The Orlando Magic already know who their first-round opponent is, but they still have incentive heading into their season finale.
The Magic can lock up the second-best record in the NBA on Wednesday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Orlando (58-23) is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and will start the postseason this weekend against Southeast Division rival Charlotte. The Magic took three of four in the regular season from the Bobcats.
While that matchup is set, Orlando can still clinch home-court advantage for a possible NBA finals rematch against the Lakers with a victory or a loss by Los Angeles. That’s a major reason why the Magic have not rested their starters down the stretch as they look for a sixth straight victory.
“I know we don’t like to look ahead, but if we’re fortunate to win the Eastern Conference, we definitely want to have home-court advantage in the finals,” forward Matt Barnes(notes) said. “We have one game left.”
While superstars like the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant(notes) and Cleveland’s LeBron James(notes) have sat out games in the final week, Dwight Howard(notes) is poised to play all 82 for the fifth time in his six-year career. Howard will finish as the league’s leading rebounder for the third straight year, averaging 13.2 in 2009-10.
The Magic center posted his fourth straight double-double to bring his league-leading total to 63 on Monday with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a 118-98 win at Indiana. The Magic built a 42-18 lead after one quarter, allowing Howard to log under 26 minutes.
“We wanted to come out and start being aggressive and put the hammer down early,” Howard said. “I think we did that.”
“Our guys’ focus tonight was great,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I was a little worried in the locker room before the game. We seemed tired. I was surprised by our energy early in the game.”
Orlando has won seven straight regular-season games over Philadelphia (27-54). The Magic beat the 76ers in six games in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Philadelphia hoped to gain a third straight postseason berth but will instead finish with its most losses since going 22-60 in 1996-97.
“We had the game in our hands, but we let it slip away,” Iguodala said. “We made some mistakes down the stretch and we don’t give ourselves an attempt to try to win or tie the game up.”
Orlando has beaten Philadelphia by an average of 17.0 points in three wins this season, making at least 15 3-pointers in every game and shooting 56.6 percent from beyond the arc.
It will also mark the final regular-season game played at Amway Arena, the only home the Magic have had in their 21-year existence as they entered the league as an expansion team in 1990. The team will move into the new Amway Center next season.