Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic: Lineups, preview & prediction 2/6/18
After another disheartening loss against the NBA’s elite, the Cleveland Cavaliers face a crisis of confidence heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic.
It is a four-word sentence that is equal parts panic and possibility, and something that sounds unfathomable when it involves a team with the most transcendent player of his generation and perhaps all time in NBA history.
Yet “Blow up the Cavaliers” has become a legitimate talking point for fans and pundits alike 72 hours before the February 8 trade deadline. Cleveland (30-21) must figure out if they want to use the first-round pick they got from the Nets as part of the Kyrie Irving trade to shake up a listless team or if they will ride LeBron James’ coat tails as far as possible and hope it ends with a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.
That prospect, though, seems highly unlikely after Saturday night’s debacle, a 120-88 thrashing at home administered by Houston so unsightly owner Dan Gilbert left his courtside seat in the first half and did not return. It was the 12th loss in 18 games for the Cavaliers and their sixth by 14 or more points in that span.
While phrases “lack of toughness” were thrown around by everyone from coach Tyronn Lue to veteran Dwyane Wade, it is also clear Isaiah Thomas is not the explosive scorer he was before suffering a hip injury in last year’s postseason, and the overhaul of last season’s team with eight new faces has yet to create a cohesive unit.
In fact, with the Bucks rapidly closing following their coaching change, they have climbed within 1.5 games of Cleveland for the Central Division lead.
Orlando (16-36) have had a similar lack of defensive cohesion all season but made enough stops Monday night to escape Miami with a 111-109 victory. Mario Hezonja, part of a smaller lineup without the injured Aaron Gordon, scored 20 points as the Magic overcame an early 13-point deficit and nearly blew a 14-point lead in the second half before hanging on late with help of an overturned goaltending call with 1.8 second left that would have dropped the Magic into a tie.
Gordon, who has missed the last four games with a strained left hip flexor, is questionable for this game. The injury, though, has caused enough discomfort that Gordon has withdrawn from the Slam Dunk contest over All-Star weekend.