Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This was in spite of losing a 20+ point lead in the first half and allowing Orlando to bring the game to within 1 point by halftime. Orlando is up in the series 3 games to 2 (best of 7). Tomorrow they will play Game 6 in Orlando.
So, the question that naturally springs up from such a situation is: Who feels more pressure? Here is a brief rundown of the positions followed by my own take on the matter. Some would say that Cleveland feels more pressure simply because it is a must win situation for them. If they lose, they go home. This is increased by the fact that they are playing in Orlando. On the other hand, some would say that Orlando feels more pressure because if they lose at home, they play the final Game 7 back in Cleveland where defeating a team that has come back from 3 games to 1 in a championship series at home would be near impossible.
I think Cleveland feels more pressure, even if at a subconscious level. The reason is simple; they have played a sub-par series. This series should have been a sweep had King James not made that classic buzzer beater 3-pointer to win Game 2 (by the way, Marv Albert’s call on that shot is classic). Cleveland must be feeling at some level the reality that this series should be over and that both their wins came in a situation where they could just had easily lost the game as win it. I don’t deny that if Orlando were to lose Game 6 that Cleveland will take the series. Nevertheless, Cleveland feels more pressure for Game 5. Orlando will have confidence feeling that they have been the better team during the series and they are now at home to have the opportunity to win the conference final in front of their fans. The Cav’s know full well what is at stake here.
Lastly, it is somewhat of a curse to be expected to win. The NBA has been promoting a Kobe Bryant/Lebron James NBA Final for weeks, complete with puppets and contests. Both James and the entire Cleveland team know that they are supposed to win. That alone places more pressure on their team going into Game 6.
Thus says me. What say you?