Magic-Cavaliers Preview

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.