The best team generally wins.. A 7-game series makes it very tough for the underdog team to come out on top. The length of the playoff tends to compensate for flukes or temporary streaks. The team with the better season record gets the home-court advantage for any Game 7 — and 82% of home teams win the seventh game. So look for close series in both the East and the West.
It's raining 3s. If you have guys like the Magic’s J.J. Redick, Mikael Pietrus, and their star Hedo Turkaglo (who dropped 61% of their shots from 3-point range while playing tough interior defense), you're in luck. Hitting three-pointers sucks the spirit out of your opponent's defenders and can take the drama out of the game as it gets late. All four teams in this round — Magic vs Cavaliers and Lakers vs Nuggets — have tough defense. Three-pointers will be a big factor.
Marquee match-ups. The Cavaliers, of course, are the favorites in the East, but they are susceptible to the Magic, who won the season series against the Cavs this year. LeBron's supporting cast includes the energetic DeLonte West who should present problems for the Magic. In the West, Kobe may look boring on film but never on the court. L.A. has won the season series but Denver offers up match-up problems with their rangy defenders. "Birdman" Anderson and Nene Hilario underneath are the key to stop a surging Andrew Bynum and a tough, resurgent Pau Gasol.
Role Players Rule. In big games like this, with star match ups and franchise players, it's often the guys under the radar who suddenly come up big. The Lakers will look to Trevor Ariza and the Nuggets J.R. Smith to play the spoiler. On the East, the Magic have a team full of role players. They'll have to play super-tough defense and get rebounds. Dwight Howard needs at least 3 blocks a game to claim victory.
Intangibles. You like guys this time of the year that have been through the rough times. No statistics, no measure of physical ability, just that intangible sensibility or wisdom and keen focus that it takes to perform consistently at a high level.
Everyone wants to see Kobe go against LeBron. But don't count on it. This when even larger than life egos realize it takes a team to win a championship. So whichever of the surviving superstars can be the least selfish when it matters the most will come out ion top. I predict the Magic in 6,
Denver Nuggets in 7.
Since 2009 Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has been a regular contributor on The Takeaway, critically analyzing the intersection of sports, politics, culture, religion, and the environment.
He is the author of "Green Deen: What Islam Teaches ...