The first question Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy fielded during his pre-game media availability pertained to his team's poor starts in teach of the first two games of this series. Orlando has trailed by 14 points after each of the first two first quarters in this series, shooting 34% combined while allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to shoot 50%. Van Gundy was not as concerned about the bad starts, saying:
"I think, you know, it's not just the starts. Obviously we'd like to get off to a much better start, it's been a problem in the first two games, but really, at this level of competition what you really hope is that you don't go through long stretches at any point in the game where you're not playing well. You can't say the start is the only thing important. I mean, you need four quarters of pretty good basketball, I think, to win at this level right now. And obviously first quarters have been our problems in our first two games. Hopefully, we'll correct that and continue to play well throughout the game."
LeBron James spoke about the Cavs' approach to the start of tonight's game:
"We gotta come out with the same intensity we had at home. We not gonna wait for the first punch. We gonna try to deliver the first punch too. See how they react. It's gonna be a really good game, man."
The Magic have lost 6 games in these playoffs, 4 of them on buzzer-beating shots. Van Gundy doubted James' game-winner last Friday will impact the Magic's psyche, saying that the full day of rest between games will benefit his team; incidentally, this point echoes something former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jon Barry said after Game 2. Van Gundy also said that they bounced-back well after their last 3 losses at the buzzer:
"Now, as soon as we don't play well after one of these, like I said, I can write most of you guys' stories. Then, then there was a carryover. Even though it didn't happen the first 3 times it happened, this time there was a carryover. You never know what's gonna happen in a game in terms of who's gonna play well and who's not. I'm just tellin' you it won't have anything to do with the carryover from the other night, just like they [the Cavaliers] didn't have a carryover after the tough loss in Game 1. NBA players, at this level, first of all understand that those things are going to happen, particularly as you move on in the playoffs. And it stings, and you come back to play the next one the next day."
In addressing the adjustments the Cavs made between Games 1 and 2, Van Gundy said they "did a fantastic job" double-teaming Dwight Howard in Game 2, which resulted in his getting only 8 shot attempts and 8 free-throw attempts on his 24 post touches. He also said Cleveland ran the pick-and-roll more effectively in Game 2, freeing Mo Williams for jump-shots and getting Sasha Pavlovic--who did not play in Game 1--opportunities to turn the corner. Based on his comments, I imagine the Magic will work harder to get Howard the ball on the move--as they did in the last 2 games of the series against Boston--tonight; they also will probably be more prepared to stop Cleveland's pick-and-roll game. We'll find out for sure in less than half an hour.