Magic?s defense, desire give them edge over L.A.

By Paige Fieldsted, Sports Editor

In the past week I have heard every possible argument as to why the Lakers are going to win the NBA Finals, again.

They have Kobe Bryant, they have home-court advantage, they have veteran coach Phil Jackson–all odds are in LA’s favor.

All of the above might be true, but the Orlando Magic have been beating the odds since the playoffs began.

After starting the playoffs with a sloppy series victory over Philadelphia, Orlando traveled to beantown, where the Celtics awaited. The Magic didn’t have home court advantage in that series and Boston had only lost twice in a Game 7 on their home court.

The Magic didn’t concern themselves with the odds against them then and aren’t concerned now, as behind superman Dwight Howard they have made it past both the Celtics and King James’ Caveliers, both teams nobody thought they could beat.

Doesn’t anybody cheer for the underdog anymore?

I picked the Magic to win the finals nearly a month ago when they were battling it out with Boston and have watched them improve steadily since.

Although the Magic have only won each playoff game by an average of five points, they are outshooting their opponents from both field goal range and behind the arch. Five players are averaging more than 10 points, and three are averaging more than 15.

It’s defense, however, that is the difference maker for Orlando.

It was defense that propelled the Magic past Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and defense that boosted them over the Cavaliers, and it’s going to be defense that wins the Magic their first NBA title in franchise history.

Sure, Kobe Bryant, Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom might be combining for an average of 60 points a game in the playoffs, but Orlando was able to handle similar statistics from Boston and LeBron’s 40-plus points a game.

The Magic have been playing steady defense throughout the playoffs, the Lakers have not. Yes, Kobe is capable of being one of the best defenders in the league, but it was reliance on offense that almost cost the Lakers the series with the Houston Rockets.

Defense really does win championship–I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and it will happen again when the Magic beat L.A.

People have said the Lakers’ experience in the finals–this being their 30th time playing for the title–will be the downfall of the Orlando.

I think I can be safe in saying the Magic are thinking, “Bring it on.”

Orlando has been riding a wave of adrenaline ever since their improbable win over Boston, a wave that will continue into the finals.

Of course, the Lakers and Jackson’s experience comes into play on the biggest stage in basketball, but I think Orlando’s drive and desire for its first championship can overpower the experience factor.

I’ve heard the Magic criticized for the way they celebrated after beating the Cavaliers, that they celebrated too early and should’ve been more reserved and cool like the Lakers.

Really? That’s dumb; wouldn’t you be excited if your team was in the finals for the second time ever? Wouldn’t you want to celebrate something that nobody thought was possible? I know I would.

Maybe their celebration was a little over the top, but they know what lies ahead of them and they’ll be ready for the challenge when it comes.

Orlando can beat the Lakers, but during the past month I have seen the Magic do the unbelievable, and I think they’ll do it again this series as they win the NBA finals in seven games.

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Paige Fieldsted