Dribbles: Can Cavs Finally Put It All Together, End Series vs. Magic in Six?

Random dribbles ahead of the Cavaliers’ Game 6 playoff matchup vs. the Magic, Friday in Orlando. …Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. Over the past 24 hours, just about everyone I know has asked. “Can the Cavs finally end this thing??” 

2. Yeah, well, I have no idea. How’s that for some riveting expert analysis?

3. Most fans seemed to expect the Cavs to blow out Orlando in Game 5 in Cleveland. Final score: Cavaliers 104, Magic 103.

4. Translation: It was the opposite of a blowout. This after the Cavs were routed twice in Orlando. And now they’re going back. Gulp.

5. For the record, I sort of figured Game 5 would indeed be close once I learned Jarrett Allen was out with bruised ribs. Allen has been the Cavs’ most consistent and perhaps best player in the series, along with Donovan Mitchell.

6. Mitchell was great in the first half of Game 4, scoring 18 points. Then he had zero in the second half. He promised to be better. And he did score 28 in the Game 5 win, though I’m not sure he was better. He was really good at times, but not-so-good at many others.

7. I think the Cavs and their fans would just like to experience a complete game. When was the last time we saw one? Maybe that must-win against the Indiana Pacers in the second-to-last game of the regular season? 

8. Basically, the Cavs are ahead in the series, 3-2, and can close it out Friday. That is indeed all that matters. Period, end of discussion. Survive and advance, baby. But we’re five games into the playoffs and I still feel something is a little off with this team. I still feel as if they should be playing better, more consistently at both ends.

9. I really didn’t like how the wheels came off in Games 3 and 4. No disrespect to the Magic, but inexperienced teams aren’t supposed to be that dominant in the postseason, for even one game. The Magic have done it twice.

10. After Games 1 and 2, I felt that the Magic looked overmatched. Remember how they didn’t have a lead for a single second in either game? If not, I don’t blame you. It’s easy to forget because the Cavs haven’t been the same since.

11. Darius Garland was undoubtedly better in Game 5. He came out confident and attacking. The Cavs will need more of that in Game 6. While this team often goes as Mitchell goes, Garland needs to be at his best — or close to it — for the Cavs to win on the road.

12. The Cavs sure could also use more of Max Strus, who really came around offensively in the second half of Game 5. Strus has been playing his tail off in every area, so he deserves lots of credit for that. For starters, the poor guy has to defend 6-foot-10 Franz Wagner. But the Cavs need Strus to make perimeter shots, too. It’s a big ask — but it’s why they traded for him.

13. It wouldn’t hurt for Caris LeVert to start playing like Caris LeVert again, either. He has really struggled in this series, and one year after arguably being the Cavs’ best playoff performer (vs. New York).

14. Look, I’m not trying to pick on anybody here. But there have been some individual postseason disappointments. Most experts had the Cavs advancing fairly easily. They’re the more experienced team and the better team on paper. They also finished with a better record.

15. The Magic are partially responsible for this series resembling a back-and-forth prize fight. They have been remarkably determined and confident. But the Cavs are partially responsible, too. At times, they’ve been their own worst enemy. Too often if you ask me.

16. Should the Cavs win Friday, they’ll open the second round at Boston on Sunday. Should they lose, Game 7 vs. the Magic will be Sunday afternoon in Cleveland. Should the Cavs lose both … oh boy. I won’t even want to read my mentions. You might be surprised how much blame I take when things go badly for your Cleveland Cavaliers.

17. Anyway, I also know that my readers demand a prediction. I don’t know yet if Allen will play. Not to downplay his injury, but I believe he’ll give it a go. That’s entirely baseless speculation on my part, by the way. Allen did not practice Thursday. If he does play, he’ll have to wear protective padding, coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

18. But if Allen does play, I’ll say the Cavs will win. (Not that his presence in Games 3 and 4 made much of a difference.) 

19. Maybe this will be the game that the Cavaliers put it all together and the Magic look like a young team again, and it will be over. So yes, I’ll take the Cavs, but I have very little confidence in that pick. If they play like they have been since Game 3 … well, let there be no doubt, we will see a Game 7. But I’m going to say here it won’t be necessary. Yeah, gulp.

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