J.E. Skeets over at Ball Don't Lie asked me and Ben Q Rock from Third Quarter Collapse to put together a short preview of the Cavs-Magic series. He asked for 300-400 words, which I once again went way, way over. I always have been an over-achiever, or is it that I don't follow direction well?
Anyway, here is what I came up with --
This is going to be fun. Yes, it is true that many Cavaliers fans wanted to avoid this matchup, mostly those who have jumped on the bandwagon lately and use nothing but what happened during the regular season as their guide. Me? I wanted this series. Not out of cockiness, or because I think the Magic are a soft team. Far from it. I thought Orlando was the 2nd best team in the East most of the season, and they definitely were after Kevin Garnett(notes) got hurt. This is how it should be, the two best teams in the Eastern Conference battling it out with a trip to the Finals at stake. It won’t be easy, and it shouldn’t be.
The pleasantries aside, this is a series the Cavaliers should win. They should win it because they have played the entire season to get to this point. They should win it because they have home court and they were the best home-court team in the NBA. They should win it because the playoffs are the time the superstars shine, and the Cavaliers possess the brightest star of all. Most of all, they should win it because they have been here, and the Magic haven’t. The NBA, more than any other League, is all about taking baby steps. Teams have to go through each of these steps, each phase of growth, to get to the next one. The Cavaliers were in The Finals in 2007 and took the NBA Champion (Boston) to the brink of extinction last year. The disappointment of both of those failures have fueled this run. A run to 74 wins in 90 games.
The Cavaliers have been dominant to this point in the playoffs, despite the belief that they have yet to be tested. Sure, the Pistons and Hawks aren’t the best the NBA has to offer, but to hold both of those teams under 85 points for 8 straight games is still a feat. It is that defensive approach that will be the difference in the series.
The Cavaliers are as healthy as they have been all season. They are rested, and their superstar is hungry. Ben Wallace(notes), now filling a role coming off the bench, will make things difficult in the paint for Dwight Howard(notes), and Anderson Varejao(notes) will do his best to get under his skin. Howard is intimidating, and as good as The Polish Hammer has been, the Cavaliers would be wise to attack Howard in an attempt to get him out of the game. With Varejao, Wallace and Joe Smith(notes), the Cavs have the depth to do the job. Yes, Rashard Lewis(notes) is a mismatch, but the Cavaliers have the benefit of putting LeBron on whomever they want in the 4th quarter to effectively take that player out of the game. Whether it is Hedo, or Lewis, or even Howard, LeBron has been a stopper all year.
LeBron is going to do his thing, and Howard will do his. The difference, then, to me is the back-court. Mo Willams and Delonte West(notes) against Rafer Alston(notes) and Courtney Lee(notes). Look at the box score after each game, and the team that wins will likely have the back-court that performed better. That is where the Cavaliers have the advantage. Williams, West, and even Wally Szczerbiak(notes) can go off at any point. Rafer Alston is a nice player, but he is what he is — Skip-To-My-Lou from the And-1 tour.
There is just something about a super star when his time has come. This has been my mantra all season — It's Time. This will be the biggest test of the playoffs, but in the end, the Cavaliers get it done because they know what it takes.
Cavs in 6.
Follow the link above to see what Ben had to say, and here's a hint, I think you'll like it!.