Eastern Conference – No. 5 Magic vs. No. 4 Cavaliers

In the 4 vs. 5 matchup in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers clash in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Keep reading for a preview and prediction for this series. And make sure you check out our NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, which will serve as the hub for all of our postseason betting content!

Magic vs. Cavaliers Series Preview

There are not many teams that ended the regular season in a more disappointing fashion than Cleveland. Coming out of the All-Star break the Cavaliers were 36-17 and in control of the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Cleveland went 12-17 SU/10-19 ATS with a -3.6 net rating in non-garbage time after the break. After a disappointing loss to the Knicks last season, the pressure is on the Cavaliers to do something in this series against the Magic.

 

It should be pointed out that the biggest factor in Cleveland’s slide over the last 29 games was numerous injuries. Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus and Evan Mobley all missed at least nine games with injury. The most impactful absence was Mitchell, who has not looked right since receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee. In eight games since the injection, Mitchell has averaged just 18.5 points on 38.3% shooting from the floor. It goes without saying that if he is not right, the chances the Cavaliers can move on are minimal.

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Orlando might not have experience, but it is an astounding defensive team. The Magic finished second in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, allowing only 111.5 points per 100 possessions. They forced turnovers on 15.6% of opponent possessions, and limited the opposition to a 24.7% offensive rebounding rate. Cleveland was 20th in non-garbage time offensive efficiency after the All-Star break (112.7) and 18th in turnover rate (14.2%). Those are not categories to struggle in when facing a team like the Magic.

Having said that, the Cavaliers are -195 favorites in this series despite the health concerns of Mitchell for a reason.

Orlando’s biggest issue is its offense. It finished 22nd for the season in non-garbage time offensive efficiency (113.9). In halfcourt settings the Magic averaged only 96.9 points every 100 plays. Their lack of spacing was the primary issue. Orlando took just 32.9% of their attempts from beyond the arc, and shot just 35.6% on those shots. It is a team that relies heavily on getting to the rim and the free throw line. That will likely be something it cannot rely on in this series.

When Cleveland has Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the floor it allows just 112.5 points per 100 possessions. Only 32.1% of opponent attempts were at the rim against that frontcourt, and they shot just 60.4%. The priority on rim defense did allow a higher rate of 3-point attempts and makes, but over the course of a seven-game series it is unlikely Orlando can exploit that with its poor shooting.

The offense for the Cavaliers does have some weaknesses with both Allen and Mobley on the floor. They average only 112.8 points per 100 possessions when that frontcourt is on the floor, and it means playing with two non-shooters at one time. However, Darius Garland and Mitchell are 37% shooters. Strus hit only 35% of 3-point attempts this season, but he is a high-volume shooter, capable of knocking down shots at a high rate.

Cleveland clearly has some concerns. Its star player is unhealthy, and the offense has been inconsistent for months now. However, they have a defensive scheme tailor made to match up with the Magic. Strus and Georges Niang – along with Garland and Mitchell – give them an edge in shooting as well. Combine that with the ability to keep Orlando out of the restricted area consistently, and it would seem that this series price is accurate. The Cavaliers are not long for this postseason, but this matchup works too well in their favor to fade them in the first round.

Lean: Cavaliers to win series (-195)

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