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Magic In Search of Second Sweep

May 8, 2010 – 2:02 AM
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Tim Povtak

Tim Povtak %BloggerTitle%

ATLANTA -- Since the NBA went to a best-of-seven, first-round playoff format for the 2002-03 season, only two teams have managed back-to-back sweeps going into the conference final.

The Orlando Magic expect to make that three.

The Magic, the only unbeaten team in the 2010 playoffs, easily dispatched the Charlotte Bobcats, 4-0, in the opening round, and they lead the Hawks, 2-0, going into Saturday's Eastern Conference semifinal Game 3 in Atlanta.

It's like blood in the water for a shark with its eye on the prize.

"It's natural to feel confident, good about yourself, when you've won (six in a row in the playoffs) like we have,'' said Magic forward Rashard Lewis. "We like what we're doing, but we're not taking anything for granted. Where we want to go, there is no room for any kind of letup.''

The only two teams that previously managed a pair of four-game sweeps to open the playoffs were the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009, and the Miami Heat in 2005. The Cavs crushed Detroit, then Atlanta. The Heat pounded New Jersey, then Washington.

Both the Cavs and the Heat, feeling so good about themselves, were beaten in the conference final those years. That Heat team was coached by Stan Van Gundy (photo above), who was replaced just 21 games into the following season. Today he is coaching the Magic.

"It's not easy to win six in a row in the playoffs,'' Van Gundy said after a light practice Friday afternoon. "And we know that things can change in a hurry.''

The Magic are looking to sweep the same Atlanta team that was swept by the Cavs a year ago. And much like the Cavs did last season, the Magic have been more than convincing to start the playoffs. The Cavs won each of their first eight playoff games by at least 10 points last year. The Magic have won their first six this year by an average of 15 points.

"It's human nature to relax, but there's no cushion in a playoff series,'' said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. "We're not even thinking about that (a sweep). We're thinking about winning Game 3, and that's all.''

The last team to make a serious unbeaten run in the playoff were the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. They won 11 consecutive playoff games, sweeping Portland (3 games), then Sacramento (4 games) and San Antonio (4 games), before losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Philadelphia.

It was the last game they lost, though, beating the Sixers 4-1 to win the championship that year behind Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The Magic, No. 2 seed in the East, are riding center Dwight Howard, who is averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds in this series. He has gotten a wide variety of help from Nelson, Lewis and Vince Carter, giving the Magic too many weapons for the Hawks to handle.

"We haven't done anything yet,'' Carter said. "This the kind of opportunity you dream about, but no one is thinking beyond the next game right now."
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