If the Orlando Magic players are thinking about advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and in turn shocking most folks watching, then I think they need to win tonight. And on Saturday.
Orlando already did the unexpected by winning Game 1 in Indiana and stealing away the home-court advantage. To win the series, I think they can’t afford to give the home-court advantage back.
Magic will need the crowd to be big for them tonight. They’ll need the whistles to be kind, to both stay out of foul trouble, and to pick up some points on the charity stripe, something they don’t do very much of without Dwight Howard. They’ll need that 3-point shot falling and crowd and bench getting jacked up every time it does.
The Pacers feel better about themselves after evening the series, but are still a young puppy team unsure of what the playoffs entail. They have almost no experience of note on their roster, and looked like a shaky team at the end of Game 1, when they were outscored by the Magic 11-0 in the last four minutes.
If Orlando wins tonight, that will put the Pacers in a position I am sure they didn’t imagine they’d be in against a Howard-less Magic team. The crowd should be amped tonight, but if the Magic win the crowd could be out of control in Game 4 with the underdogs in the lead, and a chance to take the series by the neck.
Just think of last year when the underdog Hawks shocked the Magic in Game 1. I don’t think Orlando ever really recovered, even though they won Game 2, they’d go on the road in Atlanta where the Hawks would hold home-court. I am not sure Orlando respected Atlanta, or thought they’d lose to them. They had bigger fish to fry down the road they thought. I think the Pacers entered with a similar mindset assuming the Orlando series would be easy and looking forward to a showdown with the Heat.
The Magic can pull the same trick on the Pacers IF they can win tonight.