The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a huge Game 5 victory in their first-round matchup against the Orlando Magic. They only need one more win to punch their ticket to the next round to face the Boston Celtics, but the Cavs know that winning in the Magic’s stomping grounds of Kia Arena is easier said than done. What lies ahead for the Cavs is a difficult task, especially amid the ongoing injury problems that’s been plaguing starting center Jarrett Allen.

Allen was absent during the Cavs’ crucial 104-103 victory over the Magic on Tuesday due to a rib injury, and it seems like he’s in danger of missing a second straight contest due to the same injury. Per Kendra Andrews of ESPN, the Cavs have listed Allen as “questionable” on the injury report.

It’s a concern as well that, as per Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff, Jarrett Allen was not able to practice on Thursday night. Instead, the 26-year old center only underwent treatment and rehab as he tries to play through injury in Game 6.

Allen was phenomenal for the Cavs in the four games he suited up in; in fact, he has been their best and most consistent player in the series by a mile. He has been the Cavs’ most consistent player, as he is averaging 17.0 points and 13.8 rebounds in 31.8 minutes a night; he has been a matchup nightmare for the Magic, forcing them to start Wendell Carter Jr. instead of Jonathan Isaac.

His health is the number one priority, but the Cavs will be needing his services if they were to withstand a strong push from a desperate Magic team in Game 6. Allen is crucial to the Cavs’ bid to win the rebounding and paint points battle, and it’ll be interesting to see if Cleveland manages to put up a better effort on the road on Friday night.

Jarrett Allen’s health is priority number one

It’s the playoffs, so players are more willing to put their bodies on the line and play through injury, as it’s put up or shut up time. Jarrett Allen has a point to prove as well, as he became the butt of all jokes when he admitted that the lights became too bright for him and the Cavs in their disappointing playoff showing last year.

Nevertheless, Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff wants to make sure that Allen can perform at his best despite his nagging rib injury. After all, he will be absorbing plenty of contact against a team that butters its bread in the paint, and one of the foremost shock absorbers of the body is the chest.

“Your trunk or your core, if you can’t shift and get out of people’s way or do certain things, it could put you in positions where it’s not safe for you to be out there. We just want to make sure he’s in the best position possible,” Bickerstaff said, via ESPN.

Jarrett Allen was the Cavs’ iron man this past season; he played in 77 regular season games and was the key component that held the team together amid injuries to Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland. Bickerstaff knows how that Allen’s importance goes beyond his gaudy rebound totals and stellar field-goal percentage.

“He’s been the guy, when we are at our best, is having a quiet impact a lot of the time which people don’t pay attention to. … He’s the quiet glue that helps us all be better,” Bickerstaff added.

Cavs hold the fort amid Allen’s absence

Thankfully for the Cavs, Jarrett Allen’s absence did not mean death, as they had a more than capable player of stepping up at the center spot in Evan Mobley. There is an argument to be made that Mobley’s eventual home will be the center position, and in Game 5, Mobley showed why.

Mobley stole the show with his clutch defensive performance; he switched onto Franz Wagner and swatted his shot convincingly after the Magic forward forced up the layup with his strong hand. Mobley is a more switchable defender than Allen is, and the Cavs benefitted from the additional spacing Allen’s absence opened up.

In Allen’s stead, the Cavs relied on Marcus Morris Sr. in crunch time; Morris has lost a step or two since his best days in the postseason in 2021 with the Los Angeles Clippers, but his defensive grit and difficult shot-making was crucial in holding the Magic at bay.

The Cavs are a much better defensive team with Jarrett Allen on board. But they are not toast even if he ends up missing Game 6. They have stumbled upon a recipe for success, and they’re likely to stick with it as they try to dispatch of the Magic for good.