June 3, 2009

Lakers vs. Magic for NBA title

The NBA's Championship Series begins Thursday with an unexpected matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic.

Orlando pulled off a surprising Eastern Conference triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers and league MVP LeBron James. Now the Magic will try to do the same thing against the Lakers and their superstar -- Kobe Bryant.

Of the 14 playoff series played to date this season, 11 have been won by the team that also captured the regular-season series. The other three playoff matchups brought together teams that split their series during the regular campaign.

The fact that Orlando beat Los Angeles in both their regular-season meetings, therefore, could give the Magic a confidence edge going into the best-of-seven showdown.

In addition, Orlando won twice on the road against defending champion Boston and Cleveland during the playoffs. The two wins in Cleveland came after the Cavaliers had swept their first two post-season series.

Bryant has averaged 29.6 points a game during the playoffs and was the key factor when the Lakers finally pulled away from Denver in the Western Conference finals.

The Magic's chief weapon is Dwight Howard, who has averaged 21.7 points and 15.4 rebounds during the playoffs. He has shot 62.2 percent from the field, the highest in the NBA during the post-season.

Los Angeles will host the first two games of the series with the second contest scheduled for Sunday. The teams will then move to Orlando next Tuesday.