Orlando Magic return to Kia Center hoping for home boost and confidence

The Orlando Magic are searching for some confidence and a way back into their series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A return to the friendly confines of the Kia Center could be just what they need.
The Orlando Magic return home to the Kia Center where they believe they have the advantage over the Cleveland Cavaliers and can regain the confidence and energy to climb back into the series.
The Orlando Magic return home to the Kia Center where they believe they have the advantage over the Cleveland Cavaliers and can regain the confidence and energy to climb back into the series. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

In the minutes before the final horn sounds before the national anthem and starting lineups are introduced at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the arena gets oddly quiet.

Slowly the dulcet tones of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" begins as a montage of Cleveland Cavaliers highlights play on the arena's gigantic video board starts playing. It appropriately sets the mood as the song rises to its iconic crescendo.

That tradition is a remnant of the LeBron James era and it still stirs the crowd into the same frenzy it did when the Cavs were fighting for championships. It creates a mood and a daunting task for a visiting team.

Especially one as young as the Orlando Magic are in their first Playoff appearance.

It is no surprise that the Magic got off to some slow starts facing that wave of noise and passion early on. The Cavs hit their first five 3-pointers in Game 1 to send the crowd into a frenzy and build an early lead. They hit four of six in Game 2 to build a double-digit lead. The only 30-point quarters came off the jump with the crowd engaged to its max and in a frenzy.

Orlando recovered, but the damage was done. Homecourt advantage won.

"I think they hit some tough shots honestly in the first quarter," Franz Wagner said after practice Wednesday. "But it's on that first unit to set the tone and be more physical right from the start. That normally sets the tone for the whole game. That's on us on defense getting into the ball, fighting over screens and closing out with a rebound. When we set the tone on defense we normally get our rhythm on the other end."

The Cavs set that tone in both games. Spurred by the energy of being at home, they protected their homecourt. That is what is supposed to happen in a series.

Now it is the Magic's turn.

And Orlando is eager to return to the Kia Center and see if the team can get the same surge of energy from the start and through critical moments of the game.

If the Magic can take some solace and feel some confidence after their poor shooting and rough go in Cleveland, it is that they are one of the best home teams in the league. They too should expect to protect their homecourt. That should give the team some much-needed confidence.

This season, Orlando finished with the sixth-most home wins in the league (and third-most in the Eastern Conference) going 29-11 at the Kia Center (the game in Mexico City was a Magic home game).

The Magic had season averages of 112.9 offensive rating and 110.8 defensive rating overall. In home games, the Magic had a 115.5 offensive rating and a 107.7 defensive rating.

The team only shoots marginally better at home (35.4 percent at home against 35.2 percent overall). But clearly, the team gets some extra juice offensively, whether that is from getting to the basket more, getting out in transition more or getting to the foul line more.

The team does get a lift from being on the home floor.

"Our fans have been a huge part of our success this season," Cole Anthony said after practice Wednesday. "The way we get in this arena they support us, and not just in this arena on the road too, we've got some of the best fans in the league. For us playing in front of these fans puts a chip on our shoulder. We can't wait to get in front of this home crowd and see how this playoff atmosphere is going to be and hopefully get a dub."

There is no sure thing in the Playoffs of course. The Cavaliers, after all, came to Orlando in January and blew the doors off the Magic with a hot shooting display in one of the most disappointing and lopsided defeats of the season.

Cleveland has had all the answers throughout the series so far. The team has found the smallest offensive light, particularly in that first quarter where they have a 120.0 offensive rating despite a 101.0 offensive rating for the series as a whole. The Cavs have bottled up the Magic and forced them to take shots they are uncomfortable with -- as open as they might be.

Just because the Magic are home does not mean they will automatically click into place.

But all the emotional advantages the Cavs had at their place now shift to the Magic. And the Magic have taken care of business at home. The energy from the Kia Center has driven the Magic to get a little feistier on defense and make plays in the open court that are often not there on the road.

It may be the spark they need to ride to their first win in this series.

"Our fan base is absolutely incredible," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Wednesday. "The energy they provide and support they give, the atmosphere in this building is absolutely incredible. I think that gives our guys so much energy, it gives them encouragement. It gives them the ability to know we have to take care of home court."

Just how much of a lift the home crowd can give them is yet to be seen. Everyone knows that winning this series starts with winning at home. Obviously, a loss in one of these two games will now put the Magic on the brink of elimination. Failing to win -- and pick up the Magic's first home Playoff win since 2011 -- would end the series prematurely this weekend.

Nobody wants this magical season to end that way. The team is seemingly determined to show that their regular season record was not some flash in the pan. And the only way to do that is to take care of business on the home floor.

Just like the Cavs rode their emotional energy and the atmosphere to a fast start, the Magic will have to ride their emotional energy at home early. Orlando has to hit first and win the first quarter -- or at least stay competitive. The Magic cannot fall behind as they did in the first two games.

"I think for us, we're heavy on getting off to a good start," Anthony said after practice Wednesday. "The last two games, they averaged 31 points against us in the first quarter. After that, the next three quarters, they have been averaging 20-22. I think for us, we have to get off to a better start and not let them get off to this hot start. Obviously, control Donovan Mitchell. If we do that, we'll have a chance to get a win."

It is all easier said than done. But the conditions and familiarity of the home floor could well help the Magic overcome whatever blocks or doubts they have. But they still need to step into those shots with confidence.

Perhaps being home will give the team that extra confidence. It will energize them when that first three goes down or they get that steal and out in transition for a dunk. That is what the Cavs roade in the first two games.

They have every reason to believe they can protect their home floor. Orlando has done it all year. And the team has built a frenzied atmosphere that should only increase with the Playoffs arriving.

At the end of the day, the Magic have to take care of their business on the floor as much as they feed off the energy from off it.

"I think coming in with the right mentality and then just executing a little better," Franz Wagner said after practice Wednesday. "Looking at the film, I thought we did a pretty solid job again. We just didn't hit enough shots. Make a couple of shots and play to the best of our ability.

"I'm sure [the fans are] really hungry. But not hungrier than us. I'm really excited for [Thursday]. We have to come out ready to go and have some fun too."

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That is what the Magic have done all year. They are hoping the Playoffs continue the good vibes that built their season.