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Bet on the NBAAnyone facing the Orlando Magic in the 2011 NBA Playoffs should be worried.

This is a good team that has only moved from strength to strength throughout the regular season and has given the best teams in the league a run for their money every night. Their fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference positions them as one of the best in the league, despite being consistently overlooked.

With a 52-30 record, the Magic are incredibly balanced. They ended the regular season with a home record of 29-12, and were 23-18 on the road. While obviously weaker away from the Amway Center, the Magic can win games in any court in the league. In fact, their 23-18 record ties third-place Boston's road record, and is the third best in the conference behind the Bulls and Heat.

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Orlando ended their season the right way, resting their starters but sill running away with a huge 92-74 win over the Indiana Pacers. Potential league MVP Dwight Howard ended the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, despite playing limited minutes. The Magic cruised to that victory and will have a few days to rest before starting the first round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

The No. 4 Magic start this first round against the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks. I would have expected this to be a much closer matchup between the two teams, but Atlanta is lurching into the playoffs on a six-game losing streak. They lost their final game of the season 96-85 against the Charlotte Bobcats, while the Magic got extra rest and still rolled over the Pacers.

If the Hawks find some of their motivation and bring a higher energy level to the first round series, they have a good chance of upsetting the Magic. But that is looking increasingly unlikely comparing how each team ended the regular season. However, what also worries me about this series is that the Hawks took the season series against the Magic, winning 3 games to 1.

They key for the Magic will be keeping their energy level and defensive efforts as high as possible. Throughout the season, teams caught Orlando napping at times, playing lethargic defense and failing to capitalize on easy offensive opportunities. The Hawks were able to make those Orlando weaknesses work for them – and they may do the same and take the playoff series away from the Magic.

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