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What was behind the Cavs' Game 5 win? Can they do it again in Orlando? –Terry Pluto

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Some thoughts on the Cavs' Magic game Friday at 7 p.m. in Orlando. The Cavs lead the best-of-seven series 3-2:

THE CAVS AND THE REGULAR SEASON

When it comes to playoff pressure, it's been up to the Cavs and coach JB Bickerstaff for the past year.

To be precise, as of April 26, 2023, when the season ended with a 106-95 loss to New York at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The game knocked the Cavs out of the first round of the playoffs, a series they lost 4-1.

One part of the 2023-24 regular season felt like a long wait – the 2024 playoffs. For many fans and members of the media, the regular season seemed irrelevant due to the 2023 playoff mess.

That's a miserable view, also because it takes away the fun of the Cavs' 48:34 result and fourth place in the playoffs. It also ignores the fact that the regular season can make or break a team in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff rallied his team to win Game 5 against Orlando.

THEY WERE READY

Tuesday's 104-103 victory over Orlando in Game 5 of this first-round series was the result of what the team went through during the regular season.

A few hours before tipoff, the Cavs knew that star center Jarrett Allen would be out (bruised ribs). He had been the team's most consistent player in the first four games.

For the Cavs, this was a season where they found a way to win without key players. Consider these names and the number of games they missed: Evan Mobley (32), Donovan Mitchell (27), Darius Garland (25) and Max Strus (12).

Bickerstaff and his coaching staff received little credit for handling all the lineup changes. They used 22 different starting combinations this season.

Before Tuesday night, Allen had played in 81 straight games this season. He missed the first five games of the regular season and has been on the roster ever since.

Over the last three years, the Cavs had a 125-76 regular season record with Allen in the lineup, 18-27 when he was injured.

Bickerstaff has reshuffled the lineup. The two-meter-tall Mobley took over the center position for Allen. The Cavs went with the undersized Isaac Okoro (6-6) at Mobley's power forward position.

Bickerstaff changed his rotation (Finally!) and replaced the struggling Georges Niang (5 of 22 shots, including 1 of 11 on 3-pointers) with Marcus Morris Sr. That paid off in Game 5. Morris finished with 12 points in 26 minutes for Cleveland, outscoring Orlando by eight points on the court.

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley experienced some frustrating moments in his team's Game 5 loss to the Cavs.

HOW TO START

By the time Cavs fans arrived, they were already battling a sense of doom. Her team left Cleveland with a 2-0 lead in the series. They returned home after losing two games in Orlando by a total of 61 points.

Suddenly it was 2:2. Orlando felt some of the magic that made it one of the NBA's young surprise teams. The Cavs were without Allen.

“Do you think the crowd will boo if the Cavs get off to a bad start?” a friend asked me.

“If they play like they did in Orlando – probably,” I said.

Instead, the Cavs took a 33-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. The crowd was loud. The crowd was hopeful. The audience made the difference.

“You can’t start by losing 10 (points),” Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said in his postgame news conference.

What does Orlando have to do in Game 6?

“We have to take care of home court,” Mosley said. “We have to strike the first blow.”

So far, the home team has won every game in the series.

The Cavs defended and forced 14 turnovers in Orlando, which led to 17 Cleveland points.

WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE

During the playoffs, it's easy to scrutinize the team you're following. But it's also insightful to hear what the opposing team says.

“Their offensive rebounds led to more possessions,” Mosley said after Game 5. “We were 22 of 29 at the foul line and missed too many free throws. “We committed 14 turnovers, which led to 17 points (for Cleveland).”

Orlando expected to own the rebound, especially with Cleveland missing Allen (averaging 14 rebounds in the playoffs).

In the two games in Orlando, the Magic owned the boards by a combined margin of 94-61.

In Game 5, the Magic had a 43-39 lead on the boards, but a closer look was more revealing.

As reader James Kimbler emailed, the Cavs had an 11-6 advantage in second-chance points. They outscored Orlando in the paint 42-30. I include a 19-7 advantage in fast break points, forced turnovers and defensive rebounds for the Cavs.

Evan Mobley blocks a shot from Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. Mobley had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

MOBLEY WILL BE ALL

The Cavs knew Orlando would challenge Mobley physically, pushing him out of rebounding position and trying to wear him down.

Mobley delivered a typical Allen performance: 14 points, 13 rebounds and 7 of 11 shots.

His block of Franz Wagner's layup in the final seconds of the game secured the victory for the Cavs.

“Mobley just had a great game at the rim,” Mosley said.

Mobley couldn't always compete against Wagner, but that was often the case in the two games in Orlando. Wagner averaged 25 points and shot 63%.

Mobley averaged 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 43% shooting in the two losses to Orlando.

But in Game 5, Wagner had a dismal night. He was 3 of 11 shooting and had 14 points and five rebounds.

WHAT'S NEXT?

It probably won't be clear until closer to the game whether Allen will play in Game 6. Let's assume he won't, which means Morris and Okoro will both step in at power forward again. Mobley will be the focus.

Can the Cavs attack the boards with their smaller lineup like they did in Cleveland?

“It would come down to the trenches,” Bickerstaff said after Game 5. “It would come down to who would be able to get a stop in the moment.” Evan was phenomenal defensively — challenging the ball, stopping shots , forced misses and rebounded.”

Mosley offered these thoughts on the Cavs' winning performance:

“They fought. They didn't let themselves be disturbed. They showed a certain level of composure. They put pressure on our defense with Garland and Mitchell,” he said. “They showed how to care about the home game and we need to do the same.”

Now the Cavs have to do the same on the road — and win the series.

Anna Harden

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