Following Orlando’s morning walkthrough Sunday, center Dwight Howard said his biggest fear entering the Magic’s matchup with Cleveland was being the team that allowed the Cavaliers to end their long losing streak.
Turns out, he had little to worry about. And the main reason had everything to do with him.
Howard had 20 points and 20 rebounds in three quarters of work, Ryan Anderson added 23 points and 16 rebounds and the Magic handed the Cavaliers their franchise single-season record 20th straight loss and 30th in 31 games, 103-87 on Sunday night.
Howard had his 36th double-double of the season by halftime in a game that was never in doubt for the Magic. J.J. Redick added 17 points, and Brandon Bass and Jason Richardson had 12 apiece.
But for a high-powered offensive team that is struggling to find consistency defensively, blowing out the team with the league’s worst record isn’t enough for coach Stan Van Gundy. There’s still much to work on.
"We had a great first quarter and then it was dead even after that," Van Gundy said. "I thought we came out with really good energy. We didn’t shoot the ball well other than Dwight, J.J. and Ryan. … I just want us to establish some habits. … As the game went on, we weren’t quite as sharp defensively."
Cleveland hasn’t won since Dec. 18. That’s one victory since its last meeting with LeBron James and Miami, who the Cavs face on the road Monday night. Orlando heads to Memphis.
Anderson said Van Gundy’s words aren’t falling on deaf ears, but that getting any victory right now will be good for the team’s overall confidence.
"We’re just kind of going into each game thinking that it’s a big game," Anderson said. "We need to get a streak going again. We need to get some more confidence and kind of just build from a win like this. I think it was key to have a big win, especially on a back-to-back night."
Cleveland coach Byron Scott attempted to inject some life in his club by starting guard Manny Harris in place of Daniel Gibson, but it had little effect. Harris led the Cavs with 20 points, but was the only starter in double figures. Samardo Samuels had 16 points and Ryan Hollins 11 points for the Cavs off the bench.
The Cavs never led Sunday and as has been their pattern throughout the losing streak, they fell behind early and trailed by as many as 22.
The Magic put the game away in the opening 24 minutes and led 56-43 at the half, sparked by 16 points and 14 rebounds by Howard. He was 8 of 10 in the half and also had a block.
Orlando shot just 16 percent from 3-point line in the first half, but made up for it with several easy baskets in transition to lead by 19 points.
The fast breaks were made possible by a Cavs team that shot just 40 percent from the field and had nine first-half turnovers. Cleveland finished the night shooting 43 percent and just 31 percent beyond the arc. The Cavs also had 18 turnovers that led to 20 Magic points.
Harris looked good at times in his 11th start of the season, but his efforts did little to inspire the rest of his team early on offensively. Christian Eyenga had nine first-half points, connecting on 4 of 7 shots. But Cleveland’s remaining starters were a combined 4 for 20. Eyenga didn’t score in the second half and minus a small spurt early in the third quarter that cut the lead nine, never really threatened.
Gibson played 24 minutes, but left the game with a sore left quadriceps. Scott called Gibson "a warrior" for playing with an injury he said was bothering him before Sunday’s game. He is day-to-day, but Scott said the injury could sideline him for a few games.
Scott said that old habits must be revamped for the streak to end.
"We can’t allow ourselves to get down by 16 or 17 points and then expect to try to come back," Scott said. "The first quarter was killer. … We’ve just got to figure out a way to stay closer the first half of the game and hopefully we can make a run the second half."
Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison said the players are equally aware of what needs to be fixed.
"We can ill-afford to have any kind of mental lapses like we’ve been having of late," he said. "We’re playing with a lot of effort, but we’re also learning a lot on the go as well. Still, you have to go out there and play."
Jameer Nelson remained in the starting lineup after leaving the Magic’s 99-90 loss to Chicago on Friday because of a strained right knee.
But the Magic also played Sunday without backup Gilbert Arenas, who was inactive with a left knee contusion.
Arenas said before the game that he sustained the injury by knocking knees with Chicago center Kurt Thomas during the Magic’s 99-90 loss to the Bulls on Friday night.
It is the same knee that Arenas has had multiple surgeries on and caused him to miss parts of three seasons. Team officials said he is day-to-day, but it could add another wrinkle to what has been an up and down adjustment for Arenas in a Magic uniform.
NOTES: Arenas sat out for the first time since coming over to the Magic Dec. 18 in a trade with Washington. He missed three games with a right ankle strain earlier this season while still with the Wizards … Orlando recorded its 100th consecutive sellout.