After beating/losing to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night by the score of 94-91 the Cleveland Cavaliers return home tonight to face off with the Orlando Magic. This will be the first return leg of a back-to-back for both teams, which could induce some sloppy basketball for one or both teams. Either way, it’s another chance for the Cavaliers to pick up a win against a lesser opponent, as they continue to establish their footing in the Eastern Conference.
Who: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
TV Info: Fox Sports Ohio
Is this the year where the Magic start to challenge the Cavs? The Cavs are currently on a 14-game winning streak against Orlando, spanning back to the 2012-2013 season. Average margin of victory in those 14 wins? 15.8 points. The Cavs have been held under 100 points three times in this streak. I have been bringing this streak up for three years of Cavs/Magic previews, and will continue to do so as punishment for the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
This year’s iteration of the Magic is probably better equipped to handle the Cavaliers defensively. With Frank Vogel at the helm and the pairing of Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka on the back line, the Magic will pack the paint and dare the Cavs to beat them from outside, rather than allow Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to attack the rim. The Cavs will of course be happy to oblige, especially if Kevin Love is on the floor to drag one of them to the perimeter. Expect the Biyombo/Nikola Vucevic frontcourt pairing to bleed points in this game, because neither is really an ideal matchup for Love if you want to stop him AND the rest of the team.
The Magic will struggle to put points on the board, but they can give us a clue as to how the Cavs are going to manage stretch fours defensively. With Serge Ibaka able to pull opponents out to the three-point line, and the athleticism that Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon can offer, the Magic can mix and match four-out looks that could give the Cavs issues in certain spots. I’ll be interested to see how much time Tristan Thompson gets against Ibaka in favor of Love, or if James slides down to the four defensively when Gordon is on the floor. Those decisions could show us how the team plans to defend similar situations throughout the year.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
There’s opportunity for shenanigans as this is a back-to-back, and the Cavs may look to rest guys after a tough test with Toronto. However, the Magic seem snakebitten against the Cavs, and I don’t think they have enough shooting or perimeter defense to keep pace with the Cavs if they hit their shots. I like the Cavs to win comfortably, something like 105-94, and then head into Tuesday comfortably ready to face the defensive challenge of the Houston Rockets.