The Orlando Magic have given their fans high blood pressure during this postseason. We have seen the Magic squander leads late, meltdown in big spots, and look lost at key moments of games against lesser opponents (Sixers). We have also seen Orlando play stifling defense, shoot lights out from beyond the arc, and get Dwight Howard involved early and often on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, their biggest task to date is standing between them and a birth in the NBA Finals—Lebron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, unlike the Magic, Lakers, or Nuggets, have breezed through the playoffs thus far with ease. At times it looks as if the Cavaliers are simply practicing, as Lebron James has been able to score at will, and the Cavaliers bench has played inspired ball on both ends of the court.
Cavs fans, along with the mainstream media, tend to forget that of the four teams remaining in the playoffs, the Lakers and Magic played Cleveland as well as anyone in the entire league. Orlando causes all sorts of matchup problems for Cleveland, from their length on the wings with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkolu, and the dominant force that is Dwight Howard.
Orlando, who collectively as a team play stellar defense, will guard Lebron James by committee. The Cavs will need to make sure they are able to win the point guard battle between Delonte West and Rafer Alston, but that won’t be easy.
Alston has averaged 18 points and over 4 assists in his last five games against the Cavs, and should be able to have his way in this series. Alston slowed down Rajon Rondo in the second round, after Rondo played like a young Isiah Thomas against the Bulls in Round One.
The bottom line for this series is this: In the final five minutes, when the game is decided, who will the Magic go to? We know Lebron James will decide the fate of his team, and the Magic know that too. It will be up to them to make him pass the ball, which is not an easy task.
The Magic, though, have had their clutch shots taken by Hedo during this postseason. If, as expected, Lebron is guarding him, will Rashard Lewis step up and take that shot?
Expect this series to be just as competitive as the Nuggets/Lakers, and I would not be surprised if either team wins it, but when it is all over, the Orlando Magic will surprise some, and advance to the NBA Finals in six games.
Prediction: Magic in 6