Apr 20, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) knocks the ball from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Georges Niang (20) in the second quarter during game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Look to Even Series with Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers will welcome the Orlando Magic to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Monday night for game two of the NBA Eastern Conference first-round matchup. The Cavaliers are looking to stretch their series lead to 2-0 before heading to the Sunshine State for game three.

A Slow-Paced Affair

NBA teams averaged 114.2 points per game during the 2023–24 regular season. Neither the Magic nor Cavaliers eclipsed 100 in game one of this first-round series, with the Cavaliers never losing the lead and playing at a slow, controlled pace. This is expected, though, and will be critical in this series.

Both the Cavaliers and Magic rank in the bottom third of the NBA in points per game, so low scoring is par for the course in this series. A large reason for the subpar offensive output is that each team plays at a slow tempo. The Cavaliers are 24th in the league in shots per game, while the Magic are last at 84.9 per contest. The lower number of shots naturally creates a slower, lower-scoring match. The team that’s best able to take advantage of their limited opportunities will likely be the one that takes game two.

Budding Playoff Stars

The Magic’s scoring output comes from a young cast that will need to step up in the coming games. 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero was the Magic’s leading scorer during the regular season and had 24 points in game one of the series. Banchero also had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers in game one, though, and that can largely be attributed to the pressure the Magic put on him to score.

Banchero’s supporting cast, beyond Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, essentially disappeared on Saturday. The rest of the Magic scored a combined 28 points in game one, putting more pressure on Orlando’s young stars to play well and a lot. If the Magic hope to have better luck in game two, they’ll likely need a more well-rounded performance.

The Cavaliers are led by a relatively young cast too, but one that carries a little more playoff experience. Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell is only 27 years old but is playing in his ninth playoff series. Mitchell has averaged 24.4 points per game during his career and 26.6 during the 2023–24 regular season. In the playoffs, Mitchell averages 27.8, with two years above 32.3.

Mitchell is accompanied by 24-year-old all-star guard Darius Garland, who was a part of the Cavs’ playoff team last year too. The playoff experience and subsequent composure of the Cavs’ young core seemed to be the difference in a chippy game and may continue to be a factor.

An Aggressive Contest

When the Cavaliers and Magic meet on Monday night, the game will likely feature some jawing between the two.

In game one, after a turnover by Magic center Wendell Carter Jr., Cavaliers forward Georges Niang drove down the court but was met by an elbow from Orlando guard Markelle Fultz.

https://twitter.com/ClutchPoints/status/1781745255047475347

Fultz was assessed a flagrant-one foul for the move, while Niang was given a technical foul for his response. Fultz explained that the teams knew the series was going to get aggressive, and he felt he needed to make the first move.

Either he was going to hit me first or I was going to hit him.

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game that he expects the series to continue to be intense. He explained that the Magic may need to lean on non-basketball plays, but he was happy with his team’s response.

I thought we stood our ground first and foremost. But we didn’t allow ourselves to get caught up in the s—. We continued to play good basketball.

Monday Night

When game two tips in Cleveland, there will be a lot at stake for both the Magic and Cavaliers. The Magic will look to even the series before coming home for games three and four. The Cavaliers hope to take a strong two-game lead before the away stretch. The Magic are looking to prove their young stars are ready, while the Cavaliers want to avenge last year’s early playoff defeat. Both teams will take the next steps toward their goals Monday night.

About Noah White

I'm a freshman at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and public relations. I enjoy playing soccer and volleyball with friends, watching movies with my girlfriend and, of course, writing. I also know more about Liberty League women's soccer than you do.

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