Will Kobe Bryant silence his haters once and for all? Or will Dwight Howard reaffirm the old adage that teams need a dominant center to win a title? Both Las Vegas and Barack Obama have picked the Lakers, but our experts are split. Continue reading to see what they have to say, and make your picks in the comment section.
Why L.A. Will Win | Why Orlando Will Win
What the Lakers Will Gain | What the Magic Will Gain
Lakers RoundCast | Magic RoundCast
NBA Finals Schedule
Picking the Lakers ...
Tim Povtak: Lakers in 5
"As hard as the Magic try to convince you otherwise, they are thrilled just to reach the NBA Finals. They've already had a great season. They are playing with house money now, and Killer Kobe will steal it all quickly."
Matt Steinmetz: Lakers in 6
"The thinking here is that Gasol will be a factor and that Howard won't be quite the one he was in Eastern Conference finals. Expecting Lamar Odom to come through and prove to be best of the three 6-9-ish, 6-10-ish versatile forwards (Turkoglu, Lewis) in the series.
Then, there's always Kobe."
Jay Mariotti: Lakers in 6
"Because Kobe Bryant understands legacy and what it means to win one without Shaq. Because Phil Jackson understands legacy and wants to smoke past Red Auerbach with title No. 10. Because L.A. has home-court advantage and experience. And because Barack Obama said so."
Kevin Blackistone: Lakers in 6
"I like the Lakers in six. Having been this far just a season ago, and being embarrassed once they got there, will be the second-biggest difference for them. Having Kobe, who averaged a Jordanesque 34 in the Denver series, will be the first."
Terence Moore: Lakers in 6
"It's the Lakers in six. That's because the Magic would like to win, but the Lakers have to win. You have Kobe's obsession with taking it all without Shaq, and then you have Phil Jackson's obsession with surpassing Red Auerbach for most world championships as an NBA coach. Plus, the Lakers are just better."
Shane Bacon: Lakers in 6
"They have been the most talented team all season, we've just waited for it all to mesh. That seemed to happen in the final two games of the Denver series, and now they face Orlando with a lot of big men to throw at Dwight Howard. (This, however, is all pending on the fact that Mickael Pietrus doen't play like the third best player to ever touch a basketball in this series.)"
Brett Pollakoff: Lakers in 6
"L.A. finally found their killer instinct in the Conference finals, when they went on the road and convincingly closed out the Nuggets in Game 6. I expect that to carry over to the Finals, and if the Lakers happen to get up 3-1, the series will probably end in five."
Picking the Magic ...
Elie Seckbach: Magic in 5
"The big winners of the Finals are... the American people as well as basketball fans worldwide. For the past six months, all we heard day-in and day-out was how Kobe-Lebron are going to match up -- and it's great to see that the NBA has not turned into the WWE. As to who is going to end up with a ring? I think the Lakers have been consistent in being inconsistent, so we don't know which Lakers team will show up -- the one that got spanked by the Houston Rockets JV team, or the one that beat the Nuggets in Denver. Looks like it's Orlando in 5."
Tom Ziller: Magic in 6
"The Lakers defense has been phenomenal all season, but is tailored to stop penetration and create turnovers. The Magic don't need to penetrate and don't turn the ball over -- that should lead to plenty of open weak side threes. On the other end, Dwight Howard should be able to turn the Laker weapons into jump shooters. That's no Kryptonite for L.A. (they can shoot too!) but it's a big boon for Orlando. A true toss-up, here."
Matt Watson: Magic in 6
"Because the Lakers still haven't solved their lack of consistency, while the Magic seem to be perfecting their game. And let's face it, even if the Lakers deserve to be favored, rooting for the underdog is always more fun than worrying about saving face."
Matt Moore: Magic in 7
"Talent + Skill + Effort + One Guy > Talent + Height + Fortune.
Because somebody's got to drive the bandwagon."
Will Brinson: Magic in 7
"I don't care for the Lakers and shotgun on a roadtrip with Matt Moore sounds fun. But, in all seriousness, I think that we're somehow still underrating Orlando after the Cleveland series -- to most people it was just 'an exposure of Cleveland.' I'm inclined to believe that it was a 'Dwight Howard coming out party' for the sake of these predictions."