The Orlando Magic are taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs. The Magic took a crushing 97-83 loss to the Cavs on Saturday afternoon despite having entered the matchup with momentum from the regular season. In reflection, there are two players to analyze for the team's tough defeat, Gary Harris and Wendell Carter Jr.

Orlando finished the regular season at 47-25 and earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Magic made the postseason for the first time since 2020. Thus, it is understandable for the team to have some playoff growing pains. However, Orlando has enough talent to win their series against Cleveland.

The Magic put forth a valiant effort on Saturday, which was led by second-year forward Paolo Banchero. Banchero scored a team-high 24 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. Banchero was aided by four other double-digit Magic scorers; yet, it was not enough to stop the Cavs' two-way attack.

Cleveland held Orlando to a lowly 21.6% on three-pointers and 32.6% from the field. The Cavs' hounding defense played a role in holding the Magic down, but Orlando needs key contributors to step up to prevent Game 2 from going the same way.

The first contributor in question is Gary Harris.

Gary Harris: the key the Magic needed

Gary Harris is one of the most respected three-and-D players in the NBA. He shined during the Denver Nuggets' rebuilding days alongside a young Jamal Murry and Nikola Jokic. He joined the Magic in 2020 after a productive stint in Denver.

Fast forward to 2024, and Harris finds himself playing an important role on a Magic team hungry to advance in the NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, Harris had a poor offensive game in Game 1 of the Cleveland series. He scored zero points in 33 minutes. The Magic need him to up his scoring if they want to have a chance against the Cavs.

Harris may not be the scorer he used to be, but he is capable of putting up points. The 29-year-old averaged 6.9 points per game and shot 37.1% on three-pointers through 54 games in 2023-24.  Harris did well by attempting five three-pointers in Game 1. Now, he just needs to knock them down.

Of course, it is hard to get things going against one of the best guards in the league. Donovan Mitchell torched Harris and the Magic on both sides of the ball Saturday. Harris and company must find a way to slow Mitchell down and produce more offense. Speaking of offense, Orlando needs one more key player to up their game.

Wendell Carter Jr. must improve for Orlando to be successful

Wendell Carter Jr. came off the bench for the Magic in the Cavs game, scoring three points and grabbing two boards in 15 minutes. Carter Jr. is coming off a back injury but the faster finds a rhythm, the better shape Orlando will be in.

The former 2018 lottery pick averaged 11.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and shot 37.4% on three-pointers during the regular season. In addition to providing a greater interior presence, Carter can help the Magic by spacing the floor with threes.

Orlando elected to start Jonathan Isaac at center against Cleveland. Isaac was a force on defense, totaling three steals and three blocks. However, Jarrett Allen still proved to be too much for him. Allen notched a 16-point-18-rebound double-double. Nevertheless, as Carter ramps up his activity, Allen will get different defensive looks, which should hopefully slow him down.

All in all, the Magic lost a tough game, but they have plenty of opportunity to gain momentum. It will be interesting to see how Orlando bounces back for Game 2 of their 2024 NBA Playoffs journey.