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NBA Finals: Who has the edge?

The NBA Finals begin tonight in Los Angeles. Times staff writer Darrell Fry breaks down the matchups.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2001

POINT GUARD: Derek Fisher vs. Aaron McKie: Both have blossomed into dangerous shooters this season. Fisher is more of a perimeter shooter, while the 6-foot-5 McKie can penetrate and create his own shot, especially against smaller guards like the 6-1 Fisher.

EDGE: Even.

SHOOTING GUARD: Kobe Bryant vs. Allen Iverson: This is the marquee matchup of the series. Both are exceptional talents who can do everything and will need help defending the other. Iverson is a master at getting separation from defenders, enabling him to get his shot even over taller defenders. Bryant looks like the next Michael Jordan, which pretty much says it all.

EDGE: Even.

SMALL FORWARD: Rick Fox vs. Jumaine Jones: Jones has decent range but hurts defenders with his quickness and ability to slash to the basket. Fox may have trouble keeping up, but he is good at finding the open man and can kill you if you leave him open from 15 feet.

EDGE: Sixers.

POWER FORWARD: Horace Grant vs. Tyrone Hill: Both are employed more as rebounders and defenders than scorers, although neither can be left open. Hill has solid low-post moves, while Grant is more of a set shooter.

EDGE: Sixers.

CENTER: Shaquille O'Neal vs. Dikembe Mutombo: This matchup could determine the series' outcome. O'Neal is the preeminent big man in the league, a 315-pounder with brute strength and nimble feet. He scored 30 and 27 points against Mutombo when he played with Atlanta this season. Mutombo, known for his shot-blocking, has the size to prevent O'Neal from dominating the middle and enough jump hooks and low-post moves to make O'Neal work hard on the defensive end.

EDGE: Lakers.

BENCH: Robert Horry and Brian Shaw vs. Eric Snow, Raja Bell and Todd MacCulloch: Snow is virtually a starter who provides lift and composure off the bench. Bell has emerged as a reliable contributor. Shaw and Horry see plenty of action and are dependable role players who rarely make crippling mistakes.

EDGE: Lakers.

COACH: Phil Jackson vs. Larry Brown: With championship rings with Chicago and Los Angeles, Jackson is arguably the best coaching mind in the league. While not the most animated during games, he is a master at getting his team motivated and prepared for big games. The well-traveled Brown is in his first Finals, but he has a wealth of playoff experience and is excellent at making adjustments.

EDGE: Lakers.

PREDICTION: Lakers in five.

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