Game Preview: Magic at Cavaliers

The Magic take to the road to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are 5.5 games behind the Magic in the race for the third seed, with just six games to play. This is the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs, with the Orlando winning two out of the first three. The Magic lead the all-time series 35-34.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Records: Orlando- 47-28, Southeast division champions; Cleveland- 42-34, second place in the Central division. Orlando on the road- 24-13; Cleveland at home- 25-12

Cleveland is led by MVP candidate LeBron James, who is Mr. Everything for the Cavs. James leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.4 points per game, averages 7.3 rebounds per contest, and leads his team with 7.3 assists and 1.8 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 10.9 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.

Statistically speaking:
Although the Cavaliers have one of the NBA's most talented players, they rank pretty moderately offensively. The Cavs are 19th in the league in points scored (97.0 ppg.), 27th in field goal percentage (44.08%), 20th in adjusted field goal percentage (48%), 15th in three point shooting (36%), 28th in free throw percentage (72.01%), 13th in field goal percentage allowed (45.76%), 9th in opponents ppg. (97.3), 7th in opponents three point shooting (35%), 18th in steals (7.1/gm.), 9th in turnovers (13.2/gm.), 8th in blocks (5.1/gm.), 3rd in rebounding (44.4/gm.), and 24th in assists (20.1/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up:
6th scoring (104.4 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.31%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 4th three point shooting (39%), 25th FT% (72.55%), 7th FG% allowed (44.85%), 13th opponents scoring (99.7 ppg.), 16th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 16th turnovers (13.9/gm.), 26th in blocks (4.1/gm.), 15th rebounding (41.9/gm.), and T22nd 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 second meeting. The Magic "held" LeBron to 30 points 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 Cavaliers to run out of gas.

Final thoughts:
Cleveland has been playing bad basketball lately, and the Magic haven't been much better. Orlando should recommit themselves to hitting the glass and if they do, they should be able to clinch the third seed on Cleveland's home court.