Cohen: Wednesday Night Will Be Interesting

By Josh Cohen
April 23, 2012

ORLANDO -- At around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, we will likely know whether the Orlando Magic will be booking hotel rooms for this weekend in Indianapolis or Miami.

Though that isn’t guaranteed in authenticity, it is in presumption.

If the Magic win against the deprived Bobcats at Amway Center on Wednesday OR if the Knicks lose to the progressing and division-champion-hopeful-and-hungry Clippers at Madison Square Garden that same night, Orlando will be destined for a trip to Indiana for a First Round collision with the Pacers.

If neither of those results occur, the Magic will then be forced to beat the surging Grizzlies, who potentially will have playoff seeding on the line, the next night in Memphis or have the Knicks lose to those paltry Bobcats on that final night of the regular season. Otherwise, a playoff series between the Sunshine State rivals will almost certainly transpire way earlier in the bracket than one would have suspected about two weeks ago.

Here are the facts:

The Pacers have locked up the No. 3 seed.

The Heat will be the No. 2 seed IF the Bulls (@ IND, CLE) win one more game OR if Miami (@ BOS, @ WAS) loses one more game.

Thus, Wednesday will be one of the more highly anticipated regular season nights in some time for the Magic.

There is a substantial difference between playing the Pacers in the First Round of the playoffs as compared to meeting up with the Heat. An explanation why isn’t really necessary. We all know Miami is vastly superior to Indiana.

As a result, the Magic must, and will likely, treat Wednesday’s game against Charlotte like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It has become the most important game of the season.

In spite of Dwight Howard’s absence for the playoffs, Orlando knows it has a chance of upsetting Indiana in the First Round. Though Howard played in all four meetings this year, the Magic won three of the four contests against the Pacers.

Charlotte has lost 20 consecutive games and will end up with the league’s worst winning percentage in NBA history if it doesn’t win another game.

Though it is for completely different reasons, the Bobcats are just as desperate for a victory as the Magic. You know Charlotte doesn’t want to be remembered for being the “worst” team in league history.

The Bobcats have already secured the best percentage chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. In effect, there is nothing constructive about losing any more.

Considering what’s at stake, it would be shocking if the Magic slipped up in their final home game of the regular season against such an inferior opponent.

New York, meanwhile, will know by around the middle of the third quarter of its game against the L.A. Clippers whether the No. 6 seed is still within reach.

Orlando’s clash with Charlotte is a 7 p.m. tip, while the Knicks and Clips start at 8 p.m.

But here is an intriguing perspective: Do the Knicks make an assumption that the Magic will beat the Bobcats and instead rest their core players and aim to be the No. 8 seed rather than the No. 7?

You see; there is no worse seed to be than No. 7. The Heat are practically a lock to be No. 2 and are patiently waiting to swallow up and enjoy massacring their First Round opponent.

Therefore, being the No. 8 seed and squaring off against the Bulls, who need just one win or one Heat loss to protect the top overall seed and home-court advantage in the East, may be more desirable for the Knicks.

Currently, NY is a half-game ahead of Philadelphia for No. 7 and it owns the tiebreaker should the Knicks and Sixers finish with identical records.

But if Philly wins the remainder of its games (three road contests in New Jersey, Milwaukee and Detroit) and New York stumbles against L.A. OR Charlotte, the 76ers move up to No. 7.

So, do the Knicks scoreboard watch in the hour before they tip off against the Clippers? If the Magic are up big, perhaps it’s best for New York to just sit Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. If the game is close, then the Knicks will treat their game against L.A. like it’s their most important game of the season.

Orlando has complete control over whom it plays in the First Round. It knows it prefers Indiana. Now, the Magic just have to prove how much they prefer it.

Do you think the Magic will beat the Bobcats on Wednesday?

Do you think the Magic will beat the Bobcats on Wednesday?

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