While it's never prudent to count one's chickens before they hatch--just ask Tracy McGrady!--the Orlando Magic are almost assuredly on their way to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance, as they hold a 3-0 series lead on the Atlanta Hawks, whom they've defeated by an average of 29 points per game. Orlando, assuming it doesn't become the first team in history to blow a 3-0 lead, will draw the winner of the playoff series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. Cleveland finished the regular season with the NBA's best record, employs the league's two-time reigning MVP, and made a Conference Finals appearance last season, which made it the favorite against Boston going in. But Boston evened the series at two games apiece yesterday thanks to an extraordinary performance from point guard Rajon Rondo.
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and knows the team better than anyone else in the media. Thus, these comments he made after yesterday's game really caught my eye:
It is still unclear whether the Cavs have within them the desire to win 10 more games. Sometimes it looks like a "yes" but quite often it looks like a "no."
[...][T]he Cavs aren't playing like a team that intends to advance. Maybe not even a team that wants to advance.
Going in, I expected Cleveland to prevail in 6 games, as did Windhorst, so as he explains, the fact that Cleveland's lost twice already is "understandable."
But it is telling, perhaps, that the Cavs have looked so lackluster in these playoffs. It's in stark contrast to the Magic, who are playing their best ball of the season, and maybe even in franchise history, at the moment.