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
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
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.