Cleveland Cavaliers secure key playoff edge
The Cleveland Cavaliers successfully held off a resilient Orlando Magic squad on the first night of a back-to-back series on the road to win, 117-1143. With their 50th win of the season, the young Cavs team clinched home-court advantage for the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Despite being out of the postseason race, the Magic refused to give an inch and fought their way through a neck-and-neck contest, but were unable to overcome the playoff-hungry Cavaliers squad led by the stellar Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell continues to break records as he led all scorers with 43 points in the night, marking four-straight 40-point games–also his 13th overall thus far in the season–and becoming the first to do so since former league MVP James Harden in 2018-19. Key reserve Caris LeVert provided a spark off the bench to add 19 markers for Cleveland.
On the other end, Magic’s Markelle Fultz led the team with 23 points, while rookie Paolo Banchero added 20 to go with 10 rebounds and four assists in the loss.
The Cavs could be peaking at the right time
After successfully clinching their first playoff spot in five years, Cleveland bolstered their chances for a deep postseason run after locking into the fourth seed and securing home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, which will have them face off against the New York Knicks if it started today.
With only two games remaining to play and a bleak prospect of overtaking the Philadelphia 76ers in third place, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the coaching staff may opt to begin applying “load management” for the key rotation guys in anticipation of their first Playoff series together.
It had been five years since Cleveland hosted a playoff series, and fans are undoubtedly both anxious and excited about it. It is also worth noting that while several players have postseason experience, none of them had been with the team that made the NBA Finals in 2018.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will remain in Central Florida for the second leg of the back-to-back against the Orlando Magic with less than 24 hours to spare.