Cavs hoping for Jarrett Allen return in winner-take-all Game 7

May 4—Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers' backup center in his 14th NBA season and owner of an NBA championship ring from 2016 with Cleveland to prove his experience, had some sage advice for Jarrett Allen before the playoff series with the Magic began last month.

"You should have been an All-Star," Thompson told Allen. "But now you have a chance to be a playoff All-Star. That's better."

The series between the Cavaliers and Magic is tied, 3-3. Each team won three games on its home floor. Game 7 is set for 1 p.m. May 5 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Cavs have home-court advantage because they finished with a better record in the regular season, 48-34 to Orlando's 47-35.

It would be a huge lift for the Cavaliers if Allen did play like an All-Star in Game 7, but first things first. The Cavaliers need Allen healthy enough to at least suit up and play. He missed the last two games with a painful rib injury, and though the Cavaliers escaped Game 5 by beating the Magic, 104-103, Allen's absence under the basket was conspicuous when the Cavs lost Game 6, 103-96.

"If we rebound the basketball, if we take care of the basketball, we'll give ourselves a chance (in Game 7)," Coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters after Game 6 in Orlando. "Our guys will be ready for the moment. Our guys have been really good at home. We don't expect that to change."

The Cavaliers led, 75-73, after three quarters in Game 6, but they were outscored, 30-18, in the fourth quarter. Stats can be twisted to just about any form to make a point, but these two are difficult to interpret any other way: The Cavaliers turned the ball over seven times in the final quarter of Game 6 after turning it over only six times total in the three previous quarters. The Magic had 15 offensive rebounds for the game — five of them in the fourth quarter. The Cavs had seven offensive boards for the game. Orlando won the overall rebounding battle, 48-38.

Allen grabbed 18 rebounds in Game 1 and 20 in Game 2. He scored 16 points in each game. The Cavaliers won both times. He had eight rebounds in Game 3 and nine in Game 4 while scoring 21 and 15 points. The Cavs lost both times.

Whether Allen can play in the win-or-go-home Game 7 could come down do a game-time decision again. Allen missed only five games in the regular season, so he doesn't have to be 100% healthy to play. Bickerstaff said before Game 5 that Allen would wear something to protect his ribs if he does play.

"Everything that happened tonight is over with," Donovan Mitchell told reporters after scoring 50 points in Game 6. "We have to move on and figure out a way to win at home like we have been. That's the biggest thing."

The Cavaliers haven't won a playoff series since they beat the Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals in 2018. They haven't won a playoff series without LeBron James since they beat the New Jersey Nets in five games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 1993.

Magic at Cavaliers

What: Eastern Conference quarterfinals (series tied 3-3)

When: 1 p.m., May 5

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, WEWS