Monday, March 17th, 2008
Records: Cleveland- 38-29, second place in the Central division; Orlando- 44-24, 1st place in the Southeast division. Cleveland on the road- 16-19; Orlando at home- 21-12
The Magic play their second consecutive home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are looking to take over the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, a spot which Orlando currently holds. This is the second and final meeting in Orlando between the two clubs, and the third meeting overall, with the first going to Orlando 117-116 (OT), back in November, and the second going to Cleveland 118-111 at the Amway Arena. The all-time series is tied at 34.
Cleveland is led by MVP candidate LeBron James, who is Mr. Everything for the Cavs. James leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.9 points per game, averages 8.1 rebounds per contest, and leads his team with 7.4 assists and 1.9 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, and Daniel Gibson, who came alive in last years playoffs, and currently averages 11.5 points per game. The Cavs recently retooled as they acquired Wally Sczerbiak and Delonte West, as well as former defensive player of the year, Ben Wallace. Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall come off the bench and are fantastic three-point shooters, as well as Sczerbiak. The Cavs also feature small forward Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, who are both very talented, active players.
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 (97.4 ppg.), 26th in field goal percentage (44.0%), 20th in adjusted field goal percentage (48%), 10th in three point shooting (37%), 27th in free throw percentage (72.11%), 18th in field goal percentage allowed (45.85%), 10th in opponents ppg. (97.7), 8th in opponents three point shooting (35%), 16th in steals (7.3/gm.), 9th in turnovers (13.4/gm.), T11th in blocks (4.9/gm.), 4th in rebounding (44.2/gm.), and 25th in assists (19.8/gm.).
Here's how Orlando matches up:
6th scoring (105.0 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.67%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (54%), 5th three point shooting (38%), 25th FT% (72.43%), 9th FG% allowed (45.01%), 15th opponents scoring (100.2 ppg.), 16th opponents three point shooting (36%), 26th steals (6.2/gm.), 16th turnovers (14.0/gm.), 25th in blocks (4.2/gm.), 13th rebounding (42.1/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.4/gm.).
What do the stats say?
Cleveland is an average team offensively, but their rankings have risen sharply since the big trade. They defend the three-point shot well, and they certainly hit the glass well. The Cavs pose big matchup problems for the Magic.
Best matchup for Cleveland:
LeBron James vs. Maurice Evans- 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 in the first meeting against Orlando, and he went for 29, 10, and 7 in the last meeting.
Best matchup for Orlando:
Rashard Lewis vs. Ben Wallace- Wallace is a former defensive player of the year, but Lewis should be able to go by him on the perimeter, as Wallace has been known to lay back. Lewis is averaging 17.5 points against the Cavs this season.
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 has done just enough to win in their back to backs against inferior competition on Friday and Saturday. The Cavs post a much greater challenge as they have a legitimate superstar, and they are aggressive and attack the glass. Orlando will have to treat the game like a playoff contest and step up their intensity if they're going to come away with a victory.