NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview

By: Andy Weise

There will be a new NBA champion this summer and that’s a good thing. The Kevin Garnett-less Boston Celtics finally saw the quest to repeat come to an end Sunday night and the Orlando Magic now face LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs haven’t lost a game since April 15th, a game in which LeBron James didn’t even play. The last time they lost with James? A 29-point blowout in Orlando Magic on April 3rd.

The Cavaliers have been unstoppable, winning all eight playoff games so far, all by double digits. If there was a question about how real the Cavaliers are, they’ve definitely been the best team so far this postseason after posting the best record in the regular season. Wingman Maurice Williams has been the missing link for the Cavaliers. Williams is a player who makes you pay if you spend too much time focusing on the King himself. They had players like Daniel Gibson and Delonte West last year to do that but they’re not at the level of Williams.

Orlando’s play against Boston proves that the front line of the Magic might only be second to the Lakers in the NBA. Dwight Howard has established himself a dominant center and Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu provide the shooting that Howard lacks.

The Magic have survived a season that was once thought lost after all-star point guard Jameer Nelson went down for the season. Rafer Alston, acquired in a midseason trade has been serviceable but the backcourt of the Magic will have a hard time matching up with the Cavaliers. Williams, Gibson and West will be a handful for Alston, J.J. Redick, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus.

The matchup between these two teams is very interesting. The Magic will need Pietrus to help guard James because Turkoglu is not known for his defensive presence. The Cavaliers have good size underneath where the Celtics couldn’t keep up with the Magic.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao will be relieved at times by Ben Wallace and Joe Smith, not bad for a bench. The advantage in this series definitely goes to the Cavaliers once you look at the bench options. Former all-stars Wallace and Wally Szczberiak as well as Smith give them grizzled vets who have played in plenty of playoff games.

X Factor: Hedo Turkoglu. His game seven performance against Boston shows he can be a go-to player for the Magic. Now he must show he can play some defense in this series as well as be consistent on the offensive end. I won’t hold my breath for either.

My prediction: Cavaliers in five. I would say five or six but Cleveland should be able to hold their homecourt as they have done all year. James is destined for the NBA Finals this year and Williams was the sidekick he needed to get over the hump. The Magic will be back next year with Jameer Nelson but they don’t have enough in that backcourt this year to keep up with the Cavs.