Cavaliers’ late run forces OT, sinks Magic 87-81
CLEVELAND (AP) — Anderson Varejao can’t explain how the Cleveland Cavaliers broke their season-high six-game losing streak.
He’s just glad they did.
Varejao played a major role, hitting two crucial jumpers in overtime and tying a franchise record with a career-high 25 rebounds to give his struggling team a lift in an 87-81 victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
"I still don’t know how we won that game," he said. "It was crazy, but I’ll take it."
The Cavaliers played without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his first game this season because of a bruised left knee. Irving averages a team-high 22.2 points for the Cavaliers, who trailed 78-68 with just over a minute and a half to play.
Thanks to crucial Orlando mistakes and some big plays of their own, the Cavaliers tied the game on Dion Waiters’ layup with 0.6 seconds remaining and dominated the extra session.
Varejao’s basket with 2:07 remaining in OT put Cleveland ahead 83-81. He added another basket with 1:34 left and hit two free throws with 23.9 seconds remaining to finish with 18 points.
"He was a problem for us all night," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He’s relentless. Give him credit for going hard the whole game."
Varejao’s big night was no surprise to his teammates.
"We expect that of him," Waiters said. "He’s a rebounding machine."
Glen Davis scored 16 points for the Magic, who scored only two points in overtime and couldn’t hold the 10-point lead with 1:34 to play in regulation.
"We blew it, bottom line," Magic forward Tobias Harris said. "It was a tough, tough loss. The whole game, we thought it was ours. These are the ones we need to win. Very tough loss."
A basket by Varejao and two free throws by Waiters made it 79-72 with 50 seconds remaining. Jarrett Jack, starting in place of Irving, cut the lead to 79-75 by hitting three foul shots with 13.9 seconds remaining. After Orlando was called for a 5-second violation trying to inbound the ball, Waiters’ basket cut the lead to 79-77 with 10.1 seconds left.
E’Twaun Moore missed two free throws and Cleveland was awarded the ball with 9.3 seconds left after a video review. Waiters took the inbounds pass and drove down the left of the lane to tie the game.
Jameer Nelson’s 3-point attempt from the corner bounced off the rim and the teams went to overtime.
Cleveland’s last three home games have gone to overtime.
Waiters scored 17 points and Tristan Thompson added 16 for the Cavaliers.
Nelson scored 14 points for the Magic, while Arron Afflalo and Andrew Nicholson had 12 apiece.
Irving felt a "pop" in his knee while driving to the basket in Tuesday’s loss to Indiana, but an MRI on Wednesday revealed he only sustained a bruise. He’s listed as day to day. Cleveland’s next game is Saturday at Brooklyn and the Cavaliers host Indiana on Sunday.
"We found a way to win," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "It was exciting getting stops instead of trying to outscore everyone. When you allow two points in overtime, you’re doing something right. It’s great that our guys saw that we don’t have to score to win games."
Varejao tied the team’s single-game rebounding record set by Rick Roberson on March 4, 1972.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic missed the game after spraining his left ankle Tuesday in a 94-81 loss to Golden State. He missed four games with the same injury in early December and is considered day to day. Vucevic is averaging 13.4 points and a team-high 11.1 rebounds.
The Cavaliers defeated the Magic 109-100 in Orlando on Dec. 13.
Neither team could build a lead in the first half. Cleveland led by five points several times in the first quarter, while Orlando went ahead by six in the second period. Thompson’s basket at the buzzer gave the Cavaliers a 41-39 lead at halftime.
Orlando is 4-11 on the road.
The arena was about half full, thanks to a snowstorm that hit the area. The announced attendance was 14,248.
NOTES: Irving watched the game from the bench in a coat and tie. … Vaughn said before the game he doesn’t believe Vucevic’s injury will linger. "The good news is he’s on the trip with us and he’s out there working on the court. I don’t think this is something to be really worried about." … Jason Maxiell started in Vucevic’s spot after having played 33 total minutes in Orlando’s previous eight games. … Cavaliers G Matthew Dellavedova earned a loud ovation for tying up Davis for a jump ball in the second quarter. Dellavedova is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds while Davis is listed at 6-9 and 289 pounds.