|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|April 3rd, 2009|
|Sun Sports HD / ESPN|
|Mo Williams||PG||Rafer Alston|
|Delonte West||SG||Courtney Lee|
|LeBron James||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Anderson Varejao||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Zydrunas Ilgauskas||C||Dwight Howard|
|January 29th: Magic 99, Cavaliers 88|
|March 17th: Cavaliers 97, Magic 93|
A few weeks ago, it looked like tonight's game between the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers would be a battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. But the Cavs' recent 13-game winning streak, which only ended last night in Washington, has all but locked-up homecourt advantage for them, slightly lowering the stakes tonight. But make no mistake, this is a huge game.
For one, Orlando essentially needs to win out if it hopes to wrest the East's second seed from the Boston Celtics, with whom it is even in the loss column with two more games left on the schedule. The key difference is that tying the Celtics does the Magic no good, since Boston would own the tiebreaker, as it has the better inter-conference record.
But those are just the seeding implications for tonight. There are also intangibles, such as confidence, on the line. The Magic know they can beat the Cavs, having held a 25-point lead late in the fourth quarter of the teams' first meeting this year before the Cavs rattled off 14 straight points at the end to make the margin more respectable. But after the last meeting, in which LeBron James took over down the stretch and willed the Cavs to a victory in Cleveland, the Magic could use a confidence boost. I believe they have something to prove tonight, namely that they are an elite team that can at least put a scare into the mighty Cavs.
As for the Cavs... they don't have much left to prove. Everyone takes them seriously already. However, they are coming off a loss, as I previously mentioned. That much does not bode well for the Magic. Cleveland has lost consecutive games exactly once this season, and that was back in February. Then again, Orlando is also coming off a loss, and it has only lost consecutive games twice this season. Something's gotta give.
It's gut-check time right now for the Magic. If they can't come out and play their very best from tip to horn tonight, when will they ever? What more could they ask for than an opportunity to win the season-series with the best team in the league, on national TV, in early April? Huge, huge, huge game tonight. Please watch.
Tip's at 8 on Sun Sports or ESPN, whichever you prefer. If you attend the game and Dwight Howard doesn't get more than one second-half shot attempt, you have every right to demand a refund. Go Magic.