The Cavaliers had the best record in the league; only 2 losses at home (one of which where they didn’t play any starters), wrapped up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, and swept their first two playoff series with double digit wins in every game. They were the clear favorites to roll past the Eastern Conference and onto the dream Finals matchup with Kobe and the Lakers.
Then there’s the Orlando Magic. A team that people weren’t sure what to make of during the regular season. They had a great record but some weren’t sure if they’d be able to hold their own with the big boys in the playoffs. They had their trouble with the Sixers and then the reigning champs, Boston. Even without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics gave Orlando a tough series, but they were able to prevail. They were on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but as the underdogs.
Not many people gave Orlando a shot to beat the, at the time, best team in the league. The Cavs were having fun and making the game look easy. Dismantling opponents left and right, becoming the clear favorites in many eyes. But then…
Orlando Magic Win: 4-2
Wait, what? The dominating team that was expected to make it to the Finals…lost? The team that had the swagger and the high hopes and support of their fans to win it all. Being born and raised in Cleveland, you can probably imagine the disappointment I had when watching the final seconds dwindle down in game 6. It hurts. But I have to give the Orlando Magic props. They’re an amazing team, with an amazing star in Dwight Howard, and an amazing array of shooters and athletes on the roster.
Not enough can be said about the underdogs. The young, inexperienced team that no one thought could make it to the Finals. They brought a style of play that the Cavs just did not have an answer for. Their athleticism, their shooting – it couldn’t be matched in this series.
Whether the Cavaliers became complacent with their great season and playoffs, had too much rest, or just felt Orlando was going to step aside on the Cavs road to the Finals. Whatever the reason, Cleveland fell short of expectations. The favorites were subdued by the feisty underdogs.
Lesson learned for the Cavaliers, as the Magic stopped their train to the Finals and hopped on board.