After an impressive first half, the Cleveland Cavaliers sputtered in the final 24 minutes, falling to the Orlando Magic, 108-104. A balanced performance from the Wine and Gold came up short, as the Cavaliers were outscored in the second half by 10 points.
Alonzo Gee and Anderson Varejao helped the team get off to a fast start, combining for 13 points. With the way Gee has been able to shoot the ball lately, especially from long distance, the hot starts have been a key for the Cavaliers success. Varejao continued his crazy rebounding habits as well, finishing with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Even the efforts of Omri Casspi, who scored a quick seven points early on in the second quarter, paced the offense. His high energy helped to keep the Cavaliers close to the Magic from the onset despite the hot hands that Orlando had from three.
The Magic, led by the efforts of Jameer Nelson, shot 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first half and Nelson led the way with a 2-of-3 mark. He finished 4-of-8 on the day with a team-high 22 points, helping pace the magic who finished 52.4 percent from long. Arron Afflalo’s hot hand, 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, helped him to register 19 points as well. Turnovers, however, helped the Cavs capture a six-point advantage going into halftime.
The Magic turned over the ball 16 times in the first 24 minutes, while the Cavaliers only managed to cough up the ball five times. It was a tale of two halves for the Wine and Gold, though, as the turnover momentum went to the Magic. The Cavs, led by a weak ball handling effort from Gee who had five turnovers, turned over the ball eight times in the second half. The Magic only coughed up the ball twice in that same time frame. That’s where the game was won and lost. Turnovers, and also free throws.
The Cavaliers played the Magic very tightly in the first quarter, and there was little disparity between the way the two teams played. The game came down to free throws, however, and the Cavaliers didn’t make the most of their opportunities when they reached the charity stripe. The Cavaliers went into the half shooting 66.7 percent from the free throw line, and finished 22-of-30 (73.3 percent) on the night. The Magic shot 85.0 percent from the line, which was boosted by six straight makes by J.J. Redick when Cleveland was in desperation mode. The Cavs couldn’t keep the ball from being inbounded to the sharp shooter, so they couldn’t gain any ground down the final stretch.
There were some positives to take away from this game, despite the Cavaliers dropping their 10th straight to Orlando. The new backcourt duo of Jeremy Pargo and Dion Waiters helped to balance the Cleveland offense. Pargo once again had a fine showing, shooting 50 percent from the field, scoring 19 points and turning over the ball zero times in 30 minutes. Waiters may have shot the ball too much from three (4-of-11) than what I would like him to, but he was very aggressive as always. He finished with 25 points, five assists and two steals, having one of the (in my opinion) more impressive performances of his rookie year to date. I think this backcourt will work, but Waiters needs to be a little more smart in his shot selection. There were some low percentage shots that he took with defenders in his face that I wasn’t too fond of, but I can’t fault his effort.
The Cavaliers will continue on their three-game road trip with a matchup against LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be played at American Airlines Arena.