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May 2, 2024 4:43 pm

Magic take maturity into must-win Game 6 vs. Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell

Although the Orlando Magic may be considered a relatively young team, that topic has grown old to Joe Ingles.

Ingles, in fact, isn’t interested in how age may play a factor as the Magic look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first-round series versus the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Cleveland holds a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I got to the point probably halfway through the year — but even more now — I hate this ‘young’ slogan,” the Magic’s 36-year-old said following Orlando’s 104-103 loss in Game 5 on Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter how young you are.

“It’s the connectivity and guys improving and continuing to get better. Yeah, there’ll be some situations guys haven’t been in, but everyone in this room has played in a big game at some point, or a knock-out game or some level of pretty high-level basketball.”

Outside of Ingles, the Magic’s oldest player is Gary Harris (29). They featured just four players with postseason experience prior to this series.

Yet, the 21-year-old Paolo Banchero and the 22-year-old Franz Wagner have managed to lead by example for Orlando. Banchero is contributing 24.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in the series, while Wagner is adding 20.0 and 7.4, respectively.

The home team has won each game in the series, and should Orlando hold serve Friday, that would force the franchise’s first Game 7 since 2009.

Cleveland is bidding to win a playoff series for the first time since 2018. Of course, that was a different time for the Cavaliers as they finished a run of four consecutive NBA Finals appearances during LeBron James’ second stint with the franchise.

Donovan Mitchell is steering the ship now and doing a nice job. He erupted for 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday to send the Cavaliers to their third straight home victory of the series.

“Got to do it again on the road,” Mitchell said. “We won at home. We took care of business at home. We did our job. This doesn’t prove anything. We haven’t proven anything. We haven’t done anything. Got to go down there and handle business.”

The health of Jarrett Allen remains the biggest talking point in Cleveland. Considered the team’s glue guy because he holds it all together, Allen sat out Tuesday due to a bruised rib he sustained in the second half of the Cavaliers’ 112-89 loss to Orlando in Game 4.

In Game 5, the Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley collected 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks — including a rejection of an attempted layup by Wagner with five seconds remaining in regulation.

“We miss Jarrett a lot,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We knew we were going to have to pick up that slack. We know how Jarrett anchors our defense, and Evan was going to have to do that (in Game 5). I thought he was phenomenal.”

Allen has averaged 17.0 points and 13.8 rebounds in four games of the series.

–Field Level Media

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