Cavaliers Game Three Preview: Early frontcourt domination, defense first and more

Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Isaac Okoro's early impact for Cavaliers

The Wine and Gold’s fourth-year wing was a pest on defense through two games, permitting five-of-19 baskets off the bench. Isaac Okoro has emerged as the enforcer the Cavaliers need, playing physical defense and hounding the Magic and forcing mistakes.

On Sunday, Okoro supplied a 10-point boost and spent most of his defensive minutes guarding Magic guard Cole Anthony (38 percent) and Banchero (21.7 percent). He also had four steals that afternoon, seizing the passing lanes and forcing an extra turnover by bothering Banchero’s dribble.

After Game Two, coach J.B. Bickerstaff was asked about his ascending pupil. He praised Okoro's relentless nature and the inspiration he offers to this teammates throughout a game.

"[Okoro] plays [in] a way that inspires his teammates because he is willing to do the dirty things- [going for] the loose balls, the long rebounds, [taking] any defensive assignment. He’s the spirit of our group, and he’s an inspiration to the rest of his teammates."

J.B. Bickerstaff on Isaac Okoro

Okoro has bought into Cleveland's system, and the team recognizes the value he brings to this series. As the young wing enters restricted free agency this summer, he will have earned a substantial pay raise. The Cavaliers will need to prioritize bringing Okoro back before another team can steal the growing prospect away.

Max Strus is off-target early on

The Magic have defended Strus well off-ball, using Franz Wagner’s length to keep Strus from his favorite spots on the perimeter. The Cavs’ ignitable sniper is making only 20 percent of his attempted triples.

The Cavaliers will need to run him through more double drag or some elevator screens to free him up from Wagner, who is five inches taller with a seven-foot wingspan. While Sturs has improved Cleveland's three-point shooting this season altogether, his shorter frame at 6-foot 5-inches does not fair well with Orlando's imposing height without set plays to minimize the size disadvantage.

Ahead of Game Three, the Cavs need to adjust their gameplan not to grow stagnant and allow their current issues to give the Magic a runway back into this series. Manufacturing more open opportunities for Strus can get him on a roll and put the Cavaliers ahead in Game Three.

Still, Strus has been a contributor on defense, slowing down F. Wagner in Game Two. Strus has also grabbed nine rebounds in each contest. While his outside shots have not been connecting as much as the Cavs could hope, the veteran wing has provided across the board in his first playoff run with a new squad.

In total, the Magic are overwhelmed in this encounter, and one of them, Carter, is so outclassed that he felt compelled to perform the Rick Mahorn Special- an illegal elbow to Donovan Mitchell on a screen- to create an impact in Game Two after offering scraps in the opener.

So far, the Magic don’t have enough of an outside spark, converting 23.6 percent of hoisted three-pointers. But the group’s best shot at making the series competitive is to keep crashing into the paint to create illegal contact. The Magic are second in the Playoffs of 16 squads in free throw attempts per game (28), but 15th in free throw percentage because they’ve left 18 points at the line.

The Magic will have a Game-Seven mentality on Thursday for the third bout. The Cavaliers should have the same frame of mind. The Cavaliers will visit the Orlando Magic for the first of two series at the Kia Center on Thursday, April 25 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time.

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