dominate this series, I think that's asking too much. I don't think Orlando is going to come in with one player and beat the home-court advantage of the Lakers. I just don't see that happening through one guy. But the Magic have so much talent around Howard anyway that they they shouldn't be thinking in those terms.
As a defender, Howard is terrific for the way Orlando has to play the ball. They keep pressure on the ball and force it to the basket, knowing that their defenders around Howard aren't going to be able to stay in front of their men the whole way. So, at some point, Howard turns into a goalie. It works well when all five are set in their defense and matched up. Obviously, he is a great shot-blocker and intimidator, but the way L.A. spaces out the defense, it's not going to be easy to funnel everything in to Howard. I don't think he's going to be the factor he was in the games against Cleveland.
You can get Howard in foul trouble by playing to his aggression. He plays so hard that it's easy for him to get off balance, and with ball fakes you can get him off his feet. Once that happens, guys know how to take advantage by bringing the ball right through his chest and making it look like a foul. You don't want to tell him to not be aggressive, but it has to be channeled and he has to be smarter.
The Magic are a good rebounding team because of him, so it's going to be interesting to see if the Lakers will be running stuff through the high post that gets Howard away from the basket -- and if they do, will Howard still be able to control the defensive boards? The guy is awesome; he's the strongest guy in the league as well as the quickest big man.
2. Rashard Lewis. He would be a great power forward in the Lakers' system because of his skills and his shooting. But the bottom line with him is that he can't guard the small forwards, so he has to guard the power forwards. Then again, I don't think Turkoglu can guard the small forwards, either.
I have a ton of respect for Lewis as a guy who is a great teammate. Since coming to Orlando, he has continued to play hard and continued to be a scorer along with developing a mature understanding that he's the No. 2 guy on the team, maybe No. 3 at times behind Turkoglu, and maybe even No. 4 when Jameer Nelson is there. Now you could say he should accept his role because he's making a ton of money, but we all know it doesn't always work that way. At times he'll come up with 30 points, but most times he'll give you 18. He lets the game come to him very well, and at the same time he's not going to shy away from taking the big shots.
I'd like to see him be a 20-and-10 contributor on a constant basis, so it's clear that he's outproducing the winner of the Lamar Odom-Ariza combination -- and then Turkoglu will have to try to equalize the production of Gasol.
3. Hedo Turkoglu. His versatility is crucial, especially now that Nelson has been out and they never can be sure what they're going to get from Rafer Alston. Turkoglu kills you in the pick-and-roll. Imagine if Paul Pierce were good in the pick-and-roll with the ball in his hands and he could create plays out of it -- that's what Turkoglu does so well.
Turkoglu is going to have Ariza on him, and Ariza will be trying to fight over the screens and "show" on the pick-and-roll. The Lakers will try to use Ariza to put pressure on Turkoglu and guard him straight up. Can Ariza stay in front of Turkoglu on the pick-and-roll? I think he can. And then I'd think the Lakers would be happy if he tried to take Ariza into the post because I don't think Turkoglu is so great there.
The issues with Turkoglu are his defense and his streakiness as a shooter. But then this is a streaky team, and a lot is going to depend on how they're shooting it.
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