Not only that but after a lackluster loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Cavs (41-33) are in uncharted waters. For the first time all season long Cleveland would be in the play-in tournament if the regular season ended today. If that happened, the Cavs would host the red-hot Brooklyn Nets, which would be an unfortunate reward for a stellar season. That’s why these last few remaining games are so important for Cleveland - especially when facing the Magic (20-55), the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (41-33) vs. Orlando Magic (20-55)
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs -9.5
Opposing blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Caris LeVert / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley
Cavs injury report: Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Dean Wade (OUT - knee), Rajon Rondo (OUT - ankle)
Expected Magic starting lineup: R.J. Hampton / Cole Anthony / Franz Wagner / Chuma Okeke / Mo Bamba
Magic injury report: Bol Bol (OUT - Foot), Jonathan Isaac (OUT - knee), Jalen Suggs (OUT - ankle)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
A CLEVELANDER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: I’m not sure if you’re much into science fiction but, if you are, maybe you read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On the cover of that book are the best words of advice Adams could give to humanity as well as Cavs fans: don’t panic. Yes. It is quite concerning how underwhelming Cleveland has looked after the All-Star break and it’s amplified after their three-game losing streak. It doesn’t help that they’re now out of the playoffs and in the play-in tournament. But, playing a team like the Magic, a team that’s trying to lose, could be a blessing in disguise for the Cavs. Cleveland plays Orlando twice to wrap up the season, while teams like the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls still have much more difficult opponents remaining. The Cavs are still in the thick of things and it’ll truly come down to the wire.
A CHANCE FOR EVAN MOBLEY TO WIDEN THE GAP, TOO: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation, Cavs rookie Evan Mobley is the betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year at -800. But, due to Cleveland’s struggles as of late, the gap between Mobley and Detroit’s Cade Cunningham (+600) or Toronto’s Scottie Barnes (+600) has narrowed a bit. But, being able to face Orlando rookie Franz Wagner, who has the fourth-best odds at +8000, should help get Mobley back on track - especially with the diversity of big men the Magic can test Mobley with.
FIGURING OUT HOW TO UNLOCK A GARLAND-OKORO-LEVERT TRIUMVIRATE: Prior to Cleveland’s loss to Chicago on Saturday, it was announced that Caris LeVert would be going from the bench to the team’s starting lineup. According to sources, this is going to be a permanent change going forward to help LeVert get further acclimated with his new teammates after missing roughly a month due to injuries. So far, it’s been a mixed bag and certainly an interesting time for Cleveland to be shaking up their offensive dynamic. But, if it hits, it will only benefit both Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro, who have shone with each other the majority of this season, long-term. Look for them to get a chance against a young and inexperienced Orlando unit on the perimeter.