Feb 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (40) and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) position for a rebound in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Game 76: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic Preview

LAST TIME OUT

The Cavs, still in the playoff hunt, picked up perhaps their biggest win of the season, beating the Indiana Pacers at home 90–76 without Kyrie Irving. The Wine & Gold were excellent defensively, holding the top team in the East to just 37.2 percent shooting from the field. All five starters scored in double figures led by Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack, both of whom have been playing at a much improved clip recently.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Orlando Magic

Record: 21–53 (17–19 home)

Tipoff: April 2, at 7 p.m. – Amway Center

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Matchup: 101–93 Cavaliers win on February 19 — Quicken Loans Arena

Opponent’s Blog: Presto in the Paint

Injury Report

Magic: PG Jameer Nelson (Knee, Out)

Cavaliers: PG Kyrie Irving (Day-to-Day, Biceps), C Anderson Varejao (Day-to-Day, AC joint sprain)

Play With a Sense of Urgency

Despite not having Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have been playing great recently, and they must continue this elevated level of play if they want to complete their playoff push. Just three games back of eighth place in the East, the Cavs need every win they can get, especially against one of the cellar-dwellers of the league. If the Cavs come out focused and playing at the level they have been, I see no reason why they shouldn’t win this game.

Tough Play on the Interior / Control Vucevic

A big key to this game will be how the Cavs can control the interior; prior to his very good outing against the Pacers, Tristan Thompson had been scuffling a bit. He and Spencer Hawes, who has been terrific since being acquired from the 76ers, will be tasked with slowing down the red-hot Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging 22.7 points and 14.3 rebounds per game in his last three games. If they can control Vucevic, then the Magic, who struggle to score as is, lose a major source of their offense.

Prediction

With the Cavs three games out of a playoff spot, and with the Atlanta Hawks fading fast, this is a must-have game for the Cavs. I would expect (hope) that the Cavs would play with some urgency against an inferior Magic team that have lost 10 out of their last 12. I expect the Cavs to slow down the red-hot Nikola Vucevic, limit others such as Tobias Harris, Arron Afflalo and Victor Oladipo and the Cavs come away with an emphatic win, 95–78.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Spencer Hawes Tristan Thompson

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