The Magic trounced the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at United Center, riding a 41-17 first quarter.
Brian Schmitz sets the stage.
Tonight, in a rumble in Ohio, [Stan] Van Gundy and the Magic face Cleveland.
The Cavs, boasting the NBA's best record at 42-11, trounced the Magic 102-93 on Nov. 11 at Amway Arena. Orlando did not have [Rashard] Lewis, who was serving a league-mandated suspension.
"We haven't played them in a while and they handed it to us the last time," [Jameer] Nelson said. "We're looking forward to it. They got that one guy over there."
LeBron [James], a force of nature, awaits.
Only an NBA title will validate Magic's trust in Carter
George Diaz notes that, in his opinion, the play of Vince Carter will decide whether or not the Orlando Magic win an NBA title this year.
The Magic aren't much different than anybody else with high expectations. The Boston Celtics are shaky, with a 3-9 record against the best eight teams in the league. That includes a 1-3 mark against the Magic, who have also whacked the Atlanta Hawks three consecutive times this season. A win tonight against Cleveland makes Orlando's playoff prospects even stronger.
Winning solves everything, and silences a lot of questions about Van Gundy's temper, [Dwight] Howard's inexplicable disappearance in some games, and Carter's inability to find a bouncy rhythm in his jump shot.
More after the jump.
Jawad Williams' long journey brings him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and home
Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer talks about Jawad Williams' journey which led him to find a home with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's age, not Magic, that allows Orlando to pass fast-fading Boston Celtics
Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer sets up some of the storylines surrounding the matchup between the Magic and the Cavaliers.
After his 48 the other night, the Magic gave Carter the game ball. It's not common practice during the regular season and it smacks of artificially trying to lift Carter up in hopes he'll begin to meet expectations.
Will he be that player again Thursday? For Orlando's sake he needs to be, because they lost a player in [Hedo] Turkoglu who made others around him better.
Shuffled lineups give a new look to rematch with Orlando
Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer gathers the thoughts of head coach Mike Brown, LeBron James, and Shaquille O'Neal on tonight's game.
Thursday Morning Shootaround
UPDATE: Benson Taylor of The Baseline chimes in.
The Cavs beat the Magic earlier this season in their first meeting since last season's Eastern Conference finals. That game, however, was in mid-November, with both teams getting used to the new additions on their rosters.
The Magic will be playing in the second half of back-to-back nights, but they've also been playing well of late, having won nine of their last 11 entering Wednesday's game against the Bulls.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic, Delonte West a gametime decision
UPDATE 2: Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer provides another look at the matchup that features the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
After not playing well at all though January, the Magic have rebounded strongly. They have won 10 of 12 including two wins over Boston and New Orleans and Atlanta. Their offense continues to be streaky, primarily because they rely a lot on Carter, but what has made the difference is their defense. When Howard is working to defend the rim and they are actually showing effort, the Magic are a good defensive team. They have been a good defensive team more often during this current streak. But it is their weakness, too. There are periods where the Magic just quit playing D. The Cavs do get one advantage, though, this is the Magic's fourth game in five nights and fifth in seven days.