ORLANDO, Fla. — Although their record in March was only 3-11, it could be said the Orlando Magic were competitive in every game.
The same could not be said for how they started their final month of the season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, clearly helped by the return of Kyrie Irving and making a late push at the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, led by as many as 27 points in rolling to a 119-98 victory. It was the Magic’s first loss by 20 or more in more than two months.
After missing two weeks with a strained left biceps tendon, Irving looked anything but rusty as both he and Dion Waiters repeatedly drove past the Magic’s guards and got to the rim with ease. The Cavs outscored the Magic 64-32 in the paint.
The Magic trailed 70-47 at halftime and 94-68 through three quarters, causing coach Jacque Vaughn to sit all five of his starters for the final 12 minutes. Maurice Harkless was their only starter to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
Irving had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 29 minutes, while Waiters led the Cavs with 26 points.
Even without Anderson Varejao, who sprained a shoulder Sunday, the Cavs breezed to their fifth victory in their last six games. Varejao had a career-high 25 rebounds in an overtime win over the Magic in early January.
When the calendar year began, the Magic and the Cavs had the same record at 10-21. Cleveland is 21-24 since then and has a better record on the road (12-11) than at home (9-13).
THE TURNING POINT
The Cavs outscored the Magic 19-5 over the final 5:26 of the first half. The Magic were shooting 60 percent from the floor before that but made just one of 12 attempts to end the second quarter.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Spencer Hawes, who was acquired by the Cavs the day after their most recent meeting with the Magic, had 18 points and five points by halftime. The 7-foot-1 center went 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the half.
STAT OF THE GAME
The 70 points by the Cavs in the first half were the most by any Magic opponent this season. The Denver Nuggets put up 69 on them Jan. 11.
Friday night at Charlotte, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida).