Well, it’s not been exactly fun to watch the Cavaliers since Christmas. The Cavs have lost eight of their last 10 games, and four in a row. The schedule’s been tough, but they’ve not impressed even when they’ve played worse teams.
Amid rumors that the Cavs are privately concerned that they won’t truly be able to figure it out in terms of being a contender, the locker room is clearly in a dark place. In comes the Orlando Magic after two days off for the Cavs. They could really use this one.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (26-17) at Orlando Magic (13-31)
When: 7 PM ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Enemy Blog: Pinstriped Post
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Derrick Rose (PROBABLE - ankle), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee)
Magic injuries: Jonathan Isaac (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Terrence Ross (QUESTIONABLE - knee), Nicola Vucevic (QUESTIONABLE - hand)
Three keys to the game:
- Orlando has really, really fallen off since an 8-4 start to the season. They’re now tied for the worst record in the NBA, and it shows. They’ve collapsed on offense and defense, and losing Nicola Vucevic really hurts their spacing with the offensively inept Bismack Biyombo at center. It’s a roster that went from having too many centers to having too many guards. Basically, it’s a mess.
- The Magic were getting wrecked by the Cavs in their last matchup heading into the fourth quarter before Cleveland completely took their foot off the gas by allowing a 40-point quarter to force them to sweat out a tough one. Needing a win as bad as this team does, it would behoove them to, well, try the whole time. They can’t afford to lose a dumb one given their recent stretch of play. We’ll see if they can rise to the challenge.
- Aaron Gordon remains quite good at basketball and his game has grown a ton. The Magic junked up the last matchup by putting Gordon at center and the Cavs had a brutal time stopping Orlando defensively in that alignment. He can finish at the rim, his jumper is much improved, and he also has vastly improved his handle. Jae Crowder will have his hands full in this one on the defensive end.
Elfrid Payton is a non-shooter, but he’s a great athlete and a hound in on-ball defense. He’s also big for the point guard position, which means he’s an interesting matchup for Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is still rediscovering his rhythm since returning from injury, and looked better in spurts against the Warriors despite an overall rough outing. We’ll see how he looks after a couple days off and an actual practice.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Erm, the Cavs will win? I don’t know anymore. Cavs 119, Magic 117.