|Sun Sports HD, NBA TV|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Delonte West|
|Maurice Evans||SG||Sasha Pavlovic|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||LeBron James|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Ben Wallace|
|Dwight Howard||C||Z. Ilgauskas|
|14 Nov 2007: Magic 117, Cavaliers 116|
|11 Feb 2008: Cavaliers 118, Magic 111|
Pretty big game for the Magic tonight as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at home. Cleveland seems to be the consensus third-best team in the East, despite the fact that we have a better record. Tonight, we have a real chance to make NBA observers take notice: we are better than the Cavaliers, King LeBron James be damned.
Brian Schmitz has a nifty appraisal of the situation in today's Orlando Sentinel. Many Magic personnel cite Cleveland's improbable run to the NBA Finals last year as evidence they can have similar success this season:
Magic General Manager Otis Smith had posters of the NBA trophy taped throughout the club's training facility and inside each player's locker. He still talks of the team winning a title.
When people roll their eyes, Smith's pat answer is the 2006-07 Cavaliers.
"Who had Cleveland making it last year? Anything can happen," he says.
Of course, the article hardly mentions the fact that San Antonio made quick work of Cleveland in the Finals, which is why I'd rather not invoke the Cavaliers' ill-fated championship run last season. For one thing, they got lucky with their first- and second-round playoff matchups, drawing injury-depleted Washington and disinterested New Jersey, respectively. One could argue their pairing against Detroit was favorable also, given the Pistons' complacency. So no, I don't want us to be like the Cavs were last year: I want us to be better, and a win over this year's Cavs tonight would go a long way toward proving that.
What worries me most about tonight, other than the ever-present threat of LeBron James scoring 50 points, is Anderson Varejao defending Dwight Howard. Varejao is a flop artist, and Howard has had lots of problems with offensive fouls lately. Hopefully, Joey Crawford, Monty McCutcheon, and Olandis Poole -- the officials tonight -- won't fall for Varejao's theatrics. Otherwise, Dwight's going to find himself stuck to the bench, leaving Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis to carry the load offensively. Lewis should have a fairly easy go at it, though. Ben Wallace is a solid defender, but he's not going to step out to the three-point line to guard Lewis.
Tipoff's at 7 on Sun Sports and NBATV. Go Magic.