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What to watch for in Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

The red-hot Cavs will look for their NBA-leading eighth-straight win.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers (25-15) will take the NBA’s longest current longest winning streak (seven) down to Florida to face the Orlando Magic (23-20). The Cavs are fourth in the Eastern Conference, while the Magic have slipped to eighth. In the previous matchup of these two teams, Orlando won 104-94 while holding the Cavs to 15 points in the third quarter. Cleveland will be looking for some redemption and maintain their red-hot play.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Where: Kia Center - Orlando, FL

When: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Florida

Spread: Cavs -1.5

Expected Cavs Starting Lineup: Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Jarrett Allen

Cavs Injury Report: Caris LeVert (wrist, QUESTIONABLE), Darius Garland (jaw, OUT) Evan Mobley (knee, OUT), Ty Jerome (ankle, OUT), Emoni Bates (G League, OUT), Isaiah Mobley (G League OUT)

Expected Magic Starting Lineup: Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paulo Banchero, Wendell Carter

Magic Injury Report: Gary Harris (right calf, OUT)

What to watch for: Two good defenses

The Cavs and the Magic both have top-five defenses with versatile players on that side of the ball. Cleveland has not allowed an opponent to score 100 points or more in three straight games, while Orlando suffocated the Miami Heat just one night before. The Magic hold opponents to the 12th-lowest effective field goal percentage, force the second-most turnovers, and have the sixth-best halfcourt defense per Cleaning the Glass. In comparison, the Cavs are bottom five in the league in halfcourt defense, 18th in turnovers, and middle of the road in effective field goal percentage per Cleaning the Glass. Orlando is a tough defense regardless, but maybe especially so against a team like the Cavs.

The Magic have a plethora of solid individual defenders, and they play excellent team defense as well. Franz Wagner (who returned to the lineup last night after an eight-game absence) and Jonathan Issac are two lanky wings who can defend the perimeter and inside. Wendell Carter has been excellent as a rim and paint protector. Even Markelle Fultz and rookie Anthony Black hold their own, particularly the former who forces a ton of turnovers. Over their winning streak, the Cavs have received contributions from nearly everyone. In what will likely be a rock fight, Cleveland will need all hands on deck once again.

Fultz can use his length to close passing lanes quicker than one would think. Here, Caleb Martin doesn't quite get the pass high enough and Fultz swats it out of the air.

What to watch for: Bench shooters shoot

Despite Darius Garland being injured and Donovan Mitchell not shooting well that particular night, the Cavs still put up 116 points and attempted 43 threes against the Atlanta Hawks. Sam Merrill continues to be an indispensable part of the rotation. Georges Niang has started to shoot a lot better as of late. When healthy, Caris LeVert has been largely a positive offensively. The Cavs bench, which was a massive liability for them last season, has been a critical component to their success this season.

This is a QUICK release from Merrill:

Speaking of Merrill, he is forcing his way toward bigger minutes once Garland returns by being a fearless shooter. He has attempted at least six threes in every game this calendar year and has knocked down at worst two of them in each contest. The Cavs appear comfortable with him taking shots from seemingly anywhere, spreading out the offense, and creating more space in the paint. His 14 attempted threes against Atlanta were his highest since December 20th against Utah — a game in which Mitchell and Garland both missed. The shooting gravity is real and the Cavs offense is better with him on the floor than off. Against the Magic, Merrill will be very important as defenses inevitably load up to try and limit Mitchell’s impact.

Niang started the season cold, but he has started to regress up to the mean as of late. He’s now knocked down at least two three-pointers in seven-straight games (no coincidence, the same length as the Cavs’ win streak). This has been more in line with what the front office expected when they signed Niang in the offseason, and he will be important for the Cavs against a stingy magic defense that defends the perimeter well.

One stat to watch for: Magic paint

The Magic are not a great offense, and they are particularly poor at three-point shooting. They are last in the league in three-point makes per game and 29th in three-point percentage. Per Cleaning the Glass, Orlando also attempts the third-fewest threes in the league. That means, the Magic will be playing like an early-2000s team getting to the rim and mid-range. Orlando attempts the most shots at the rim in the league (38% per Cleaning the Glass) and will rely on good looks in the paint, second-chance opportunities, and scoring off turnovers to put pressure on opponents.