Orlando Magic's players, Jamahl Mosley offer keys to Game 6

The Orlando Magic take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 on Friday night. At this point, the battle lines are drawn and the game will come down to execution to extend the season.
The Orlando Magic return home facing a do-or-die Game 6 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The pressure is on this young Magic team to deliver one more win to extend the series.
The Orlando Magic return home facing a do-or-die Game 6 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The pressure is on this young Magic team to deliver one more win to extend the series. / Rich Storry/GettyImages

At this time of the series, the battle lines are drawn.

The Orlando Magic know what the Cleveland Cavaliers are running and what they are trying to do. The Cavs know what the Magic are running and what they are trying to do. There are not really that many more adjustments to make. It is about going that last extra mile.

That was certainly the case in Game 5 as these two teams engaged in a defensive death struggle finally played a close game. The game may have turned on Paolo Banchero's decision to shoot a three with 90 seconds left, a timely dump down to Evan Mobley, a three by veteran Marcus Morris, a foul that should have been called or that Mobley swat on Franz Wagner.

It was probably all of them. That is what happens in the Playoffs and in close games.

The reality now is that Orlando faces elimination on its home floor on Friday night. There is no more margin for error and no more lamenting a mistake late in a game or seeking to improve for the next one. It is win or go home.

What are the keys to a game with this immense pressure? How is the team feeling on this most important game day? What advice can they lean on to be ready for this must-win game?

"Be more of us. Be who we've been," coach Jamahl Mosley said of the team's approach to this pressure-packed game after shootaround Friday morning. "Understand what guys are capable of doing. Knowing we have been in these moments before. Before this series even started we had three Game 7s. Our ability to recognize and understand the importance and the magnitude of the game and embrace it and enjoy it and know exactly how we're capable of playing."

Orlando knows it still has the opportunity to win this series. After all, a series does not start until the road team wins. That has yet to happen. And the Magic's dominance at home is certainly a reason for this team to feel confident.

But as the team pointed out that last few days, past success is no guarantee for the future. They will still need their best to beat the Cavs. It is still about the things they have to do to win.

"I think we've just got to come out and execute, feed off the energy of our fans," Paolo Banchero said after shootaround Friday. "In terms of a gameplan, we have to defend the 3-point line a little better than we did last game. And also, clean up some of those 50/50 balls and opportunities we missed the last game."

Those have all been key factors throughout the series.

The Orlando Magic will lean on their reliable defense to carry them through Game 6

The Orlando Magic's defense has carried over from the regular season where they ranked third in the league. Orlando has a 98.9 defensive rating in the playoffs, the second-best in the postseason. In losses, even, the Magic are giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions, the best among teams in their losses.

The Magic's defense will be there and be something that can back the team up.

Still, defense will be a major focus. Mosley said when asked directly, The Magic will win if. . . "we defend the 3-point line, get back in transition, rebound the basketball and take care of the basketball."

All three of those will be keys.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled from beyond the arc in this series, shooting 28.7 percent from three on 31.4 attempts per game. But Cleveland finally had a breakthrough in Game 5, shooting 13 for 37 (35.1 percent). In a series of such narrow margins, that was a big factor.

So too will getting back in transition.

The team that has scored more fast-break points is 4-1 in this series. Cleveland had 19 fast-break points in its win in Game 5. With both teams trying to beat the other down the court to avoid playing against a set defense, who controls the tempo will have the inside track to the game.

And turnovers remain a huge factor for both teams.

Orlando has forced a 15.2 percent turnover rate while turning it over on 14.9 percent of its possessions. This is a major determining factor in games, especially if the teams can convert points off turnovers.

The Cavs scored 17 points off 14 turnovers in Game 5, proving to be a major determining factor in the game.

For the Orlando Magic to win, Paolo Banchero needs to carry the offensive load and limit his turnovers

About the only area Paolo Banchero has struggled in his postseason debut has been with his turnovers, where he is averaging about five per game. He had nine in the Game 1 loss, dulling a stellar Playoff debut. He had five in the critical Game 5 on Tuesday.

Orlando will need him to have a game similar to Game 3 when he scored 31 points without a turnover. Protecting the ball is paramount.

"You've got to take care of the ball for sure," Banchero said after shootaround Friday. "For me, it's being aggressive and when I have the shot just taking it. I think there were one or two plays the last game where I passed up a shot. Don't pass up any looks and take what the defense gives you."

That has been a consistent statement from Mosley throughout this series. The team that wins the possession battle — getting extra chances through offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers — is often the one that wins the game.

The teams know each other well by this point. And the difference in this kind of game may be will. Orlando and Cleveland have proven they can beat each other. The Magic played tight on the road and showed they can compete on the road. That is something the Cavs have yet to do.

In an even matchup, the margin between winning and losing is tight

Will that confidence carry the team in Game 6? Either way, everyone is expecting a tight contest. Both teams have plenty of motivation to win.

"We've done it time and time again," Jonathan Isaac said after shootaround Friday. "We did it against Milwaukee at home [in the regular season finale]. To be down 0-2 and to come here and get two games, that speaks to us being ready to play and not allowing ourselves to drown in the pressure, the theatrics and what everybody else is saying. I think it will be the same case tonight."

That is the greatest unknown. The one thing nobody really knows is how the Magic will respond to elimination. There is pressure in this game and little experience and know-how to draw on.

Isaac said Game 5 showed the Magic can perform under pressure, even though they fell short. It was only a few plays that proved to be the difference in that game. This game is not any different in his mind. The Magic showed they can win.

Even though few players have been in such pressure-packed games, every player has been in big games. This is the exact kind of game everyone lives to play.

That alone creates excitement and focus.

"It's the first time for us. But I don't think it's very surprising," Banchero said after shootaround Friday. "We have a lot of guys who are winners and have winning in their DNA. They have won in the past whether it was college, high school or other teams before us. I think guys are built for this moment. I think we're going to go out there and show it."

That is all that is left to do: To show it to the world.

The real key to Game 6 is to play well and give that extra effort to steal that important possession. Mosley said this group is special because they believe in each other and the work they have put in. They have looked more poised than their experience suggests because of all of that.

Jamahl Mosley Foundation 05.02.24. Jamahl Mosley's foundation helped Orlando Magic be their best. dark. Next

Orlando will need it all to extend this series Friday night.