Many believed that the Cleveland Cavaliers drew one of the easiest possible first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference when they secured a 4/5 tussle against the Orlando Magic. So far, through the first two games of the season, that has turned out to be true. The Magic have struggled to generate much offense, and the Cavs, despite not shooting too well themselves, have displayed just enough firepower to secure two double-digit victories, coming within two wins to advance to the second round for the first time since 2018.

However, even though the first two games have mostly been a breeze for the Cavs, they know better than to take this young Magic team lightly. For starters, Jarrett Allen warned his teammates that the Magic will perform much better at home. After all, this is supported by regular season data. They won 29 home games compared to only 18 on the road, so everyone should expect the Magic to play much better in the friendly confines of Kia Center.

“We know when we go to their place, they’re going to be a completely different team. They’re going to have their home crowd behind them. They don’t want it to get to 3-0. They’re just going to try to come at us like we’ve been doing to them,” Allen said following the Cavs’ Game 2 win, via ESPN.

For the Cavs, it’s clear that they’re still not playing their best basketball. That should be cause for comfort; after all, teams would much rather play meh basketball in wins rather than have it cost them a few playoff games.

“We did some good things. I’m not mad at the way we played, but we can be better,” Cavs star man Donovan Mitchell added.

This is a good mindset for the Cavs to have. It doesn’t seem like they are affected by the pressure of being the favorite to take home the series, and they have a golden opportunity to virtually put the series beyond any reasonable doubt when they take on the Magic in Game 3 on Thursday.

Cavs stifle the Magic’s offense

Among all teams that made the playoffs, the Magic posted the worst offensive rating. They scored only 112.9 points per 100 possessions, and their struggles mostly boiled down to the fact that they don’t exactly have an inspiring bunch of floor-spacers. For starters, the Magic finished the season with the fewest made threes among every NBA team, with Orlando making it a point to attack the paint and capitalize on opponent turnovers.

During the regular season, the Magic finished fifth in the league in rate of points scored in the paint per game, and they finished second in points off turnovers. But this is where it gets interesting; the Magic, despite being a young team, didn’t like to run much, ranking 27th in the league in fastbreak points per game, and they ranked 23rd in points per possession after an opponent’s made basket, which meant that they struggled to generate much offense both in transition and in the halfcourt.

The Cavs, to their credit, have exposed the Magic’s weaknesses on offense. Their personnel has allowed them to do so. Given the Magic’s emphasis on attacking the rim, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen’s paint protection skills have allowed Cleveland to thrive.

Through the first two games, the Cavs have held the Magic to a putrid 34.3 percent shooting from the field (57/166). The Cavs have also the battle in the paint, outscoring them in the shaded lane 84-68 through the first two games, while putting up a much better fight on the glass than they did last year against the New York Knicks, outrebounding them 102-81 thus far.

It has been a thorough display of dominance from the Cavs, and yet, as Donovan Mitchell said, they still have plenty of room to get better as the series goes on.

Will Cleveland’s offense wake up on the road?

The Cavs’ offense has been up and down for most of the season; they haven’t had any sort of consistency in terms of lineups thanks to injuries to Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland, and as a result, their 8th-ranked offense in 2023 fell to 16th in 2024.

But given the Cavs’ personnel, there’s no reason to expect them to continue shooting just 42.9 percent from the field for the rest of the series — especially when Mobley has made plenty of strides with his shooting from beyond the arc. Last year, the Knicks packed the paint and exposed Mobley’s shooting struggles; this time, the Magic cannot.

Mobley has been especially on fire from deep since his return from injury on March 24, 2024. In the final 12 games of the regular season, Mobley shot 45.8 percent from deep, and he finished the 2023-24 season with a much-improved 37.3 percent from beyond the arc. These improvements have translated to the first two games of their series against the Magic.

The 22-year old big has made three of his eight attempts from deep thus far in the first round — a major development for the Cavs’ offense. This allows Jarrett Allen more room for his rolls towards the rim and more space for Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to work their magic off the dribble. Combine that with the improved floor-spacing brought by Max Strus, fans should expect Cleveland to score much better moving forward even against a tough Magic defense that finished the season third in defensive rating.