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Cavaliers still have home-court advantage; Does anyone feel comfortable with that? | Opinion

Apr. 27—Welp, at least the Cavaliers still have home-court advantage in their best-of-seven series with the Orlando Magic.

But who among us feels completely comfortable about that?

If your hand is in the air, put it down, because you're lying.

Thanks to another third-quarter abomination, the Cavaliers head back from Orlando tied at two games apiece in their Eastern Conference playoff series on April 27 after a 112-89 thrashing.

Cleveland was outscored by Orlando, 35-16, in the third quarter en route to a 121-83 whipping at the hands of the Magic in Game 3. The Cavaliers followed that by being outscored, 37-10, in the third quarter in Game 4 to erase what was a promising 60-51 halftime lead.

Not sure what's going on in the halftime locker rooms in this series, but it is evident Orlando is making better use of its time than the Cavaliers are.

Cleveland better figure it out because it's now a best-of-three series. And while two of them are potentially in Cleveland, including a must-win April 30 showdown at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, there is zero doubt that the momentum in this series resides with the fifth-seeded Magic and not the fourth-seeded Cavaliers.

That the Cavaliers got dusted as badly as they did in Game 4 is somewhat unfathomable at halftime when the Cavaliers had a 60-51 lead and looked like it had regained the offensive swagger it had been missing while retaining its defensive strength by limiting Magic star Paolo Bachero (31 points in Game 3) to five points in the first half.

Donovan Mitchell had 18 points and five tremendous dimes, Jarrett Allen had 16 points and Evan Mobley had 12. Heading to the locker room, there was a feeling that the Cavaliers had put Game 3 behind them. It couldn't get worse than THAT.

Uh, yeah.

Only 4 minutes, 50 seconds elapsed in the third before the Cavs lost their lead on a Franz Wagner 3-point play.

Orlando was aggressive taking the ball right at the Cavaliers' defense, hammered 3-pointers — such as Wendell Carter's back-to-back triples that made it 74-67 for a 23-7 run — and muscled up the Cavs by not giving them any open looks.

At one point, Cleveland's Darius Garland and Orlando's Jaylen Suggs found each other face-to-face barking at each other, and Suggs was literally laughing at Garland as if he was saying, "We've got you guys! We've got you guys!"

Whatever changes Orlando made at halftime worked. Whatever changes Cleveland made at halftime — if there were any — didn't.

Again.

The Cavaliers went to Orlando leading the series, 2-0. They promptly left the Sunshine State with a 38-point loss and a 23-point loss in which they scored a grand total of 29 points after intermission. Aside from the first two quarters of Game 4, the other six quarters in Florida were abysmal.

The good news is that the Cavaliers come back to Cleveland still holding home-court advantage. But they have a lot to figure out, such as how to sustain offensive flow for four quarters. Cleveland still hasn't topped 100 points in any of the four games of this series.

They're also getting slaughtered on the boards, getting outrebounded 51-32 in Game 3 and 43-29 in Game 4, all while having the height advantage with 7-footers Mobley and Allen. Orlando looks like it has a lot more "want to" when it comes to rebounding.

The guys brought in this past offseason to add punch from the perimeter — Max Strus and Georges Niang — combined for seven points (all by Strus) in Game 4 and 11 points in Game 3.

And halftime adjustments have to happen. They just do. Because the Magic are making them.

In short, there's a lot to figure out before the April 30 game, an absolute must-win situation for the Cavaliers.

Because the way things look right now, if the Magic win Game 5 in Cleveland, it's hard to imagine the series returning to Ohio for a Game 7.

Kampf can be reached via email at @JKampf@News-Herald.com; On Twitter @NHPreps and @JKampf_NH