NBA Playoffs: 3 Cavaliers X-Factors entering Game 6 against Orlando Magic

The Cleveland Cavaliers need one more win to advance in the NBA Playoffs. Now is the time to step up.
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Five
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Five / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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The time is now or never for the Cleveland Cavaliers to step up and redefine themselves in the NBA Playoffs.

After a pitiful showing in Round One last season, the Cavaliers have yet to win an away game in the postseason under coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The tenured Cavs coach is seemingly coaching for his job, and the players are playing for a chance to stick around past this offseason. A lot rides on this playoff run for the Cavs' future, but their Game 5 performance should be a positive sign of hope.

Entering Game 5 tied 2-2, the Cavaliers showed a determination to stand their ground in the final moments, eventually ending with a game-winning block from the young defensive star Evan Mobley. While the victory kept Cleveland perfect at home in this series, they have not stolen a win on the road. Instead, the Cavs were embarrassed with two consecutive blowout losses to the Orlando Magic. With Game 6 in Orlando, the Cavaliers cannot allow the Magic a chance to hold the momentum entering a Game 7 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

To cut Orlando's playoff run short, the Cavaliers will need another team effort like what they had in Game 5. They still struggle to find much production from their bench, but their starting lineup and surrounding forces must answer the call when needed. The Cavs prioritized leadership and experience this past offseason. Now is when they need those moves to be recognized by the talent acquired.

Additionally, Cleveland needs their stars to build upon their Game 5 success and enter a series-clinching match with an intensity and focus like they showed in the first two games of the series. With the Magic fighting to extend the season, the Cavs need to come out swinging and strike first. To do that, these three players need to make a difference one more time.

Darius Garland needs to set the tone and build confidence early

For all of his talents and flaws, the best version of Darius Garland needs to capitalize on early opportunities and get himself into a groove fast. Garland showed flashes of the brilliance that earned him a maximum extension with the Cavs and an All-Star appearance in the 2021-22 season, but he had never established a rhythm throughout the regular season after injuries and personal issues arose.

In game 5, Garland pulled out all the stops and reminded the audience why he was able to kickstart the next era of Cavs basketball. He notched 23 points and five assists in the heart-pounding one-point victory. While Garland's late-game turnovers earlier in the year had cost the Cavaliers a number of close games, he channeled the best version of himself, creating for others and pushing the Magic defense to its limit. DG seemingly sealed the deal after dumping off an interior pass to Mobley who was lurking in the dunker spot.

Garland scored 17 of his 23 points in the first quarter, forcing Orlando's defense to cover him tight for the rest of the game and deny him the ball. Thankfully, the Cavaliers were easily able to shift their offense to Donovan Mitchell and Max Strus. Their depth and versatility shined in the game, allowing Garland to come back in the final minutes and recapture the momentum.

In Game 6, the Cavs must put the ball in Garland's hands early and let him set the tone. Mitchell's lingering knee injuries have kept him from being as athletic and explosive as they might have hoped this series, and Garland's showing in Game 5 will likely put the Magic defense into a new setup entering the night. If the Cavaliers can get Garland some early points, Orlando will have to stay close, opening the floor for Mitchell and company once again.