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It May Only Be Game 2, But NBA History Suggests The Lakers, Sixers And Magic Need To Win Tonight

There's a saying that a playoff series doesn't truly start until someone loses at home, and while I understand that line of thinking, I do also think there's a level of copium associated with that line of thinking, especially if you're a fan of a road team that starts a series down 0-2. It's true that you have every opportunity to tie the series up as long as you take care of business on your home floor, but NBA history does not lie. 

Tonight, the Magic, Sixers, and Lakers all head into their Game 2 on the road, all coming off tough losses in Game 1. The Magic couldn't score to save their lives, the Sixers had to deal with Embiid giving them very little offensively in the 4th quarter of a huge game (0 points, 0-5 shooting), and the Lakers wasted solid LeBron/AD performances to drop their 9th in a row against the Nuggets. 

Bad games, or a sign of what their series will ultimately be?

That's what we're going to learn tonight. While it's only Game 2, all three teams enter with it being as close to a must win as you can possibly have in a playoff series prior to having 3 losses where one more will actually end your season. As I said, NBA history does not lie, and this is what it says

Teams up 2-0 are 416-33 all time, 183-13 in the 1st round, with 200 of those series ending in either a sweep or a gentleman's sweep. For the Magic, they're ahead of schedule to some degree, so I don't think anyone would clown on them for falling down 0-2 to the Cavs. Even with their issues, that's a series the Cavs should be able to control, and that's exactly what we saw in Game 1.

But the Sixers and the Lakers? Different story. The Sixers were hyped as this 7 seed that nobody wanted to see. A healthy Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey with a coaching upgrade in Nick Nurse, a LOT of people were playing the first round upset card. The Lakers, while logical people knew what a terrible matchup DEN was for them gave LA a lot of the same type of 7 seed hype. This time was going to be different, they're motivated after last year, never count out a healthy LeBron & AD etc.

And while the upsets might still be on the table, should either drop Game 2, NBA history sure suggests that dream is over (barring injury). As the road team begins a series, all that truly matters is walking away with the split. While there's something to the idea that Game 1 is the easier one to get, at the end of the day you just have to find a way to win 1 of the first 2. If you can have that be Game 2 and that then helps continue the momentum into Games 3 & 4 on your home floor, great. But without the split, you're now asking that team to beat someone 4 of the next 5 times….which feels unlikely. One off shooting night at home and suddenly you could be down at best 3-1, and banking on a team pulling a Doc Rivers and blowing another 3-1 lead probably isn't the best strategy.

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As a fan, this is what makes the playoffs so awesome. It's absolute hell if you're favorite team is in one of these spots, but there's no denying the drama increases the further we get into these playoff series. Normally, a 2 seed having a 2-0 lead over the 7 seed is no big deal. But we spent weeks talking about how this isn't your typical group of 7 seeds. The Sixers were talking about how they preferred to play the Knicks because they were "easier" to beat. The Lakers spent all year talking about how they couldn't wait to play the Nuggets. There are former MVPs involved. It's not your typical 2/7 matchup in either conference. 

So who has more pressure? I think it has to be the Sixers. If the Magic fall down 0-2, whatever. Good season, you're on the right path in your rebuild. If the Lakers fall down 0-2, while it'd be a huge story, it's not a surprise given the dominance the Nuggets have had in that matchup, and they have the best player in the world. But if the Sixers fall down 0-2? After all the talk about them being the 3rd best team in the East? Not a great look.

To make matters tougher for them, who knows what version of Maxey we see (if at all)

Back in the David Stern era, you could bank on him pulling the strings and putting the call in to help make sure at least 2 of these series last as long as possible. Want to guess who is working the LA/DEN game tonight? That's right, The Extender

Harry How. Getty Images.