Monday, February 11th, 2008
Records: Cleveland- 28-22, second place in the Central division; Orlando- 32-20, 1st place in the Southeast division. Cleveland on the road- 13-14; Orlando at home- 13-10
Line: Magic by 6
The Magic play their fourth of a five game home stand against the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers, who've won 14 out of 18 games during this calender year. This is the first of two meetings in Orlando between the two clubs, and the second meeting overall, with the first going to Orlando 117-116 (OT), back in November. The Magic hold a 34-33 edge in the all time series.
Cleveland is led by MVP candidate LeBron James, who is Mr. Everything for the Cavs. James leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.1 points per game, averages 8 rebounds per contest, and leads his team with 7.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game. The "supporting cast" that Orlando will face features 7'3 center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who averages nearly 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, Daniel Gibson, who came alive in last years playoffs, and currently averages 11.6 points per game. Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden are starters that average in double figures, and Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall come off the bench and are fantastic three-point shooters. The Cavs will be at somewhat less than full strength as small forward Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao aren't expected to play, and Drew Gooden is questionable.
Although the Cavaliers have one of the NBA's most talented players, they rank pretty moderately offensively. The Cavs are 16th in the league in points scored (97.0 ppg.), 27th in field goal percentage (43.73%), 22nd in adjusted field goal percentage (48%), 16th in three point shooting (35%), 25th in free throw percentage (72.09%), 23rd in field goal percentage allowed (46.03%), 12th in opponents ppg. (97.7), 7th in opponents three point shooting (34%), 9th in steals (7.8/gm.) and 10th in turnovers (13.6/gm.)5th in rebounding (44.2/gm.), and 26th in assists (19.4/gm.).
Here's how Orlando matches up:
6th scoring (103.8 ppg.), 6th FG % (46.85%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 12th three point shooting (37%), 23rd FT% (72.56%), 10th FG% allowed (44.96%), 19th opponents scoring (100.4 ppg.), 14th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.3/gm.), 15th turnovers (14.3/gm.), 11th rebounding (42.3/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.2/gm.).
Best matchup for Cleveland:
LeBron James vs. Maurice Evans- Evans draws his second tough test in a row as LeBron James follows Kobe Bryant in Orlando (at least he has two days to rest up). James can score in a number of different ways and is a mismatch for anyone due to his superior athletic ability and size. If Evans can keep James away from the basket shooting jumpers, the Magic will be okay. If James makes it a point to drive to the hoop, he can't be stopped. LeBron went for 39 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds the last time these two teams got together.
Best matchup for Orlando:
Rashard Lewis vs. Ira Newble- Ira Newble is a very solid player and a solid defender at 6'7 , 220 lbs., but Lewis should be able to shoot over him in the post, and go by him on the perimeter. Lewis scored 20 points against the Cavs in the first meeting in October.
Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Play inside out. Cleveland is one of the best teams in the league at defending the three point shot, and the Magic tend to fall in love with that shot and take some bad ones, as they often did Friday night. If Orlando can drive the ball to the basket they will have success and then it will lead to open three point opportunities.
2. Keep "The King" away from the hoop. When LeBron James goes to the basket, he's unstoppable, and if you help on him, he's a very accomplished passer who will find open teammates. James has a tendency to take a lot of jumpshots during games which will play into the Magic's hands.
3. Get into a track meet. Cleveland is playing the second half of a back-to-back, and they're not a team that excels in transition. Orlando needs to keep the tempo up to try to get the injury ravaged Cavaliers to run out of gas.
Orlando played a solid game Friday night and lost to a better Los Angeles Lakers team. Although the Cavs have been red hot, Orlando has a lot of matchup advantages, and if they can keep the Cleveland supporting cast in check, they should be able to send Cleveland on their way with another loss.
For our gamblers out there:
I'm on a one game winning streak so you should probably bet the opposite of what I say. That being said, take the Magic and give the points. Cleveland is grossly undermanned and Orlando should be able to finish this one and cover.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of MagicIllustrated.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
For more, go to: MagicIllustrated.com