Zooming Toward the Postseason with Another Win... At Least We Know What We're Up Against
The last moments of Orlando's win over Indiana were not spent watching the time tick down on the Conseco Fieldhouse clock. Sure, the players were out there cheering on their teammates and giving Marcin Gortat his traditional hammer salute after a late game dunk.
No, the last moments were perhaps watching the hand operated scoreboard as Miami slowly clawed its way back against Philadelphia. After the game ended, it finally read Heat 107, Philadelphia 105.
The Magic now know who their next opponent will be. And even with the season finale Wednesday against Philadelphia, it will not be the 76ers the Magic will worry about. With Miami's win, Orlando will face Charlotte in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The first step in the team's Eastern Conference title defense. The first obstacle in the team's way toward a championship.
Stan Van Gundy has purpose again!
It will be nice to see that kind of a focused Magic team again. Orlando has only shown flashes of the playoff juggernaut that will (should) be coming this weekend.
The team showed it again tonight in its final road game of the regular season. The Magic scored 42 points in the first quarter, getting Dwight Howard going down low and working the pick and roll perfectly. Vince Carter was attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. The threes eventually started raining down and the lead ballooned.
The good offense was matched by some fantastic defense as Orlando shut down a pretty hot Indiana team in the first quarter.
The Magic continued the trend of letting up offensively and defensively as they have all week. The Pacers cut the lead to nine toward the end of the first half behind strong play from bench players like Mike Dunleavy and Earl Watson. Danny Granger also started picking up his slack after picking up a technical foul and losing his composure at the end of the first quarter.
But the run was short lived. Orlando's starters came in and re-extended the lead with a 25-19 third quarter. The lead bounced around 20 points for the remainder of the game with the reserves, led by Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick, playing what could have amounted to a pick up game as the final buzzer sounded.
Dwight Howard scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds. Vince Carter led the team with 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting and Jameer Nelson added 15 points.
Orlando is one game away from clinching home court in the NBA Finals and the second best record in the league. A lot is yet to be accomplished though. The preparations for Charlotte began now -- if they have not already begun.