OMD Roundtable: Key to the Orlando Magic's series with the Cleveland Cavaliers and staff picks

The Orlando Magic take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the Playoffs in what everyone expects to be a competitive and physical series. We discuss the keys to the series and make staff predictions.
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic have reached the Playoffs and have their chance to win their first-round series.
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic have reached the Playoffs and have their chance to win their first-round series. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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OMD Roundtable: Keys to the Series & Staff Predictions

Philip Rossman-Reich: Breaking the Defense

These two teams are very similar in a lot of ways.

The Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers both have invested in size and defense to constrict the paint and squeeze the life out of their opponents. They have built something really impressive.

The Magic and Cavaliers are both in the top-10 in defensive rating and both in the bottom half of the league in offensive rating -- the Magic have the worst offense in the league among the 20 postseason teams.

And so this series is going to turn on shot creation and who can beat a set defense. That is ultimately what the Playoffs are about because everyone knows what is coming.

This is where I think the Cavs have the ultimate trump card.

The Magic’s guards could play their best defense and Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland can still beat them – even though both have struggled this season. A healthy-looking Mitchell may well be this team’s Kryptonite. And we do not yet know how Paolo Banchero or Franz Wagner will handle the pressure of a playoff defense.

Donovan Mitchell averaged 26.6 points per game and 27.3 points per game and 7.3 assists per game against the Magic. He has historically been a strong Playoff performer too, averaging 27.8 points per game.

But much like the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he struggled in last year's playoffs averaging only 23.2 points per game and 3.8 turnovers per game as the New York Knicks trapped him and forced the ball repeatedly out of his hands, daring others to beat their strong defense.

Mitchell has been dealing with a knee issue but all indications are that the week off will have him back closer to 100 percent.

Darius Garland is a potential star too. But he struggled in his first playoffs last year with 20.6 points per game. That hit the whole Cavs team like a truck against the New York Knicks last year. Jarrett Allen said the lights were a bit bright for them last year -- playing in Orlando over New York might dim those lights, even if the pressure is the same.

The Cavs have spent their entire season preparing to play this series and these games. Their whole season will be judged on this growth.

Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner were no pushovers offensively. Banchero averaged 22.6 points per game, including a then-career-high 42 points against the Cavaliers in December, and Wagner averaged 19.7 points per game.

Orlando is where Cleveland was last year. Nobody is sure how this young roster will respond to Playoff pressure. That is really what this series is about for Orlando -- a win would be great, but the lessons learned for next year are even better. Banchero and Wagner's ability to beat defenses loading up against them with the Magic's poor 3-point shooting is unclear.

For that reason, I give the edge to the Cavs. In a series of two pretty evenly matched teams, I feel like Mitchell or Garland will steal a game somewhere to tip things in their favor.

Philip Rossman-Reich: Cavs in 6