Although the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t defeated the Orlando Magic in almost three years, they would appear to have an ideal opportunity to so Friday night.
Having picked up the pace over the last two weeks, the Cavaliers try to snap a 10-game losing streak to a struggling Magic team dealing with more than its fair share of injuries.
Though Cleveland (15-34) sits at the bottom of the Central Division, its recent efforts haven’t resembled those of a last-place club. The Cavaliers have averaged 105.4 points – 8.9 more than their season mark – during a 5-2 run and are coming off notable back-to-back wins.
Four days after beating Western Conference powerhouse Oklahoma City 115-110, Cleveland shot a season-high 56.5 percent in a 122-95 rout of NBA-worst Charlotte on Wednesday – its most lopsided victory since LeBron James’ last with the team May 7, 2010.
“It was the first game that I can remember that I got a chance to sit down in the fourth quarter without it being the other way. So that was a good feeling,” coach Byron Scott said. “This was one of those games where I was really curious to see if we learned from some of our past mistakes and if we’ve grown as a basketball team, and I can say we definitely have. It’s just a matter of now just keeping it going.”
Kyrie Irving had 22 points to lead five players in double figures for Cleveland, which compiled 22 points off the Bobcats’ 13 turnovers and outscored them 50-30 in the paint.
“It definitely shows that we’re making steps in the right direction,” said Irving, averaging 29.9 points and shooting 56.1 percent over his last seven home games. “We’re getting better every single game.”
The Cavaliers now look for their momentum to carry over against the Magic (14-35), whom they last beat 115-106 on Feb. 11, 2010, behind a near triple-double from James. Cleveland has since been outscored by an average of 10.6 points during its skid in this series, including a 108-104 road loss Nov. 23. Irving, though, didn’t play in that game due to a fractured finger.
Orlando will be short-handed this time around with Glen Davis (fractured left foot) out and J.J. Redick (right shoulder) and Arron Afflalo (strained calf) both uncertain to suit up. That trio combined for 53 points in the November win over the Cavs.
Hedo Turkoglu is also expected to miss his second straight game with the flu.
The Magic are coming off their season-worst 11th consecutive loss and 22nd in 24 games, falling 86-76 to a Los Angeles Clippers team that was without its top three scorers Wednesday.
Jameer Nelson, in his first game back after missing two due to a left forearm contusion, had 18 points while Nikola Vucevic added 15 and 14 rebounds for Orlando, which is averaging 79.8 points on 37.6 percent shooting in four games this month.
“When you’re working with different combinations, asking guys to do more than we’ve asked them in the past, it’s a tough adjustment to do that on a game-to-game basis,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “So we’re going to have to deal with it and learn from it, and get better.”
Vucevic has proven to be a rare bright spot for the Magic, averaging 14.0 points and a league-high 13.4 boards in 28 games since Dec. 14.
Orlando hasn’t been handed 12 straight losses since a 13-game skid March 13-April 10, 2004.