NBA Playoffs Opening Round: Magic at Cavaliers Game 1 Preview

Prime Upset Spot For Magic In Game One

The “real” NBA playoffs — not including the Play-In Tournament — tips off on Saturday afternoon in Cleveland as the Magic visit the Cavaliers. This might not be the most highly anticipated series of the 1st round but it is an intriguing matchup of NBA teams that are defense-first, a rarity among good teams in today’s NBA.

The Magic vs Cavaliers betting lines are very much skewed in favor of Cleveland, which is -190 on the moneyline while Orlando is a +163 underdog. The Cavaliers are -4.5 point favorites on the spread.

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Only one game separated these teams in the NBA standings during the regular season so it is interesting why Vegas has so much more faith in the Cavaliers than the Magic.

Orlando may have arrived a season earlier than most people expected, winning 47 games in large part due to a legitimate superstar turn by Paolo Banchero that was aided by continued development from the rest of the young roster. The Magic are a deep team that just hasn’t played any NBA playoff games as a group.

That inexperience surely won’t be easy to overcome against veteran group in the Cavaliers, which lost to the Knicks last season in five NBA games in the first round. Cleveland is still smarting after that disappointing exit and will be desperate to finally get out of the opening round for the first time since 2018 when LeBron was still around.

There is also an urgency to do so in order to keep Donovan Mitchell committed to Cleveland instead of seeking a trade elsewhere before he can become a free agent after next season.

Magic logo Magic vs Cavaliers Cavaliers logo

Day/Time:
Location: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

As Mitchell Goes, The Cavs Go

For much of the season, Cleveland looked poised to nab the No. 2 seed in the East behind the clear top team, the Boston Celtics.

But, Mitchell bruised his knee and broke his nose so he was in and out of the lineup often after the All-Star break and that, coupled with Evan Mobley spraining his ankle, made it tough for the Cavaliers to establish a groove.

They went just 12-17 after returning from the break and have not come close to resembling the team it was earlier in the year.

A lot of that can be attributed to Mitchell’s injuries because while he has had a great season as usual, the Cavaliers need him to routinely be the best NBA player on the floor if they’re going to beat good teams.

The Magic vs Cavaliers betting lines certainly expect him to be in this series but Cleveland doesn’t have much room for error because they struggle to get consistent scoring when Mitchell is not locked in. Darius Garland has taken a bit of a step back and Mobley is a solid scorer but not a go-to guy.

Mitchell can lead Cleveland to a series win against Orlando. However, the Magic are an elite defensive team — they’re second in the NBA in defensive rating — and you can be sure that they’ll pull out all the stops to force other Cavaliers to shoulder the scoring load, be it Garland, Mobley, sharpshooter Max Strus (who has turned into a good passer) or Caris LeVert.

The great players find a way, though, and Mitchell has to do that for the Cavs’ sake if they want to outperform their low NBA Finals odds.

Orlando’s Strength Is Depth

While the Magic have an All-NBA caliber player in Banchero, the reason this team was able to over-perform so much because Jamahl Mosley can run a 10- or 11-deep rotation when the occasion calls for it.

Granted, that usually isn’t done too often Orlando has a ton of useful depth which allows the Magic to change up their playing style and rotation depending on who their opponent is.

This versatility served Orlando well during the NBA regular season but it remains to be seen how effective that plan is in the playoffs for a best-of-seven series.

The Magic vs Cavaliers betting lines clearly don’t think Orlando has much of a chance here but the Magic deserve more respect than that. Banchero is an elite scorer, rebounder and passer and guys like Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony and on all play well off of him on offense and, on defense, they pretty much all hold their own weight.

There’s no question that Orlando can hang with Cleveland on that end of the floor but, if Orlando has to fight back from behind and outscore Cleveland, then the Magic will be in trouble.

A major concern is that Orlando’s lack of three-point shooting — the Magic made the fewest threes in the league, took the second-fewest three-point attempts and were 24th in three-point percentage — will hold them back and the NBA basketball lines agree.

In today’s NBA, being as paint-focused on offense as the Magic are can make it difficult to win in general but especially in the playoffs where point totals are lower and defensive intensity increases.

Take The Under And Orlando

Unsurprisingly, the total is a pretty low 207.5 point and the under (at -110) is the right call. Consider going with the under and the Magic as the moneyline underdog.

Underdogs tend to do well in Game 1 of first round series, relative to their value, and Orlando matches up well. Winning a whole series is another matter but, for the opening game, the Magic at +163 is enticing.

For NBA betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.


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