Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers: Game Preview

Cole Anthony
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- Coming off a performance against the Los Angeles Lakers where they made significant strides towards putting together a complete 48-minute performance with the right level of energy and focus, the Orlando Magic will attempt to build on that effort.

The Magic (18-43) will look to avoid the same costly mistakes that they made down the stretch of that contest when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (21-40) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

“Honestly, our age showed at the end of the game right there,” Magic rookie point guard Cole Anthony explained of his team’s 114-103 loss to the Lakers. “With about two minutes left, we had two or three possessions straight where, we didn’t get a quality shot. That’s on me, that’s on the team, I should have commanded them more just to get the team more organized. It’s on all of us.”

While those mistakes get magnified against a squad coming off an NBA championship run, Orlando now faces an opponent that’s in a similar position. Cleveland’s roster also has been decimated by injuries and is currently trying to develop young talent in its lineup.

Promising young guard Darius Garland has been handed the keys to Cleveland’s offense, especially with Collin Sexton out, and has delivered a number of sensational performances since the All-Star break. The Vanderbilt alum is averaging 19.6 points and 6.5 assists per game since March 14 while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range.

He’ll provide another strong test for Anthony, who’s also been playing extremely well of late. The University of North Carolina alum is averaging 15.8 points and 6.5 assists, while committing just 1.5 turnovers per contest, since jumping back into the starting lineup six games ago on April 16.

“It’s about the team, it’s about everyone on the team getting better, learning and just not being in the same place we are right now, ten games from now,” Anthony said. “No matter (what we) learn, whether it’s small, big, as long as we learn something, I think it’s going to set us up to be in a better position for next year.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “His poise. I think he’s learned the pace and tempo of the game a little bit more. He always wanted to go so fast before, and he still has moments where he’s a little bit too fast, but he’s understanding better now that he has to run the team first and then make plays from there on. They’re going to follow his lead and he’s doing a better job of understanding how to be patient at times, how to pull back at times, and that’s just going to be a thing he’ll have to learn. He’s a scorer by nature and we will need him to score baskets, but he needs to organize his team first.” - Magic Acting Head Coach Ty Corbin on what’s impressed him the most about Orlando’s rookie floor general since returning from a 25-game absence due to a rib injury.

INJURY UPDATE: For Orlando, James Ennis III (sore right calf) is available, while Devin Cannady (right ankle; open dislocation), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), and Terrence Ross (back spasms) are out.

For Cleveland, Matthew Dellavedova (neck strain), Isaiah Hartenstein (concussion), Larry Nance Jr. (fractured right thumb), Taurean Prince (left ankle surgery), Sexton (concussion), Lamar Stevens (concussion), and Dylan Windler (left knee surgery) are out.

KEY STAT: The Magic signed free agent center Moritz Wagner on Tuesday and released forward Robert Franks from his 10-day contract. Wagner played in 34 games this season, 14 starts, with both the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics this season, averaging 5.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per contest.

Originally selected 25th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the L.A. Lakers, Wagner has played in 122 career NBA regular season games. Coincidentally, Wagner made his NBA debut against the Magic at Amway Center on Nov. 17, 2018.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by Chris Manning, who covers the Cavs for Fear the Sword, the Cavs blog at SB Nation, and co-hosts the Locked On Cavs podcast. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few key questions about the team.

Savage: “The Cavs injury report currently looks a lot like the Magic’s. With all their injuries right now, who is carrying the load, especially offensively, for them?”

Manning: “It’s all about Darius Garland. Darius Garland has been spectacular since the All-Star break. I think he’s hitting a new level. He’s had a bunch of twenty-point games. He’s had a bunch of high assist games. He’s cutting down on his turnovers and he’s the engine of why the offense works a lot of the time. Collin Sexton deserves some credit too when he’s been healthy – he’s out with a concussion right now – but even when they’re both on the court, I think it’s been all about Garland. You’re seeing him become the player that the team hoped they were getting when they drafted him number five out of Vanderbilt. He’s obviously had a very weird start to his career due to COVID-19 (and) due to (the injury he suffered at Vanderbilt) and really taking a lot taking a lot of time to really look right last year. Particularly since the All-Star break, I think you’re seeing a Darius Garland, who is comfortable, who is confident, and who is hitting a new level as a scorer and as a playmaker. It’s all really coming together for him. When the team has a night where the ball is snapping and moving, and the offense is being productive, I think he really is the main reason why. The clip that went viral the other day aside, the Kevin Love presence does help. Certainly, teams respect him in a way that don’t anyone else on this team. Really, right now it’s been the Darius Garland show more than anything else.”

Savage: “Speaking of that clip, it’s probably one of the few times that the Cavs have been in the national spotlight recently. What was Kevin or the team’s explanation for that and what do you think was going on during that inbounds pass?”

Manning: “The team’s explanation was they’re going to handle it internally and they’re going to move on from it. (Head Coach) J.B. Bickerstaff said something similar about that as well. It’s obviously not a good thing and I don’t think how Kevin reacted in that moment was productive. It was a two-possession game, I believe, at that point and it gave (Toronto Raptors guard) Malachi Flynn a clean three-pointer. That was obviously incredibly silly, and stupid and bad. But, at the same time, I think the discourse around it has been a little dramatic. Kevin, at that point in the game, had just cut his knee, I think, and he was seeing red a little bit and maybe not fully aware of what was going on. Again, I don’t want to excuse that play because it was silly, and you need to have that composure. Having not played at the NBA level, I sort of don’t know exactly what that feels like, but I would hope to have composure in that moment. I also think the discourse around it is relitigating a lot of the same Kevin Love points that we’ve been having for a while now. He’s an extremely highly paid player on a bad team and he’s been injured a lot, but he’s also kind of unhappy. So, it’s an awkward marriage in a lot of ways. I don’t know if that clip is as significant as it’s been put out to be. It’s not a good look and it’s not a good moment, but I think it’s probably been made into more than it actually is. I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle of not mattering and mattering so much that it needs to dominate the Cavs’ discourse. There’s more important stuff going on. It was quite a silly moment and I’m sure Kevin Love would like to have that back.”

Savage: “The Cavs are in a similar position to the Magic where the playoffs are probably out of reach. When they talk about what they’re trying to get out of the rest of the regular season, what are some of the things they’re trying to accomplish or find out about over these last series of games?”

Manning: “If you’re Cleveland, you’re trying to develop more quality, get guys reps, and get some stuff in before the end of the season. Orlando’s injury report is even nuttier than Cleveland’s in a lot of ways, but these teams are getting banged up. They’re getting run ragged by how condensed the schedule is. Cleveland has hit that point on a couple of different times this year, and right now they’re hitting it again, where you can tell on certain nights that Darius Garland maybe doesn’t have the lift on his jump shot just because they played a couple of games in a row, and they’re fatigued. That’s normal. But what I think you’re looking for, for them, is to try and finish out the year on a positive note. I don’t think they’re going to (lose more games than) the Thunder or the Rockets or any of these other teams at the bottom. They’re certainly not going to put their foot on the gas pedal and try to make a real playoff run. Those hopes are sort of dead. They ended when they dropped a game in Chicago a weekend or so ago. I think you’re just trying to finish out the year strong and avoid any significant injuries that could hamper you next season. A serious injury to any player would obviously be the biggest bummer in the world. I think you’re trying to build habits and get guys reps. Get Isaac Okoro some opportunities to do some stuff on the offensive end. Get Darius Garland more control of the offense and get him more reps. Get Collin Sexton, when he’s back, to do some stuff off ball and continue to push him to do more cutting and coming off screens. I think they’re trying to get Jarrett Allen reps as a playmaker from the nail in dribble handoffs. You’re just trying to lay the foundation for next year when you’re hoping you have more of a serious run at the play-in tournament, at the playoffs, and you’re just trying to figure out what you have, so you can go into the offseason make the most informed decisions possible.”

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