The 14-35 Orlando Magic haven’t lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in quite some time, but lately, they’ve been losing to pretty much everybody. The Cavs have dropped 10 straight to the Orlando Magic, and both teams sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Ohio
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena “The Q”
Vegas Line: Cleveland -7
The Cavs are 15-34, but they’ve played well in their last seven games, winning five. During that stretch, the Cavs have averaged 105.4 points per game, and coach Byron Scott feels good about the team moving forward. He said it’s “just a matter of now (just) keeping it going.”
Kyrie Irving is, of course, the main draw for the Cavaliers team. Irving had 22 points in the Bobcats’ win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, as they steamrolled Charlotte, winning by 27 points.
Irving said he feels that the Cavs are “making steps in the right direction” and he’s averaged 29.9 points per game over the last seven home games. Irving feels the team has improved each and every game.
The Magic can’t really say the same. Every game it seems there is a new injury to worry about.
The Magic are without Glen Davis for most of the rest of the season and J.J. Redick is out with a shoulder injury, Aaron Afflalo is questionable too. In the victory over the Cavs in November, the three of them combined for 53 points, so replacing that production will be hard with an inexperienced lineup that will rely heavily on Jameer Nelson.
Nelson had 18 points in his first game back from a forearm contusion, but the Magic are averaging just 79.8 points this month while shooting an abysmal 37.6 percent from the field.
The Magic will look to further develop Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, who have both been playing some inspired basketball. Vucevic leads the NBA in rebounding from Dec. 14 to the present, with 13.4 rebounds per game over that span. He was selected to the Rising Stars Challenge and was the best player the Magic received in the 4-team deal that sent Howard to the Lakers.
The Magic are looking to build on their young talent, and will be also closely observing the progress of Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn against the Cavs frontline of Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson. It should be an underrated matchup of hardworking youngsters in the front court of this game.
Nicholson came out lacking fanfare out of St. Bonaventure, but has impressed the Magic with his hard work and will mainly look to focus on cutting down his turnovers.
O’Quinn is beginning to feel more comfortable as an NBA player and recently requested Jacque Vaughn include him more significantly in the rotation.
Keys to the Game:
- Get the ball inside to Vucevic.
The Cavs are last in the league in shot blocking and have the second worst foul rate (20.6 percent of plays). They are No. 24 in opponent’s scoring and have the worst shooting defense in the league, too (47.2 percent).
- Attack the basket.
As stated, the Cavs have no shot blockers to protect the rim. Tyler Zeller will block one now and again, but he isn’t a constant shot-changing presence
- Come out strong in the fourth.
The Cavs have the No. 28 offense in the league in the fourth quarter, and if the Magic can close well down the stretch, it could make the difference.
- Push the ball out of Kyrie Irving’s hands.
The Cavs have the worst Assist to turnover ratio in the NBA and aren’t a team of strong ball handlers. If the Magic can consistently look to pressure Irving into making other Cavs make plays, the ball will end up in the Magic’s hands or out of bounds.