Orlando Magic getting crushed by Jarrett Allen on the offensive glass, interior

The Orlando Magic have a big problem. Jarrett Allen has taken control of the series, dominating the glass and taking away the Magic's big weapon: The paint.
Jarrett Allen has proven to be the biggest difference for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they dominate the interior in the playoff series with the Orlando Magic.
Jarrett Allen has proven to be the biggest difference for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they dominate the interior in the playoff series with the Orlando Magic. / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic had scrambled and done everything right. Their defense was locked in and scrambling to get stops. They forced a contested shot and got a moment to breathe some sigh of relief that they had time to make up ground.

Only they did not.

The ball hit off the back iron toward the corner where there were no Magic players. Jalen Suggs was boxing out under the rim but was too slow to react. Jarrett Allen had already gotten there. Allen fired the ball to a streaking Max Strus as the defense collapsed to him.

He missed and Allen rebounded before sliding the ball to Evan Mobley for an easy layup as the Magic were powerless to stop him.

Good defense turned into a missed opportunity. All because Allen was the first to the glass. And the Cavs reaped the rewards to keep the Magic at bay.

Those were two of Allen's nine offensive rebounds in Cleveland's Game 2 victory. The Cavaliers grabbed 15 total offensive rebounds for 18 second-chance points.

It was the difference in the game for Cleveland as the team held on for a 97-87 victory to take a 2-0 series lead. Allen's presence on the inside has defined the series.

"I think about it like if I win my matchup, that's one out of five things to be done," Allen said after Monday's game. "If Donovan [Mitchell] wins his matchup that's two out of five. If I can do my part in terms of that, it helps propels us forward. Everyone says I played a big part in several parts with rebounding, blocking shots, defense. I just try to do my part. And that helps a lot."

Allen has won his match and more. He grabbed 20 rebounds in Game 2 on Monday after grabbing 18 in Game 1 on Saturday. Allen has owned that area of the game.

The raw numbers do not suggest Cleveland has completely owned the glass. But in a game with so few possessions and such limited scoring, the Magic need every rebound they can get. Allen has not allowed them to do so.

The Cavaliers have dominated the glass with a 30.6 offensive rebound rate. The Magic have done well too on the offensive glass with a 28.2 offensive rebound rate. And Cleveland only holds a 24-22 advantage on second-chance points.

But considering the Magic averaged 14.4 second-chance points per game and gave up only 12.1 second-chance points per game with a 73.7 percent defensive rebound rate (the second-best in the league). Allen's presence collecting offensive rebounds has been a major factor in Cleveland taking control of the series.

It is at least backbreaking for a team struggling to find much offense in this series. Rebounding is as much about effort as anything. And Allen is going for every loose ball. The Cavs as a team are the first to every critical rebound it seems.

Keeping Allen off the glass is a group effort. And Allen is taking advantage of the lapses.

"I wouldn't even say it's just on the bigs," Franz Wagner said after Monday's loss in Game 2. "A lot of times we're switching. The smaller guys defending Jarrett Allen under the basket. It just takes all five to come back and rebound. Really not more anybody can say. We've just got to do it."

Allen's impact on the glass was clear in Game 2.

But it is not just about his rebounding. It is what he represents in locking out the paint for a Magic team that relies so much on getting to the interior.

After averaging 51.8 points in the paint per game, the Magic are scoring only 34.0 points in the paint per game in the Playoffs. The Cavaliers have an 89.3 defensive rating with Allen on the floor in the series so far (Allen was at 110.7 in the regular season). The Magic have scored 25.0 points in the paint per game with Allen on the floor.

Between Jarrett Allen's rebounding and Evan Mobley roaming around the paint, the Cavs have locked out one of the biggest keys to the Magic generating offense.

"He's been phenomenal understanding what is necessary and going and doing whatever he can to impact it," Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after Monday's win. "We knew this series was going to be won on the interior. We knew that we were going to have to do a great job on the boards. On back-to-back nights, he has taken it upon himself to make sure we win that battle.

"We're not here without his effort. It's not easy in there. There's grabbing, holding, hitting, but somehow someway he comes up with the basketball whether it's offensive rebounds to give us extra possessions or closing possessions with a defensive rebound."

Allen has been the focus for the Cavs all season because of how he played in last year's playoffs. Much like the Cleveland Cavaliers are hounding the Orlando Magic in what is essentially their playoff debut, the New York Knicks embarrassed the Cavs last year in the Playoffs.

Allen averaged only 9.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in last year's five-game series with the Knicks. This was not his first Playoffs, but with Cleveland investing so much in size, the way Cleveland struggled on the interior and on the glass stood out.

This was the gauntlet thrown down to Allen in this series. And one everyone on the Cavs expected him to respond to and step up with after averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during the season.

Allen and the Cavs are the ones dictating play.

"We learned that in our first playoffs," Allen said after Monday's win. "If you are physical with them and you make every single play difficult, you are going to wear the other team down and that's when they are going to make mistakes. We know when we go to their place, they are going to be a completely different team. They are going to have their home crowd behind them. They don't want to go down 3-0. They are going to come at us the way we've come at them."

The Magic have to find a way to respond.

Their center position is in flux with the team opting to start Jonathan Isaac at center for just the second and third time this season in this series.

The Magic's hope that Isaac would hold his own defensively on the interior (he still is blocking shots, for whatever that is worth) and spread the floor to pull Allen out of the paint has not panned out. Isaac is just 3 for 11 from three, including 1 for 7 in Game 2.

Allen is able to stay in the lane and be a deterrent for this Magic team trying to get into the lane or challenge the paint.

"He's just in the paint just dominating," Evan Mobley said after Monday's game. "You can't really explain it. He goes in there, does his job, gets his work done and gets out. This is expected from him. He's one of those players who can do that night in and night out. We just want him to keep carrying that and everyone elevate their game as he did."

That is probably the simple way to define Allen and the Cavs' dominance. The Magic are still defending well for long stretches, holding the Cavs to less than 100 points in each game. But Cleveland has done its job far more effectively than Orlando's players have done its job. The Cavs' players are winning their matchups.

Orlando seemingly simply has to put a body on Jarrett Allen to neutralize him on the glass -- something both Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter said after Monday's game. The Magic have to find a way to finish these plays and finish possessions.

Next. Magic total team effort 04.23.24. Orlando Magic need total team effort to top Cavs. dark

Allen has given the Cavs the little extra they needed. He has been the factor that has allowed the Cavs to lead wire-to-wire and keep the Magic frustrated.