Today's topsy-turvy world of Central Florida pro sports

Share on Nextdoor

Going in, the Magic were given little chance to win; the conventional thinking was that they'd steal a game or two at home. I disagreed with that line — it was not just fanboy bluster, I swear — and said to several folks that the Magic had an advantage. I got my share of raised eyebrows and quizzical looks in return. Unfortunately,  I did not post my pro-Magic assessment in this blog, so you'll have to take my word for it if you care to.

In short, I thought, and still think, the individual matchups favor the Magic, that Orlando overall has better scorers and are less reliant on one superstar (e.g. LeBron James). I also think they play better defense than they are ever given credit for.


And I could not comprehend how anyone could say Cleveland had a better bench. Orlando's Marcin Gortat, one of the best backup centers in the NBA, Mickael Pietrus (the bench series MVP) and Anthony Johnson (and Tony Battie and J.J. Reddick in spot duty) vs. Cleveland's Ben Wallace (who you literally do not have to guard), Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovich (and invisible men Wally Szerbiak and Daniel Gibson). The Magic have a clear advantage on the court and on paper (and by that I mean on the stat sheet).

I've been right so far — The Magic lead 2-1 and are a miracle LeBron shot away from being up 3-0 — and now the punditocracy seems to be swinging to my way of thinking. Past it, actually. Commentators have now painted the Cavaliers as one superhuman specimen surrounded by a cast of chokers and underachievers. I don't believe that either.

Tonight's game 4 is absolutely crucial. All game 4s are. The pivot game — when one team goes up 3-1 or it's tied 2-2. Teams up 3-1 win their series something like 90 percent of the time.

So here's what I'm seeing in my crystal Spalding. These NBA playoffs have been so good — you should really tune in, really —that it seems fated that both conference finals go seven games, as much as I would love them both to end quickly and give way to an Orlando/Denver final. (Wouldn't ABC love that.) It would give me great pleasure for the mainstream media and casual basketball fans to be denied their Kobe/LeBron matchup.

So, for the record this time, I'm anticipating, make that predicting, a Magic/Lakers final. If it gets to that, I suppose I'll make a prediction on that series when the time comes.

Strange days, indeed.

Being a fan of Central Florida sports franchises in the last week or so has been like riding on a rollercoaster inside a gyroscope inside a paint mixer.

Let's set aside the Bucs — the team with more question marks than an midterm exam — and concentrate on teams that are playing. The Tampa Bay Rays, yeesh. It seems whenever the ballclub reaches the .500 mark, it feels the need to open the gun cabinet, extract a Tech 9 and promptly shoot itself in the foot. Last night, the perfect case in point.

Vaunted pitcher David Price made his season debut, and the Rays staked him to a 10-0 lead. But he could not pitch with enough command, even though he threw as fast as 98 mph, to last the requisite five innings to notch his first regular season win.

My wife knows very little about baseball, but when she saw that the Rays were ahead 10-4 in the 9th, she said, "It's impossible to come back from six runs with only one inning left." We (actually, I) switched our attention to the Nuggets/Lakers game in hopes that Satan's spawn, Kobe Bryant, would go down.

Obviously my wife's prediction was wrong. At halftime of the NBA game, a crawl on ESPN told that the Indians had come back and won the game in the bottom of the 9th, 11-10. Just like that: a laugher to a heartbreaker, the biggest collapse in team history.

Me? I'm glad I put a Rays win in the books prematurely 'cause I spared myself the anguish of watching them implode. And I also got to focus my mojo on a Lakers loss, which happened: 120-101.

For weeks it's been frustrating to watch the Rays score 12, 13, 15 runs in blowouts and then the next day score 2 or 3 and often lose. I will say that it goes from frustrating to jarring when the team reaches double figures in runs — and loses on a walkoff single.

But let's turn to more pleasant matters: The Orlando Magic/Cleveland Cavaliers series.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
Scroll to read more Sports & Recreation articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.