The first-round, Eastern Conference matchup between the no. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers and no. 5 Orlando Magic have taken a backseat to other series, perhaps rightfully so – at least on paper. Both are not among the biggest names in the postseason, with the Magic having a young squad filled with playoff debutants.

It didn’t help that the first two games transpired like many expected. The more-experienced Cavs won Games 1 and 2 with scores of 97-83 and 96-86, respectively, showcasing a more polished play on both ends of the floor.

Quickly, though, we were reminded that NBA Playoffs have become more unpredictable in recent years. With many thinking the team is inching towards irrelevancy, the Magic fired back in consecutive outings, reminding everyone that they finished fourth in points allowed and second in defensive rating.


The 0-2 hole proved to be just a number as Orlando came out wild in Game 3. The group went into halftime up, 61-45, and turned it up another notch higher in the third quarter, outsourcing Cleveland, 35-16, and holding them to just 5-of-19 shooting in the frame. 

The game ended in a 121-83 throttling, and while it was a collectively smooth performance by the team, and Jalen Suggs deserves a shoutout for posting 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, All-Star Paolo Banchero was the clear headliner as he dropped 31 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists with no turnovers in his home playoff debut. It was one more encouraging sign that the 21-year-old is shaping up to be a franchise cornerstone.

He did an NBA-first too:

For those that thought Game 3 was only due to the team and crowd’s excitement for its 2024 postseason home debut, Game 4 was a probable response. Though starting out slow, which included trailing in double digits and going to the break, 60-51, the third period once again proved to be the ‘Magic’ quarter, as if circling its wand to neutralize the helpless Cavs.

The Magic dominated the frame, going +27 on points (37-10), courtesy of one punishing attack and defensive stop after another, eventually bringing it into a back-to-back one-sided final score, 121-83. More importantly, though, they are officially back in business as the series is knotted at two games apiece.

Banchero performed defensively, but he didn’t have a good day scoring as he shot 4-of-14 for nine points. Fortunately, the rest were there to pick up the slack. It was also his main partner in crime, no. 2 scorer Franz Wagner, who took his turn at bullying the Cavaliers. The former Michigan Wolverine mirrored Banchero’s previous statline by also brandishing a strong double-double without committing a single turnover, putting up 34 points and 13 rebounds on an efficient 13-of-17 shooting.

It should be interesting to see how well can the two young studs carry such momentum, especially on a very pivotal Game 5 on the road, though regardless, they will need ample help from the supporting cast, which they got on both occasions. If Game 3 had Suggs, Game 4 had Jonathan Isaac, who chipped in 14 points, seven boards, two blocks, and four threes in 20 quality minutes.

Lastly, the defense has to stay focused. They did a fantastic job over these last two games as Cavs star and scorer extraordinaire Donovan Mitchell was limited to 15.5 PPG on 36.6 FG% (11-of-30) in Games 3 and 4. He is sure to be aggressive in making up for consecutive duds.

Game 5 will be this coming Tuesday, April 30th (Manila time), and it’s bound to be a war. It’s time for the Magic to show up on the road and prove they are ready to win this series.