4 keys for Cleveland Cavaliers to overcome Orlando Magic in Round One

The NBA playoffs have arrived, and the Cavaliers have locked up the fourth seed after going 48-34. This Saturday the Cleveland Cavaliers are hosting the Orlando Magic for Game One of the first round series.
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages
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Darius Garland’s Offensive Production must improve

Everyone knows that the Cavaliers offense and championship aspirations run through Donovan Mitchell. He is the leader and the star everyone will be watching closely when it is time for playoff basketball. Still, it is Darius Garland who has the power and potential to take this team over the top in this first round matchup.

It is easy for teams to key in one star player, and if you do not have a strong second option, it can become really difficult to put up points in a playoff series. Darius has been very volatile this season with some great games and some bad games, but he seems to be steadying in his play at the end of the season. Garland averaged 17.9 points and 7.2 assists per game post All-Star break, and shot 39.8% from three point range. The points are down, but he still has the ability to create offense at an All-Star level when he is right.

Jalen Suggs is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders and will likely be assigned to guard Donovan Mitchell. If Darius Garland can take advantage of being guarded by the weaker defender, the Cavaliers may be able to score at a pace that Orlando cannot keep up with. Garland’s offense will be one of Cleveland’s X factors. The Cavaliers have more offensive talent by a good margin than the Magic, and a big series from Garland could have Cleveland running away with this series.

Finding the Right Rotations will be key to Cleveland's success

The Cavaliers have a deep bench, and it is on Bickerstaff to find the right rotations in this first round matchup. Last postseason, the Cavaliers were hurt by their lack of shooting, putting Okoro, Mobley and Allen on the court together too often.

The Knicks exploited these interior-focused lineups and crammed the paint making it difficult for Garland and Mitchell to create. Bickerstaff will need to find the right balance of shooting, creation, and defense in his lineups. The Cavs have enough depth that they should always be able to play a strong lineup.

This season, out of lineups that played at least 100 minutes together, the best group was Caris LeVert, George Niang, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Mobley with a net rating of 23.1. Notably Donovan is not in this lineup, but that could be largely due to this group being played against second units. The second-strongest group was Mitchell, Allen, Max Strus, Dean Wade and Okoro with a net rating of 19.6.

Interestingly, both groups do not have Mobley and Allen together and do not have Mitchell and Garland together. Garland and Mitchell will have to play a lot together as the two best offensive players, but there may be something significant to splitting up Mobley and Allen on the court. Another thing to note is Okoro is in both lineups. Okoro is one of the Cavaliers best perimeter defenders and shot 39.1% from three-point range this season.

If Bickerstaff hopes to revert his growingly negative public perception, all eyes will be on his rotation decisions and whether or not he trusts in proven lineup compositions.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers are able to execute these four keys, they should be able to beat the Magic and advance to the next round. Winning a playoff series would mean a lot to this franchise and could have big implications for Donovan Mitchell and J.B Bickerstaff’s futures with the team. The first game takes place on Saturday, April 20 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse at 1:00pm Eastern Time.

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