In-Depth Guide to Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic in Round One

The Cleveland Cavaliers have reached the NBA Playoffs once more and seek the first Round One victory without LeBron James since last century.
Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic are no pushover and won’t be an easy challenge for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The former is a team that surrounded a budding star forward, Paolo Banchero, with a squeezing defensive squad. The latter is a mentally fragile, physically wounded and highly talented outfit.

Expectations are high for the Cavaliers, even though they are slight favorites in the series. Donovan Mitchell, while dealing with knee tendinitis on the left side, needs a stronger showing than his last Playoff performance against the New York Knicks. The same goes for Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

What to expect from the Magic’s defense:

The Magic finished the regular season as the third-rated defense and had the second-highest defensive rebound percentage (73.7).

Orlando’s Jalen Suggs, the team’s best guard defender, will likely tag Mitchell. He checked Mitchell for 15 minutes through three games during the regular season, holding him to eight of 19 field goals. To boot, Suggs can operate as a free safety in a zone, shutting down the passing lanes.

Gary Harris is a savvy veteran who will provide rotational help and is an option to put at the point of attack.

Additionally, Markell Fultz is three inches taller than Garland, and he can create problems with his 6-foot-9 wingspan. This reach keeps him in plays to contest from the blindside when the ball handler has him on the back hip.

Then there’s Jonathan Isaac, a top tier backline protector who can come outside. The big man switched onto guards for approximately 29.1 percent of his time on defense, holding his matchup to 41.7 percent shooting. He could have won the Defensive Player of the Year crown if he registered at least 65 games, too.

Isaac covers lots of ground and blows up the opponent's offenses. He is such a terror, he holds rivals to 41.3 percent accuracy in the paint non-restricted area. The league average in this spot is 44.1 percent.

And Wendell Carter Jr. is another strong, athletic body. He can make it difficult for Allen and Mobley to score one-on-one at short distances.

How Orlando's offense stacks up

The Magic’s offense drops 3-pointers at a 35.2 percent clip, good enough for 24th of 30 teams in the NBA. Yet the crew tallies 51.8 points in the lane- only seven squads produce more.

Feeding Banchero and Franz Wagner is the strategy. The former has the speed and strength to overpower probably all of the Cavs’ defenders off the dribble or via post up. The latter is elusive with his handle and strong as a secondary scorer, too. Both combined for 11.4 free throw attempts per game.

Furthermore, when running pick and roll, the Magic feed the roller over seven times per game, scoring on 53.5% of shots in this set. However, the PnR ball handler attacks on 19.6 possessions, with an accuracy of 42.3 percent.

And they are a team that moves well without the ball. The Magic are fourth in cutting frequency and score on 69.9 percent of those plays. Moritz Wagner and Carter are two of the team’s best off-ball attackers.

Orlando Magic X-Factor

Joe Harris is the Magic’s veteran with the most Playoff experience, with 50 games logged. When coach Jamahl Mosley summons this adrenaline shot to the team’s heart, the Cavaliers cannot sag off him to help on drives. If the on-ball defender is beat, don’t help off the decent shooter, especially not Ingles. For his career, Jinglin’ Joe Ingles connects on 46 percent of hoisted corner threes.

What to expect from the Cavaliers defense:

The Magic’s poor 3-point shooting will cause the Cavs to cheat off F. Wagner and Banchero to clog the lanes. Allen will likely defend Banchero first, and Mobley will roam as the weak side shot blocker away from Carter. To fill out the rest of man-to-man coverage, Mitchell probably takes on Suggs, Garland is put on Harris and Strus is on F. Wagner.

Strus is not a bad defender, but guarding someone five inches taller and 10 pounds heavier is tough to manage at close range. The Cavs might have to send help if he is getting hunted.

The 2-3 zone will also be deployed as another look to take advantage of poor outside marksmanship. But the Cavs must be selective with this scheme. Banchero and F. Wagner have the tools to shatter in the middle.

Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert will get their chances to hound the ball handler in full-court press. Okoro poses a real threat as a lead perimeter defender, regardless of any height disadvantages he might face.

Cleveland's offensive approach

It isn’t going anywhere if Mitchell’s knee is shot. If he’s at least 80 percent, he can still create dribble penetration and overreactions. If his recent interview is anything to trust, Cleveland's superstar should enter the series in good shape.

The solution to stifling Suggs is running him through a maze of screens while one of the bigs, Allen or Mobley, runs sleight of handoff action at the elbow.

Garland must also be active, cutting from the wings and coming off flares and handoffs. It’s crucial for the hosts that he burns Orlando’s drop coverage, too. The opportunities will be there when M. Wagner is on the floor. Garland showcased his clutch three-point shooting potential against the Indiana Pacers. If he can continually punish from deep, the Cavaliers will be in great position.

Yet, the Cavaliers need a big series from Allen and Mobley. Luckily for the Wine and Gold, both are very good off-ball, leaving them available for cuts on the baseline or from the wing.

They can’t just be the team’s glorified offensive linemen, and they shouldn't be expected to with all they have to prove. Expect a nice dosage of rim rolls, off-ball cuts, and attacking after the fake handoff.

Cavaliers X-Factor

The ignitable Mad Max Strus can swing the pendulum of the series. Aside from a decent cutter and much-improved playmaker, Strus can get loose, wrecking an opponent with excess artillery strikes. Watch for him coming around a handoff or catching and firing in transition.

On a side not, Dean Wade didn’t play in the Cavaliers’ last two regular season games because of a right knee sprain. Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star reported that his availability for the first round is in question.

Using Wade, if he’s OK, would assist the Cavs, giving them another threat in the corner and a big-man option to run pick and pop with.

Final Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in six.

4 keys for Cavaliers to overcome Magic in Round 1. 4 keys for Cavaliers to overcome Magic in Round 1. dark. Next