OMD Roundtable: Recapping the Orlando Magic's breakthrough season

The Orlando Magic were among the surprises in the Eastern Conference and the entire NBA this season. They broke through to become the fifth seed in the playoffs. Before those begin, we look back at a successful season.
The Orlando Magic experienced a surge this season and broke through to make the Playoffs this year.
The Orlando Magic experienced a surge this season and broke through to make the Playoffs this year. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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OMD Roundtable: Recapping the Orlando Magic's breakthrough season

What is your initial key to the Orlando Magic-Cleveland Cavaliers series?

Philip: The biggest key to me is the 3-point shooting. The Sam Merrill game in January still really haunts me and it is the game I think about most when I think about this season series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We all know the Orlando Magic struggle with shooting and their two losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers were all about early 3-point shooting blitzes the Magic could not recover from. Orlando has to limit 3-point shooting and make a few shots on their own to have a chance in this series.

Brandon: Limiting Donovan Mitchell as much as possible.

It is a fairly solid matchup outside of the multi-time All-Star. Mitchell has averaged 27.3 points and 7.3 assists in three games against the Orlando Magic this year. He has been a tough force to stop even with the Magic’s strong backcourt defense and will be the difference-maker in keeping the Magic out of close ballgames.

The litany of threats behind the arc is enough for Orlando’s perimeter defense to handle. Orlando is a top-five unit in defending the three-point line. But the team has won just four of 17 games where teams have made more than 15 threes in a game. A hot Mitchell added to that could get things out of hand as he has done to other playoff teams in years past.

Omar: The biggest key is the three-point shooting. The Orlando Magic need to trust Jalen Suggs and Gary Harris to do their best to guard Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell respectively. They are too good of players to shut down individually, but the Magic can not allow players like Max Strus, Sam Merrill and Georges Niang to have an avalanche from beyond the arc.

The role players are key in playoff series and it would be best to keep those guys in check rather than have the Cleveland Cavaliers' offense running smoothly and having the Orlando Magic’s defense in a scramble and stretched thin. 

Tyler: This goes hand in hand with 3-point shooting in a lot of ways, but the Orlando Magic have to start games strong and “punch first.”

These are two of the top defenses in the NBA and Orlando played at one of the slowest paces in the NBA all season -- a play style that would make it very difficult to recover from a large early deficit. In both losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season, the Orlando Magic lost the first quarter handily. A strong first quarter could go a long way in determining the outcomes of these games. 

Coby: I have two initial keys for the Orlando Magic's first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The first is the production of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. First-time playoff stars struggle in their first series, so if they can produce that already gives them a huge advantage. Next is the play of Jalen Suggs. If Banchero and Wagner do struggle then Suggs has to pick up the slack. He is going to be the biggest part of the first round this year.

Both teams are defensive-heavy teams, so that is already a given. But somebody will have to hit shots to win the game. It either has to come from the stars or the Suggs, there will be role players that step up, but somebody has to cover the main load on offense.

Alfred: The big factors in the series will be how the Orlando Magic control the paint which has been at the forefront of their strengths all season. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley do an incredible job at controlling the glass and scoring within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ frontcourt.

How the Magic seal them off on defense and score on them offensively is huge in how the Magic can control the series. Especially since they are going to play Games 1 and 2 on the road to tip off the playoffs.

I think Jonathan Issac will be an X-factor in how this series plays out as I think Jamahl Mosley grew confident in putting him in a key last game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks at the 5 spot. 

Harrison: The initial key to the series is if the Orlando Magic's offense can keep up.

The Orlando Magic’s offense is centered around scoring in the paint and the Cleveland Cavaliers are among the league’s best at protecting the rim.

Cleveland has the sixth-best opposing field goal percentage this year. This is significant given that their 2023 All-Defensive first-team selection and third in Defensive Player of the Year voting Evan Mobley only suited up for 50 games. He will give the Magic fits and can limit Paolo Banchero to play outside instead of attacking the basket.

Orlando is going to have to make outside shots and force Cleveland’s big men to get into foul trouble.

Patrick: The most important thing for the Orlando Magic in this series will be the amount of help that Paolo Banchero receives from the supporting cast.

The Magic do not have a ton of playoff experience on this roster and that includes Banchero. So inevitably, when he is going through a moment of growing pains in his first playoff series ever, who will step up? Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter? It could even be any of the guys off the bench. Whoever it is does not matter, as long as somebody steps up and can bring scoring to the table in a time of need. That will be the key to this series.