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RCF Recap: Cavs tame the Magic, again

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  • The Cavaliers took care of business. They did their job and are headed to Orlando up 2-0.
  • Was it pretty? No. But it worked. Do the Cavs win these types of games without the experience of New York last year? Maybe, but it’s hard to argue that past experiences haven’t led to current success.
  • Win the rebounding battle? Check. Match the physicality? Check. Make enough perimeter shots to win? Check.
  • Game 2 started a lot like Game 1: The Magic missed their first 3 3PA while Donovan Mitchell nailed his first 3PA along with two free throws. And just as quickly as that happened, the Cavs followed it up with back-to-back turnovers.
  • One thing that’s been pretty consistent through these first two games is the Cavs defensive intensity and willingness to make the extra rotation on defense. It’s started from the jump.
  • When you do those sorts of things, it takes the opposing team 10 minutes to make a three-pointer. You hold them to under 20 points in a quarter. You allow yourself wiggle room for mistakes and enable a double-digit lead.
  • The Magic were content spamming Paolo Banchero pick-and-rolls, creating a switch and playing off that. Using Franz Wagner or Jonathan Isaac as the picker doesn’t do much good as switching off gets Banchero just as tough of a defensive matchup. If the Magic were smart, they’d run more Jalen Suggs as the picker and force a Darius Garland switch. Hopefully Jamahl Mosley doesn’t read RCF Recaps.
  • As it tends to happen, the Cavs go in lulls when they can’t hit their perimeter shots and they turn the ball over. That happened for a three-minute stretch in the first where they did both and the Magic were able to it up and get as close as they did all night.
  • And of course, when they take care of the ball and hit some perimeter, they’re able to extend leads. Over the second half of the first quarter, the Cavs went on a 20-10 run. They only gave the ball up once and made three three-pointers.
  • Suggs went down in a heap of pain and couldn’t put much pressure on his leg leaving the court. That’s the type of injury that could make waves across the Magic’s defensive strategy. Immediately upon entering, both Caris LeVert (step back three) and Donovan Mitchell (drive by two) went at Markelle Fultz.
  • Good LeVert is good for the Cavs, only problem is it’s anybody’s guess on when it’s going to happen or how long it will last. In this case, it lasted for a five-minute first quarter stretch with 8 pts, 1 reb, 1 asssist and a +11. He had all those points and the assist in a :90 second stretch to end the first quarter and extend the Cavs lead from 4 to 12.
  • Mitchell, Allen, and LeVert were the only Cavalier scorers in the first quarter – they combined to score 30.
  • As it tends to happen, the Cavs like to go to Allen early and often on pick-and-rolls. Allen had half his points (8), FGA (5) and FTA (4) in the first quarter alone.
  • Interestingly enough, the Cavs had 12 of their 20 fast break points in the first quarter. The Cavs only had 2 fast break points in the second quarter despite their Pace (98) being the same for both quarters.
  • The Magic elected to go with an extra big lineup to start the second quarter with Mo Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr… and it kinda worked. Over a three minute stretch the Magic went on a 10-0 run to cut the Cavalier lead to 5. Wagner and WCJ combined for 7 of the 10 points during the run.
  • We talk a lot about player growth – Garland, Allen, and Mobley. But coaching growth may get this team farther. After the run, JB Bickerstaff quickly adjusted. One by one Allen, Mitchell and Max Strus reentered the game – Isaac Okoro was the lone bench player on the court due to Garland foul trouble. The Cavs responded with a 15-3 run.
  • In that stretch, Okoro had 8 points and 2 steals. That Okoro run included a delightful sidestep three-pointer. This is the Okoro we’ve all been waiting for.
  • Not saying it’s directly correlated but also not saying it isn’t. With Georges Niang struggling, he only played 2:41 second quarter minutes. Bickerstaff instead elected to go with Okoro and Mobley as the primary defenders on Banchero during his 7+ minutes. In that time, Banchero had 0 points and 1 FGA. It was Banchero’s only scoreless quarter.
  • It’s no surprise the Magic hitting the most 3’s they have in a quarter this series (4) would also lead to the most points they’ve scored in a quarter (26) this series. Franz Wagner got going for Orlando with 10 points and 2 3PM. He was the offensive catalyst for Orlando.
  • Good teams steal points to shift the game in their favor. In this case, it’s how the Cavs executed in the last two minutes of quarters. Despite Orlando winning both quarters up until the last two minutes of the second and third quarters, the Cavs went 5-2 and 6-5 in those two-minute stretches.
  • Allen had 6…yes 6!... offensive rebounds in the third quarter. He had 9 on the game and was relentless attacking the offensive boards. The ability to extend possessions and demoralize an opponent in the process is one of those small things good teams do. It’s what New York did to Cleveland all last year.
  • The Cavs defensive strategy so far has paid off: Sink on any dribble penetration and hope to rotate/contest just good enough to force misses. The Cavs have also been content to let Jonathan Isaac just jack corner 3’s left and right. The in the third quarter alone that strategy worked as Isaac went 1-4 on 3P.
  • People who look at box scores and don’t watch the game are missing Mobley’s growth. There’s been stretches in both games where he’s looked like that guy. In the third quarter he had 8 of the Cavs first 10 points.
  • Thing is, Mobley is answering a lot of the questions that came up last year. He’s hitting (enough) catch-and-shoot 3’s. He’s taking advantage of mismatches in the post and being physical on the catch. He’s taking down out of area rebounds and possessing them through active hands. All these items were things that previously plagued him, so to see him answer them is encouraging.
  • The Mobley-Niang frontline when Mo Wagner on the court has been tough. The Cavs aren’t well equipped to deal with Wagner’s physicality and rebounding in that setup. In the second half, the Magic ran Banchero with the second unit and ran pick-and-roll involving Niang and Mobley. When the Cavs switched, it left Niang on Wagner in poor rebounding position. When the Cavs kept Niang on Banchero, it left a lesser defender.
  • Until late in the third, Garland had 4 points, 2 reb, 3 ast, 2 TOs and 3 fouls. So, not great. However, when the Cavs needed it, Garland came through with back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Cavs lead at 15 instead of the Magic cutting it to single digits.
  • One item that is consistently giving Garland issue is pressure. Suggs has so far been good for at least one Garland turnover each game by picking up Garland at half court. Garland must recognize he doesn’t need to beat the pressure alone and doesn’t need to beat it by dribbling.
  • Saying that, seeing Garland’s growth in small ways is fun. Take for instance getting called for a cheap offensive foul (moving screen). Instead of mentally letting it impact him, he responded with a pull-up three-pointer and a following driving layup. This extended the Cavs lead to 22 and really pushed the game out of reach for the Magic. Instead of folding and allowing easy Magic points, Garland went the opposite way.
  • Really liking Bickerstaff’s adjustments, part 2: Seeing Niang struggle all game, Bickerstaff instead went small with Okoro and Strus playing the forward spots. Additionally, seeing the Cavs again struggle with Wagner’s physicality, went to Allen over Mobley quickly into the fourth quarter.
  • More liking Bickerstaff: Recognizing the flow and feel of the game (4 missed 3P, one turnover and Magic going on 4-0 run), he immediately went back to Mitchell early into the fourth quarter to help settle the game. The Magic did go on a 9-0 run after this, but the thought was there.
  • Part of the problem is the Cavs were playing helter skelter offensively.. and guess what, not taking care of the ball and missing three-pointers! Over the 13-0 run the Magic went on, the Cavs had 3 turnovers, and were 0-5 from 3P. Shocked?
  • And how did the Cavs end up? Back-to-back driving layups by Mitchell. There needs to be better recognition of time and situation on these opposing runs and be willing to force more shots inside to stem the tide.
  • The Cavs were up 15 after those layups and a Mobley hook shot. But the Magic grinded their way back into a game. They went to the free-throw line three times within :30 seconds thus scoring while the clock was stopped. This helped them get the Cavs lead to single digits.
  • Unfortunately for the Magic, the Cavs lead was too big and there wasn’t enough time left. The Cavs were able to hold on, but it was more due to outside factors then anything the Cavs did to close it out.
  • Being at home helps but the Cavs will have to be better going to Orlando. After the first quarter, the Magic were a +2. The Cavs played well enough in the first quarter to win but need to do better to hold on after.
  • Not enough credit can be given to Allen for the two games he’s had. He now has more rebounds in these two games (38) then he did in the entire New York (37). He’s asserted his dominance early and often and helped control the backboard for Cleveland.
  • Every quarter it was a different guy stepping up: Allen, LeVert, and Mitchell in the first; Okoro in the second; Mobley and Garland in the third. The Cavs will always run through Mitchell but having the support cast step up when needed is what will help take this team farther.
  • JB went 8 deep, but it really was 7 with Niang contributing 13 ineffective minutes. He decided to go small in the second half with Okoro and Strus, so it’ll be interesting to see if that continues, and perhaps opens some minutes for Sam Merrill or he chooses to go with a veteran to bring some physicality in Marcus Morris Sr or Tristan Thompson. One thing is for certain: The Cavs miss Dean Wade.
  • The Cavs forced Franz Wagner and Banchero in 12 combined turnovers.
  • Speaking of turnovers, 33 turnovers for the Cavs is way too many. Good teams take care of the ball and value their positions. That type of carelessness is going to come back to bite them if they don’t turn it around.
  • Another place the Cavs have struggled? Corner 3’s. They are 2-16 through two games.
  • The Cavs held the Magic to 48% on 25 attempts in the restricted area. This was down from 55% on 29 attempts in game one. So not only were they better about keeping them out, but they were also more effective in prevention once they got there.
  • *whispers* The Cavs starters are a +10 with net ratings of +19.2 and +10.5 through two games.
  • The Magic have yet to lead in this series.
  • Up next: Cavs visit Orlando Thursday at 7PM (ET).

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Episode 3:15: Cavs Survive and Advance