Pregame: What to Watch For, Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
The Orlando Magic suffered their first loss of the season last night at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. Tonight the Magic face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the second night of a back to back.
After a rough night in Brooklyn, the Orlando Magic are moving on to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Orlando played Cleveland in the last preseason game but this time will be a little different. Cleveland was without two of their starters in the preseason as Lebron James and Kevin Love sat out. This will be another test for Orlando as they regroup after a loss. Here are a few things to keep an eye on tonight.
Return to Up-Tempo
The Orlando Magic failed to get their up-tempo offense going last night against the Nets. Most of the offensive production came in half-court sets. This was partially due to the absence of Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton(for the second half). Payton sustained a hamstring injury late in the second quarter so his return tonight is doubtful. Gordon will be a game-time decision again just like yesterday. Regardless of if Payton or Gordon are in the lineup tonight, the Magic need to play fast. Individually they are not great shooters. Playing fast helps to suck the defense into the paint on penetration to allow space for shooting after a kick out. Look for Orlando to pick up the pace tonight and get back to playing fast.
Sorta Small Ball
The Cleveland Cavaliers are running a small ball starting lineup, with Kevin Love at Center and Jae Crowder at Power Forward. The Magic’s normal starting 5 is more traditional with Nikola Vucevic at Center. But as we learned from last night Vucevic is not afraid to play on the perimeter. Orlando might use a variation of their small lineup while still having a Vucevic or Biyombo playing Center. Having Mario Hezonja or Jonathon Simmons in at “power forward” to defend Jae Crowder or Jeff Green is not a stretch. Vucevic can play center versus Love and Biyombo can play center versus Tristan Thompson. Look for Orlando to run a small lineup tonight to match Cleveland.
Point Guard Play
Both the Magic and Cavaliers will be without their starting point guards. The reserves for both teams will need to step up to the challenge. For the Cavaliers, Jose Calderon will get the start in place of Derrick Rose. DJ Augustin will replace Elfrid Payton for Orlando. Augustin will be backed up by Shelvin Mack. The loss of Elfrid Payton is a major blow to the Orlando Magic. Payton is the engine that drives the team. He makes a. Instant effort to get the ball up the court before the defense is set. Augustin and Mack will need to keep Orlando pushing the ball up court. On the defensive end, Payton is long and pesky. He disrupts passing lanes and causes turnovers to start a fast break. While Derrick Rose will not be on the court, Calderon is still a capable point guard option and should not be taken lightly. The Magic know this too well as Calderon poured in 18 points and went 4-6 from deep in the last preseason game against Orlando.