Since writing my piece on the 10-game losing that the Cleveland Cavaliers (24-52) and their fans endured for more than two weeks, the Wine and Gold have righted the ship. After power forward Tristan Thompson fueled the Cavs to victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday, it was now time for Cleveland to take down the team that many thought could have ended the streak if it were still going on.
The Orlando Magic (19-59) hung tough for the most part, but the Cavaliers were able to take the season series (3-1) with a 91-85 victory on Sunday evening at Quicken Loans Arena.
Even though the Cavaliers let center Nikola Vucevic – a player who averaged 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in three previous matchups with Cleveland – run rampant on the boards all night long, a nice defensive effort in the fourth quarter allowed Cleveland to win back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 26 and 27. Vucevic finished with 21 points, 21 rebounds, six assists and two blocks and shot 50 percent from the field.
He started off the game hot, grabbing eight rebounds and tallying six points in the first quarter. Orlando’s rising star was controlling the game from the tipoff, but Cleveland’s savior was still in a shooting slump. Over the past three games Kyrie Irving has combined to shoot 23.5 percent from the field and is averaging 12 points in that same time. Sunday night is a reason why Irving’s numbers have been so low as of late, as he only scored nine points and shot 20 percent from the field.
Since returning from his injury, Kyrie has been pretty ineffective. However, he did make the players around him better on Sunday with his unselfish play. He dished out 10 dimes, and most notably he had four assists in the third quarter. This helped the Cavaliers keep the lead for a short time in the third frame, but Tobias Harris’ huge quarter kept Orlando on top. His eight points allowed the Magic to carry a four-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
Harris totaled 26 points and 12 rebounds on the night, while shooting 11-of-19 from the field. While Harris and Vucevic had an overwhelming impact on the game compared to the rest of the Magic, Cleveland had a nice supporting cast of players contributing throughout the game. C.J. Miles was one of those players until Vucevic decided he had enough of his streaky shooting. Miles had eight points in six minutes before the Magic big man threw an accidental elbow in his direction, causing Miles to leave the court bloody and needing six stitches.
With Miles gone, the rest of Cleveland’s bench had to pick up the pace. They did this the best when the team needed them the most. The Wine and Gold bench, consisting of Marreese Speights, Omri Casspi, Kevin Jones and Shaun Livingston, combined for 14 of Cleveland’s first 16 points of the fourth quarter. This gave the Cavs a nice three-point cushion, setting up the starters quite nicely.
5 minutes remained on the clock when Thompson, Irving and Alonzo Gee took over. They helped the Cavs close the game on a 12-8 run, sealing their second straight victory.
With six games left on the schedule – three that are against playoff teams – the Cavaliers will look to head into the offseason with a .500 split the rest of the way. Their next matchup may not bode well for them, as they will be traveling to Indiana to take on the Pacers on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.