Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers (February 22, 2024): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic return from the All-Star Break to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers as the chase for the Playoffs begins throughout the league.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic get back to work after the All-Star Break as they look to cool off the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic get back to work after the All-Star Break as they look to cool off the Cleveland Cavaliers. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

38. Bally Sports Florida, Bally Sports Ohio. Feb. 22, 2024. 36-17. Cavs by 8.5 (O/U 216.5). 30-25. Magic Cavs Matchup 02.22.24. 156. 7P

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Season Series:
Cavaliers 121, Magic 111 in Cleveland on Dec. 7; Magic 104, Cavaliers 94 in Orlando on Dec. 11; Cavaliers 126, Magic 99 in Orlando on Jan. 22; Tonight in Cleveland


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OMD Prediction

Our Record: 34-21/29-26 ATS

The Orlando Magic are in the sprint to the end of the season. They are breaking huddles with "Playoffs" and know exactly what is at stake in the final 27 games this season. Virtually everyone is going through a postseason chase for the first time.

That journey starts -- or continues -- Thursday in Cleveland against a very tough Cleveland Cavaliers team.

The Cavaliers entered the All-Star Break as winners of 10 of their last 11 games and 18 of their previous 20 games. This team is excellent on offense now that they are getting healthier and even better on defense. Jarrett Allen should be getting buzz for the All-Defensive team.

This is one of the hottest and best teams in the league. Even with Donovan Mitchell QUESTIONABLE for the game with an illness, the Cavs are a dangerous and outstanding team. The kind of team the Magic have struggled to measure up to, even when they are playing well.

Adding that Paolo Banchero is also QUESTIONABLE with an illness and Markelle Fultz is OUT with a left knee injury maintenance, the Magic will be climbing uphill in this one. But the first game after the break is sort of like the first game of the season: Who knows what will happen?

Magic Cavs Prediction 02.22.24. 108. 156. Prediction. 98. 38

3 Keys to Watch

Franz Wagner Stepping Up

With Paolo Banchero potentially out for Thursday's game, all eyes will turn toward Franz Wagner to step up and carry more of the scoring load. He was doing that more and more heading into the All-Star Break.

Wagner averaged 26.2 points per game in the six games leading into the All-Star Break, including three games of 30-plus points. That shows how up and down he can be and how consistent he has been this year as a scorer. His two worst games were the end of a long road trip in Miami and against a great shot blocker in Chet Holmgren against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That will be the challenge for Wagner.

Much of what he does is about getting downhill and to the basket. He has to find a way to score against a great shot blocker in Jarrett Allen. In three games against the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, Wager is averaging 16.7 points per game with 5.7 rebounds per game and 5.0 assists per game.

Wagner will have to find a way to attack the basket to give the team the boost it needs to win this one.

The Donovan Mitchell Questions

Everyone around the NBA seems to care more about what happens off the court than what happens on the court. Donovan Mitchell even tweeted publicly, trying to quash rumors of his imminent departure from Cleveland. And everyone seems to be forgetting that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the best teams in the league for more than a month now.

Mitchell has been a big part of this push.

Mitchell is averaging 29.0 points per game and 7.0 assists per game with 49.3/37.6/83.1 shooting splits in the last 20 games, where the Cavaliers have lost just twice. Mitchell is quite simply a dynamic scorer.

With the trade deadline behind everyone, the focus for everyone should be on what is happening on the court. And Mitchell has been dominant for the Cavaliers. Stopping him is the priority and something the Orlando Magic have struggled with this year -- 27.3 points per game and 7.3 assists per game in three games against the Magic this year.

Shooting Break?

So much of the Orlando Magic's focus will sit on shooting. The Magic may well go as their shooting goes. And there have been a lot of ups and downs.

That first game against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in December featured a frustrating 2-for-23 shooting from deep that very well cost the Magic that game -- Paolo Banchero did have his first 40-point game in the loss.

So many of the Magic's problems go back to shooting.

Should they be encouraged then by how they shot heading into the All-Star Break? Because Orlando hit 38.6 percent of their 3-pointers over the last 10 games. That included hitting 12 of 26 from deep in the win over the New York Knicks heading into the All-Star Break.

That is encouraging.

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Doing it on the road is the problem. The Magic are shooting 35.8 percent inside the Kia Center and 34.0 percent away from home this season. Orlando has to find some shooting stroke to get some confidence. With some rest, maybe the Magic will come out firing.