It’s Magic: Howard, Orlando make it to NBA finals

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It’s Magic: Howard, Orlando make it to NBA finals
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Haziran 01, 2009 00:00

ORLANDO, Florida -There will be no Kobe-LeBron showdown in the NBA finals - and that could make things tougher for the Lakers. Instead, Los Angeles will face Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, who swept the Western Conference champion during the regular season.

The Lakers will try to prove that means nothing when the finals begin Thursday on their home floor against Orlando, which upset Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavaliers had the NBA's best record, but lost both meetings with the Lakers. Had Cleveland made the finals, it would have set up a highly anticipated duel between Bryant and James, the last two NBA MVPs.

The Magic ruined that script, just as it wrecked Boston's hopes of a repeat by ousting the defending champion in the second round. Now Orlando looks to deny Phil Jackson his 10th coaching title, which would move him past Red Auerbach for most all-time.

Second time

Orlando finished off Cleveland 103-90 on Saturday behind 40 points from Howard and is in the finals for only the second time. The Magic can become the first first-time champion since another Florida team, the Miami Heat, won the 2006 title.

The Lakers clinched their 30th finals appearance, most in NBA history, by beating the Denver Nuggets 119-92 on Friday to win that series in six games. They remained stuck on 15 championships, second behind Boston, when the Celtics beat them last year in six games.

Los Angeles is in much better shape this year. Center Andrew Bynum is healthy after missing the 2008 postseason with a knee injury, and Trevor Ariza - a former Magic player - has become a key starter after missing most of last year's playoffs with a foot injury.

The Magic relied heavily on its three-pointer weapon in the elimination of the Cavaliers. Los Angeles should be better equipped to deal with the matchup problems that Rashard Lewis and Hidayet "Hedo" Türkoğlu created against Cleveland by inserting Lamar Odom, who had strong performances in the final two games of the West finals after struggling through most of the series.

The home court advantage will be with the Lakers. Game 2 will also be at Staples Center before the series shifts to Central Florida for Games 3 and 4, and if necessary, Game 5.
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