Cavaliers face franchise-altering crossroads in Game 5 Matchup against Orlando Magic

Can the Cleveland Cavaliers regain momentum in a critical Game 5?
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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What do the Cavaliers need to do to win Game 5?

Offensively, the Cavaliers need to play with more energy, move the ball and attack the basket. The team did a good job of this in the first half of Game 4, racking up 60 points in the first two quarters. Moving the ball and playing with urgency helps the team find lanes to the basket and set up their big men Mobley and Allen underneath. The Cavaliers did not shoot well, only hitting two three-pointers in the first half of Game 4, but their aggressive drives led the way. Mitchell, Mobley, and Allen combined for 46 points, most of those being in the paint.

In the second half, they resorted to lazy isolation offense and settled for outside shots despite their terrible shooting percentages all series. The Cavs are shooting 26 percent from three-point range this series, but they tend to find better looks when they build their offense around constant movement and forcing defenses to chase them around the perimeter until a lane or open shot appears.

Defensively, Cleveland needs to be much tougher inside and close out better on three-point attempts. The Cavaliers have a good strategy to make the inside game tough and force Orlando to play more from the outside, but that all goes away when their interior toughness disappears. The frontcourt got pushed around inside and couldn’t stop Franz Wagner in Game 4 as he recorded 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting. The Cavaliers need to bring that toughness back that they had in games 1 and 2 and make life tough on the Magic when they want to go inside. Although the Cavaliers want the Magic to shoot more from the outside, they need to do a better job closing out better. Every NBA team is going to make three-pointers if they are constantly left open.

Additionally, Bickerstaff might need to shake up the rotation a bit if the Cavaliers want to take control of the series again. Georges Niang was brought to this team to hit three-point shots. So far, he has connected on one three-pointer and only 22 percent of his overall field goals. If he is not going to hit outside shots, he is not a positive player for this team, as he is a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Sam Merrill may be a good option to play more minutes as he shot 40 percent from three this year and is fifty percent this series. He may not have the size of Niang, but the Cavaliers could weaponize his spacing and shot-making in a way that makes up for his lack of size on the defensive end. Marcus Morris, Sr. is another good option to play more minutes for physicality, rebounding and shooting. He has a lot of playoff experience and can help bring more toughness to this defense that got steamrolled in Orlando. On top of that, he is a career 37 percent three-point shooter. 

Finally, the Cavaliers need Donovan Mitchell back to playing at an All-NBA level. He averaged only 15.5 points per game in the two games in Orlando, and if the Cavaliers want to do anything in the postseason, they need him to be the star they know him to be. Mitchell needs to raise his aggression and continue to attack the basket even when things get tough. It has been frustrating to see Donovon fail to be the playoff player that he was in 2020 and 2021 since those moments drove the Cavaliers to trade for him. Donovan is talented enough of a player that he controls his destiny, but the league will start to question who he is as a playoff performer if he gets bounced in the first round for a third season in a row. If the numbers stay as they are for this series, Mitchell will be under 26 points, 45 field goal percentage and 30 three-point percentage in all three of his most recent first-round performances.

The Cavaliers' future is in serious jeopardy, and it all starts tonight with Game 5. There is still hope around this team, they are full of young talent, and if the pieces can start to fit together, they will become a very difficult team to beat. All it takes is a great Game 5 performance for there to be a surge of hope and optimism around this team again. If the Cavaliers don’t bring their intensity and energy back and lose this pivotal Game 5, this team could look very different next season.

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