Cleveland Cavaliers @ Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers will meet for the third time this season. The Cavs have won both meetings. These teams met just 10 days ago when the Cavs defeated the Magic at Quicken Loans Arena, but these Cavs will present a new and different look for the Magic. Exit Zydrunas Ilguaskas. Enter Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams. Jamison was acquired from Washington on Wednesday and Mo Williams is just returning from his injury.

The Magic defeated the Cavs 4-2 in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals and these two squads are the favorites to meet again in the Eastern Conference Finals once again.

Both teams are attempting to rebound from some recent struggles. Cleveland has dropped consecutive games after winning 13 straight. They lost to Denver Thursday and at Charlotte Friday. The Magic blew an 11-point third quarter Friday night against Denver after having previously won 11 of their last 14.

These two teams enter the game as the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland has the NBA’s best record at 43-13 while the Magic have the league’s third-best record at 37-19. The Magic are 21-6 at Amway Arena. The Cavaliers are 19-9 on the road.

All of the talk should surround two of the league’s best teams going at it on national television. Unfortunately, it won’t. The main topic of conversation will be about 37-year old Shaquille O’Neal’s displeasure with Dwight Howard’s nickname of Superman.

Tip-off from the Am scheduled for 1:00 pm EST and you can see the game nationally on ABC. If you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 2



Dwight Howard

Rashard Lewis

Matt Barnes

Vince Carter

Jameer Nelson


Shaquille O’Neal

J.J. Hickson

LeBron James

Anthony Parker

Mo Williams

The main topic of conversation in the league this week has been Cleveland’s acquisition of Antawn Jamison. And rightfully so. Jamison will be the best player LeBron James has ever teamed with. You can read what the Magic players had to say about the Jamison trade here.

Jamison should also provide a tougher matchup for Rashard Lewis, who burned the Cavs by hitting big shot after big shot last season.

Cleveland has been very good offense this season. They rank fourth in offensive efficiency and score 101.7 points per game. Orlando counters that attack with the league’s fourth most efficient defense that gives up 95.8 points per game.

One of the reasons the Cavaliers have had trouble with the Magic over the last few seasons (but not so much this season) is because their supporting cast has not stepped up to help James.

That has been different this season.

In Cleveland’s first win over Orlando, a 102-93 victory at Amway Arena on November 11th, Mo Williams stepped up, scoring 28 points. LeBron James had 36 points. Orlando got 29 points from Vince Carter but he didn’t get much help from anyone else. Rashard Lewis (suspension) and Ryan Anderson (ankle injury) did not play.

In Cleveland’s second victory, a 115-106 win last Thursday, James came through late. He scored 11 points in the last 6:16 and finished with 32 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. With James struggling to find his shooting touch early on, he got his teammates involved. The unlikely combination of J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao scored 36 points for the Cavaliers. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Offensively, Orlando has the seventh most efficient offense and scores 101.1 points per game while Cleveland had the seventh most efficient defense and gives up just 94.9 points per game.

LeBron James is going to get his. He always does. He had huge games in the postseason last year, but the Magic still managed to win the series. That won’t be as easy with Antawn Jamison in the fold.

The Magic must exploit two matchups. Vince Carter has to be successful against Anthony Parker. Carter has averaged 21.5 points per game against Cleveland this year, but is just 16-of-39 (41.0%) from the field. Carter and fellow guard Jameer Nelson have been shooting the ball much better lately and are making better decisions. These two must keep that up.

The biggest matchup problem Orlando presents is the same matchup problem they present against every team – Dwight Howard. Although many have claimed that Shaq has really done a number on Howard on the defensive end, which simply isn’t true. Howard has got some very good looks against O’Neal and has used his superior athleticism to score on Shaq. O’Neal has also had trouble on the offensive end and is averaging just 10.0 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game against the Magic. Now, Shaq has done some good things. Howard has played just 31.5 minutes per game against the Cavaliers this season because foul of trouble. The Cavs have also been able to focus on Orlando’s shooters more because they haven’t been double-teaming Howard.

If the Magic want to prove they can still beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Howard will have to dominate the paint – on both ends of the court.

It should be a fun game because of all of the star power on the court. Eight current or former All-Stars – James, O’Neal, Jamison and Williams for the Cavs and Howard, Carter, Lewis and Nelson for the Magic – will be on the floor Sunday afternoon.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here.)