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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 21, 2024 4:24 pm

Cavs resume vs. Magic, look to ‘habits’ to maintain top form

Cavaliers, Magic

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the NBA’s hottest team heading into the All-Star break and aim to pick up where they left off when they return to action on Thursday, hosting the Orlando Magic.

Cleveland went into the break a winner in 18 of its last 20 games. The surge pushed the Cavaliers into second place in the Eastern Conference.

“Habits,” Donovan Mitchell said following the All-Star Game in response to what would be most important to Cleveland continuing its success. “This run we’re on is great. We came into the break 18-2, so that’s great, but at the end of the day, our foundation, our habits and continuing to be consistent no matter what.”

Mitchell, Cleveland’s lone selection to the All-Star Game, has done his part in establishing the Cavaliers’ consistency as the most reliable offensive weapon. He is averaging 28.4 points and 6.3 assists per game, both team-highs.

Mitchell also buoyed Cleveland amid an injury-riddled stretch in which key contributors Darius Garland missed 19 games (Dec. 16-Jan. 29) with a broken jaw, and Evan Mobley missed 22 games (Dec. 8-Jan. 26) with a knee injury.

Garland played in all nine games from his Jan. 31 return to the All-Star break, averaging 12.7 points and six assists per game over that period. Mobley appeared in nine of 10 games since his return and recorded 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest.

Mobley has five double-doubles since undergoing knee surgery, complementing frontcourt mate Jarrett Allen.

Allen, who is averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, broke the Cavaliers’ franchise record for consecutive double-doubles with 16 straight from Dec. 23 through Jan. 31. The previous mark was 12.

Orlando, which went into the break on something of a hot streak of its own, looks to begin its late season push against this Cleveland lineup that has its primary starting rotation back intact.

The Magic won seven of 10 going into the break, capped with a 118-100 defeat of New York on Feb. 14.

Second-year forward Paolo Banchero went into his first career All-Star appearance with a 36-point, six-rebound, five-assist showing against the Knicks. Banchero’s nine rebounds off the bench for the Eastern Conference All-Stars were the game high.

Banchero is averaging team-highs of 23 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists to pace Orlando, which is just five victories shy of the franchise’s highest season wins total since 2018-19. That was also the last campaign in which the Magic qualified for the postseason.

“It’s great for our group to understand what we’re capable of doing, knowing you’re in that hunt, knowing you’re in that fight, and being able to recognize that you can control a lot of that,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said at Tuesday’s media availability.

Thursday’s meeting with Cleveland opens a three-game road trip to begin Orlando’s back-half of the campaign and is the last of four games between the teams. Cleveland took two of the first three, including the most recent, a 126-99 rout on Jan. 22.

–Field Level Media

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