Irving returns, Waiters scores 26 as Cavaliers beat Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — At this point in the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping to make one last run at the playoffs and the Orlando Magic are looking for luck in the NBA draft lottery.
Both improved their chances of reaching those goals Wednesday night as the Cavaliers beat the Magic 119-98 behind 26 points from Dion Waiters and 20 each from Spencer Hawes and Tristan Thompson.
The easy win moved the Cavaliers within two games of New York and Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs play at Atlanta on Friday night.
"This was a big game for us, but every game is big because of the position we’ve put ourselves in," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "There is nothing tricky that we have to do. We just have to out and play hard and give ourselves a chance."
Waiters shot 10 for 15 from the field, including 3 for 3 on 3-pointers.
"We’ve still got a chance, we just need to take full advantage of it," he said. "We came in knowing we should get a win, but every game is hard. We have no choice at this point. We control our own destiny. Everybody knows what is at stake. We just have to stay focused."
It helped the Cavaliers that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving returned with a thump in his step after missing the last eight games with a torn bicep muscle. Irving had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds in a seemless transition from the bench to the court.
"Kyrie came in and got right in step with us," Brown said. "He helped us get the ball up the floor quickly and get into our attack. He gave us another weapon with a very high skill level."
The Magic had little to be satisfied with other than solidifying their lottery spot with the third-worst record in the NBA.
The Magic gave up 70 points in the first half, the best half all season for Cleveland and the most points Orlando has allowed in a half this year.
"There is going to be a game in the course of the year where you just don’t have it and when it’s coupled with a team like the Cavs who had it . . . it just wasn’t a good mix," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Some days, it’s just not your day."
The Magic placed only one starter, Maurice Harkless, in double figures and he had 10 points. Rookie Victor Oladipo led Orlando with 16 points, Doron Lamb had 14, Tobias Harris 11 and E’Twaun Moore 10, all off the bench.
"Terrible, terrible game," Harris said. "It’s not how we wanted to play, and that shows us that there is no effort."
Every Cleveland player in uniform scored as the Cavs shot 60.5 percent in the first half and 57.7 percent for the game in rolling over a defenseless Magic team that lost its second straight.
Cleveland was 9 for 18 from beyond the 3-point line, most of them wide-open looks as Orlando struggled with defensive rotations the entire game.
Cleveland had four of the five starters already in double figures by halftime. Hawes was 6 for 8 in the first two periods, including 4 for 5 on 3-pointers on his way to 18 points.
Thompson had 14, Irving 13 and Waiters 10 as the Cavaliers starters combined to hit 24 of 33 shots (72.7 percent) in the first two quarters. Deng was the only starter not in double figures, but still shot 4 for 5.
The Magic, by contrast, didn’t have a player score more than six points in the first half. Orlando had 11 turnovers that Cleveland turned into 16 points.
The Magic trailed 49-42 after Oladipo’s 3-pointer with 6:11 left in the second quarter, but got only one field goal the rest of the half and were outscored 21-6 as Cleveland rolled to a 70-47 halftime lead.
The closest Orlando got in the second half was 17 when Arron Afflalo’s 3 with 4:11 left in the third quarter made it 82-65. Afflalo, the Magic’s leading scorer this season, finished with seven points.
Cleveland responded with a 10-0 run that started with a floater in the lane by Jack and ended with two free throws by Thompson to make it 92-65.
Cleveland led by as many 28 points and cruised through the fourth quarter with little effort.
NOTES: Cavs’ C Anderson Varajeo sat out the game with a sore shoulder. . . . Magic C Nikola Vucevic, who had three straight games scoring 20-plus points for the first time all season coming into the game, scored only seven. . . . Cleveland has beaten Orlando seven straight times. . . . The Magic are 1-18 this season when teams shoot over 50 percent. Cleveland shot 57.7 percent in the game.