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Magic, Sixers, Lakers look to punch back tonight on TSN


Three more games fill the NBA playoff schedule Wednesday night as three teams with 2-0 series leads will now have to go on the road.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets all defended home court. But as the playoff cliché goes, no team is ever really in control until they’ve won on the road.

Watch the Magic and Cavaliers tip-off at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on TSN3, and the TSN App. Thirty minutes later, the Knicks and 76ers play their Game 3 on TSN5, and the TSN App. And finally, the Nuggets take on the Lakers at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on TSN3, TSN5, and the TSN App.

Starting off Thursday evening are the Magic and Cavs, who will play the first playoff game in Orlando since 2019. This series has been as one-sided as any so far these playoffs given the Magic’s struggles on offence.

"Struggles" might be putting it lightly. Orlando shot 34.3 per cent from the field over the first two games and scored 83 points in Game 1 and followed that up with just 86 in Game 2, both double-digit losses. During the regular season, Orlando shot 47.6 per cent and averaged 110.5 points per game.

“We’ve got to make shots, that’s the name of the game,” said forward Paolo Banchero after Game 2, competing in the postseason for the first time.

“It’s frustrating for everybody when you keep shooting and it’s not going in. The way these two games have gone, I don’t think anyone thinks this will continue when we come home.”

On the flip side, the Cavs are taking pride in their stinginess on the defensive end.

"We did a great job of forcing them to the shots that we wanted and conceding nothing, and that's one of our messages," Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after Monday's win. "Very few of the shots that they took tonight weren't contested, and the majority of them were highly contested."

For the Cavs, it’s payback. Not necessarily payback owed to the Magic, but for Cleveland’s first-round series last year, where they were outmuscled and outhustled en route to a five-game loss to the Knicks. Cavs players let on their team was too soft in that series and vowed it wouldn’t happen again. And at least for the opening two games, they’ve kept their promise.

"I'm more comfortable with how I approach the game [than last postseason]. I am more comfortable with my role, knowing what I have to do every night. I guess I feel more grounded," Cavs forward Jarrett Allen said. "I know who I am as a person."

Speaking of the Knicks, they’re looking to take a 3-0 series lead over the 76ers after stealing Game 2 Monday night at Madison Square Garden. With the Sixers leading 101-96 and just over 30 seconds remaining, everything had to go right for the Knicks to come back and win Game 2. And it did, creating one of the wildest postseason sequences in recent memory.

A missed Kyle Lowry free throw kept it a five-point game and after nearly turning the ball over, Jalen Brunson got a friendly bounce off the front rim for a three. Then the Knicks stole the inbounds pass – the NBA later admitted two different fouls should have been called on the sequence and a timeout from head coach Nick Nurse granted, leading to a grievance filed with the league – and kicked out to Donte DiVincenzo for three, which would have given the Knicks the lead. DiVincenzo missed, but Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed the rebound and the ball made its way back out to DiVincenzo, whose next attempt went down to give the Knicks a one-point lead with about 13 seconds left. The Knicks stopped Philly on their next possession, knocked down two free throws and got another stop to somehow win Game 2 104-101, scoring eight points over the final 27 seconds.

“We’re good. We’re going to win this series,” Sixers star Joel Embiid said after the loss.

“We are the better team. We are going to keep fighting.”

Philadelphia has been effective at keeping Brunson in check. The Knicks star was 8-for-26 in the series opener and shot 8-29 in Game 2. Considering that Embiid and Tyrese Maxey have combined for 131 points through the first two games and Brunson has shot 29 per cent for the series, an 0-2 hole isn’t ideal for Philly.

In Thursday’s final game, it feels like do-or-die for LeBron James and the Lakers.

L.A. has now lost 10 straight games to the defending champion Nuggets, and Game 2’s defeat Monday night couldn’t have been more demoralizing. The Lakers let slip a 20-point lead and lost at the buzzer on a winner by Kitchener, Ont.'s Jamal Murray, shifting what would have been an energizing 1-1 series split in Denver to a 0-2 deficit with the Lakers desperate.

“A 20-point lead in this league, it's not safe, especially against the defending champion,” James said. “We've got to do better. But we had our chances.”

Head coach Darvin Ham said the team made some discoveries Wednesday that could help them work their way back into the series.

"The film session was very revealing with which side of the ball we struggled at," Ham said. "We were great defensively. Offensively, there was a lot of shots we wish we could have back."

"It's all about sustainability," James said. "It doesn't matter what you can do throughout the first 47½ minutes. You got to close the game, which we didn't do. We got to do a better job of that."