NBA Finals matchups

June 07, 2000|By Don Markus

The Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers spilt their two regular-season games, with each winning on its own court. Here's how their matchup in the NBA Finals shapes up (with postseason statistics):

Point guards

Ron Harper has size over Mark Jackson, and quickness as well, despite being on his last legs. Jackson likes to get his points by posting up inside, but he might have trouble doing that against the 6-6 Harper. Jackson, too, is a tough-as-nails competitor who knows this is his last shot at a ring. This might be a series in which Indiana tries to exploit the matchup of the reserve point guards, with Travis Best having the edge over Derek Fisher.

Edge: Even

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

Harper...17...27.0...7.8...3.8...2.6

Jackson...17...26.4...7.6...3.2...7.8

Shooting guards

If the Pacers want to have any chance to make this a long series, let alone win it all, then Reggie Miller must dominate Kobe Bryant. After an up-and-down season, and some shaky momenta against Milwaukee and Philadelphia, Miller became a cold-blooded Knicks killer once again. Bryant is a better defensive player, but usually likes to take advantage of his size, something he won't be able to do against Miller. But Miller must play defense against Bryant for the Pacers to succeed.

Edge: Lakers

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

Bryant...17...40.1...22.8...4.4...4.5

Miller...16...40.0...23.8...2.3...2.4

Small forward Glen Rice had a couple of decent games against the Trail Blazers, but was often missing in action. Jason Rose, a fellow former Michigan Wolverine, played better against Philadelphia than he did against the Knicks. If Rice gets off to a good start, it will make it more difficult for the Pacers to double-team Shaquille O'Neal (if they do at all, because Larry Bird abhors double-teaming anybody)

Edge: Pacers

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

Rice...17...33.7...12.7...4.5...2.2

Rose...17...41.5...20.1...4.4...3.5

Power forward A.C. Green is a nonfactor at power forward, and the Pacers must get Dale Davis involved in more than just defense and re-bounding. While Davis is not the kind of offensive force that can take advantage of the Lakers' biggest deficiency, he is a tremendous rebounder who can take away extra shots for Los Angeles.

Edge: Pacers

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

Green...17...19.2...3.5...4.5...0.6

Davis...17...31.6...8.1...11.9...0.6

Center

O'Neal looks disdainfully at anyone who thinks he can be stopped one-on-one, and Dird might have to go against his defensive principles here. In his prime, Rik Smits couldn't have guarded O'Neal. While Smits might have presented a similar challenge a few years ago as Arvydas Sabonis did in the Portland series, even Smits' outside shot has become a sometimes thing. O'Neal might get to 50 points in a game against Smits. The Lakers would be smart to give the ball to Shaq on nearly every possession.

Edge: Lakers

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

O'Neal...17...42.8...28.2...15.0...3.4

Smits...16...21.6...11.3...3.4...1.1

Bench

With Best, forward Austin Croshere and center Sam Perkins in reserve - not to mention little used, former All-Star Chris Mullin - the Pacers have similar numbers to the Trail Blazers. But they don't have anyone as strong as Brian Grant or as explosive as Bonzi Wells in backup roles. For the Lakers, it all depends on who shows up among Brian Shaw, who had a huge Game 7 against the Trail Blazers on Sunday, Robert Horry, Fisher and Rick Fox. Horry needs to get out of his shooting slump, something he showed signs of doing Sunday night.

Edge: Even

G...Min...Pts...Reb...Ast.

Horry...17...25.6...7.1...5.4...2.4

Shaw...16...18.4...6.3...2.1...3.1

Fisher...15...14.0...4.2...1.1 1.2

Fox...17...13.4...3.5...1.6...1.3

Best...17...21.5...9.9...2.9...3.1

Croshere...17...20.3...7.4...4.3...0.8

Perkins...17...16.8...4.4...2.9...0.2

McKey...17...16.5...2.1...3.5...0.8

Coaches

Though neither is very demonstrative, Jackson seems to make a lot more moves than Bird. There is certainly more pressure on Jackson now that Bird has gotten the Pacers to the Finals, but Larry Legend knows his team is capable of being swept and must do something to prevent it. Jackson was outcoached by Portland's Mike Dunleavy until the fourth quarter of Game 7, but Bird has never gained much of a reputation for his sideline decisions because he leaves a lot of the coaching to assistants Dick Harter and Rick Carlisle.

Edge: Lakers

Intangibles

It again could be the arenas in which the teams play. While Staples Center is huge and intimidating when empty, it is often quiet and road-team friendly during games. Conseco Field House is the opposite, and more similar to Portland's Rose Garden. Given that each team had the same stellar record at home, neither team has much of an advantage. The Lakers have several players with Finals' experience: Harper has three rings and Horry has two (with Houston), and O'Neal and Shaw played on the 1995 Orlando team that reached the Finals. The Pacers have only Perkins, who played on the last Lakers team to reach the Finals in 1991.

Edge: Lakers

Prediction

On talent and mismatches alone, the Lakers should win in four or five. But given Los Angeles propensity to not always show up along with the tough environment in Indianapolis, this series should go six.

Pick: Lakers in six.

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