The Cleveland Cavaliers continue through a soft portion of their schedule tonight at home against the Orlando Magic. Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters are unlikely to play for Cleveland, but the Magic haven't been very successful on the road. They dropped their 13th straight road game to the Milwaukee Bucks last night. Can the Cavs keep the momentum going as they try to make a late run towards the playoffs? We will find out tonight.
Who: Orlando Magic (16-39) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (21-33)
When: 7:00 ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where can I watch? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Cavaliers have a bunch of feel good wins in the last two weeks but it's hard to know just what it means. They haven't played teams that aren't particularly good. They weren't beating bad teams before the run though. Anderson Varejao-less lineups have been awful all year. He goes out so of course the Cavs win two games, both on the road. Now, one was against the Philadelphia 76ers, who currently are trotting out a AAAA basketball team. The other, against the Pistons, isn't all that impressive either.
But wins are wins, and the Cavaliers need them, and only have 21 of them anyway; might as well enjoy them when they happen. Zach Lowe does a pretty good job talking about the Cavaliers are doing differently, and what they aren't doing differently, in this column. His overall point: the Cavaliers shouldn't read too much into one streak, and making the playoffs remains a steep challenge. We will find out soon what, if anything, the Cavaliers do with Jarrett Jack and Luol Deng.
One point I will make: if the Cavaliers keep Luol Deng and sit tight tomorrow on deadline day, I don't think that means they are all in to make the playoffs. They would still be counting largely on young players like Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and even Anthony Bennett to get them there. People can say the Cavs stunted Bennett's growth by burying him on the bench earlier this year, but that was never the intention. The organization wanted him for the backup power forward role. He just fell out of the rotation. He's back now.
The Magic have three wins on the road this season. That's ... not a lot. They have shown some signs of life recently, though last night's loss to the Bucks throws quite a bit of water on that. One guy who has played a bit better is Victor Oladipo. The Bill Simmons Oladipo love is strange for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the biggest one is that he is so far off on what I assume will be Oladipo's biggest value in the league.
I see Oladipo's ceiling as something close to a shooting guard version of Luol Deng. Good defender, efficient offensive player, not a lot of shooting. Perhaps the third offensive option on a really good team. You won't want him creating all of the time. Now, there is nothing wrong with that player. It's really valuable. Trying to turn him into something else feels a little unfair to him. I will continue to be curious to see how he develops.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: Even without Waiters and Varejao, the era of good feelings continues. Cavs 102, Magic 91.