J.B. Bickerstaff seemingly calls officiating into question after Cavs suffer brutal loss to Magic

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemed to call the officiating into question following his squad’s Game 6 loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday, pointing out the difference in free-throw attempts between the two teams.

The Cavs lost 103-96 to set up a deciding Game 7 at Cleveland on Sunday. So far, the home team has won every game in the first-round series.

On Friday, not only were the Cavs limited to the 10 free throws, but they only made five of them for a 50.0 percent rate. The Magic made 22 of the 26 attempts they were awarded, an 84.6 percent clip.

The 17-point discrepancy in scoring from the free-throw stripe clearly made a difference in a game decided by just seven points. The Cavs led by nine points in the third quarter, and Donovan Mitchell finished the game with 50 points, but they were unable to close out the series and advance to the second round for the first time since the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

The Cavs have 110 total free-throw attempts over the entire series, while the Magic have actually made 110 free throws in their 146 attempts.

Cleveland not only struggled from the foul line on Friday, it also made just 25.0 percent of its 3-point attempts (7-for-28), going 1-for-14 in the first half. The Cavs have made just 28.1 percent of their 3-point attempts in the six games of the series so far.

The woes are unfortunately reminiscent of the Cavs’ disappointing playoff loss to the New York Knicks last season, when their offense struggled in a five-game elimination. However, they can take some comfort in the fact that they have won their three games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against the Magic in this series, the first two by at least 10 points before a narrow 104-103 victory on Tuesday.

The Cavs have played two straight games without the injured Jarret Allen, and it is unknown if he will be available for Game 7. The winner will advance to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. Boston eliminated the Miami Heat in five games, completing that series on Wednesday.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.