ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Kyrie Irving has proven multiple times this season that he can be an unrelenting scorer when he needs to be.
Against the Magic, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ young point guard showed he can also do some damage when he’s creating opportunities for his teammates.
Marreese Speights scored 18 points, Alonzo Gee added 17 and the Cavaliers used a big fourth quarter to run past the Magic 118-94 on Saturday night.
Irving chipped in with 12 points, but had a game-high nine assists in just three quarters of work for Cleveland, which has won two straight overall and snapped a six-game losing streak in Orlando.
“Coming out in the second half we knew the things we needed to do, especially on the defensive end,” Irving said. “That has to be our identity, first and foremost. Our defense has to lead to our offense and that’s what he did.”
Arron Afflalo scored 16 points for the Magic in their first home game since a trade deadline deal last week that saw the departure of four players, including sixth man J.J. Redick. Two of their three new additions, Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih, finished in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Orlando has lost five consecutive games and 28 of its last 31 as it dives deeper into its rebuilding process.
“It’s definitely going to take a little time,” Magic forward Maurice Harkless said. “I think (the new players will) get it quick, especially since we’re all young, so we get to help them. The way they played today, they played pretty well for their first game so it’ll all get better.”
The Cavaliers scored the first eight points of the final period to push their lead to 15. The Magic got it down to 11 before another 8-0 spurt made it 95-76 with less than 8 minutes to play.
Cleveland maintained its cushion down the stretch, allowing Irving and the rest of the starting five to sit out the entire fourth quarter. Still, the Cavaliers outscored Orlando 39-22 in the period.
Tyler Zeller was also impressive in limited action in the second half, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds. C.J. Miles also had 16 points and six rebounds coming off the bench.
Coach Byron Scott said afterward that Irving did experience a little soreness in his right knee but was fine. Irving said he tweaked the knee in practice, but doesn’t expect to miss any time because of it. The Cavaliers continue their trip Sunday in Miami.
“Our bench guys did a heck of a job in the fourth quarter of not only maintaining but increasing the lead, so we didn’t have to bring those guys back in,” Scott said. “So they get some rest and get ready for a tough one in Miami.”
The Magic played without point guard Jameer Nelson, who missed his second straight game with a left patella contusion.
Without trade acquisitions Harris, Udrih and Doron Lamb, the Magic hung tough in a close loss to Memphis on Friday, but struggled at times against Cleveland without a true point guard opposite Irving.
Even with all three playing Saturday, the Cavaliers were clearly the more comfortable team in the early going and took advantage of it as they built a 10-point lead.
Irving was especially active, both scoring and distributing. At one point early in the first quarter he received an outlet pass on a fast break and casually delivered a pass off the backboard to Gee, who dunked it easily.
It set a tone, and kept Orlando scrambling throughout the night.
When they did get into the game, the Magic’s new arrivals brought in instant energy, helping to briefly stunt Cleveland’s early momentum.
It was tied at the half, thanks to balanced scoring on both sides. Orlando had eight players with at least six points in the opening 24 minutes, while Gee was the only player on either team to reach double figures in the half, scoring 10 points.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said his message will remain consistent during this latest transitional period.
“I think you still hold guys accountable,” he said. “There is no mistake in the accountability … It doesn’t guarantee you wins and losses, but we’re trying to play the best that we can and that’s what you want to do. Each time you step on the floor you do your job. You play the best you can.”
If the Cavaliers have any shot of ending the season with momentum, though, it must happen now Irving said.
“We’re just trying to win as many games as possible,” Irving said. “In order to do that, we just have to find consistency on this team and it starts with this road trip … It is a challenge for us as a team and we are looking forward to it.”
Notes: Cleveland F Omri Casspi wasn’t with the team after being taken to an Orlando hospital on Saturday afternoon complaining of acute stomach pain. G Daniel Gibson was also inactive because of what the team said were personal reasons. … The Magic are now 5-21 this season when their opponent scores at least 100 points.