Cavaliers-Magic Preview

Dwight Howard was walking around the Orlando Magic locker room

when he saw the latest trade by Cleveland flash across the TV.

Scared? Hardly. Nervous? Didn’t seem so.

He broke into his infamous Charles Barkley impression to

explain.

“The Cleveland Cavaliers got Antawn Jamison to matchup with

Rashard Lewis and the Orlando Magic,” Howard said, drawing

chuckles as he mimicked Barkley’s voice. “The Cavaliers had to get

LeBron James some more help.”

Ousted by Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals last season,

the Cavaliers traded for Shaquille O’Neal in the summer and

acquired Jamison from Washington this week. The Magic perceive

these moves simply as trying to stack up with them, and maybe for

good reason.

They might be the ones with the personnel problems now.

“We’re the team that knocked them out last year in the playoffs

because of matchup problems,” Lewis said. “And they’re trying to

correct those things that will help them get over that hump.”

The new-look Cavaliers will face the Magic on Sunday for the

first time since they acquired Jamison. While the outcome won’t

decide anything, it could offer a preview should the teams meet in

the playoffs.

Only with a twist.

Howard dominated Cleveland last season, going for 40 points and

14 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher. When the Cavs double-teamed

him, Orlando’s potent shooters let loose.

So the Cavs got Shaq. No more double teams.

That still might not have been enough.

Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, a 6-foot-10 point forward who the Magic

parted ways with in the summer, were a one-two combo of shooters

with size whom Cleveland struggled to contain. James, moving around

defensively on the perimeter, couldn’t stop them both. And his

teammates couldn’t match the offensive output at power forward.

So the Cavs got Jamison.

“The best thing he’ll do for our team is spread the floor,”

James said. “His shooting ability is unbelievable. The fact he can

play multiple positions can really make us versatile.”

Cleveland had no choice after last year’s meltdown.

The Magic were in control for most of the conference finals,

with the Cavaliers needing a spectacular buzzer-beating 3-pointer

by James for one of only two wins in the playoff series. Cleveland

was just 3-6 against the Magic last year and never won in

Orlando.

Cleveland is already 2-0 against the defending conference

champions this season; the first was a blowout in Orlando, the

second a tight game in Cleveland until James pulled the Cavaliers

away late.

The Magic were also playing on the second night of back-to-back

games in both. No excuses this time.

“They’re already the best 3-point shooting team in the

league,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They get another guy

who can stretch the floor with Shaq inside, LeBron on the

perimeter.”

The Cavs aren’t the only team with a lineup shuffle.

The Magic traded for Vince Carter in the offseason to supplant

Turkoglu, giving them a new pick-and-roll element at the end of

games that they sorely lacked against the Los Angeles Lakers in the

NBA finals. Newcomers Jason Williams, Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson

and Brandon Bass also followed.

Whether it’s enough to get them past Cleveland is hard to

say.

But the Magic believe they have the talent to match anybody, and

didn’t bother to make a trade-deadline move. And, at least

publicly, they aren’t worried about the revamped Cavaliers posing

any matchup problems.

“It doesn’t scare me,” Lewis said of the Cavs’ latest move.

“One guy doesn’t win ballgames. They do have another guy called

LeBron James, which is going to be our focus.”