Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 87

Led by Dwight Howard's 20-point, 20-rebound performance and Ryan Anderson's career-bests in scoring (23) and rebounding (16), the Orlando Magic overcame poor shooting and sloppy ball control to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-87, sending the Cavs to their 20th consecutive loss. J.J. Redick also scored 17 off the bench for Orlando, which shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range against the league's worst defense. It simply was a case of Orlando's talent dominating Cleveland's, particularly on the glass, where it grabbed 45.3 percent of its own missed shots, which proved more than enough to offset iffy performances from the rest of Orlando's players. Rookie guard Manny Harris scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to pacec Cleveland, which also got 16 points from reserve power forward Samardo Samuels and 11 points from backup center Ryan Hollins.

The Magic once again got very little from their starting wing players, with Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu combining for 21 points on 8-of-24 shooting, but the Cavs didn't fare much better. Starting power players Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson shot 2-of-16 themselves for 7 points as Hickson went scoreless, for instance, and the Cavs only managed to score with reasonable efficiency when Howard was off the floor. Cleveland outscored the Magic by 13 points in Howard's 18 minutes on the bench.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Cavaliers 94 92.8 46.7% 21.1 14.0 19.2
Magic 95 108.0 46.2% 19.6 45.3 19.9
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, Howard was too much for it to handle when he did play, which is the biggest reason for Orlando's victory here today. He might as well have been playing against neighborhood kids on a Fisher-Price hoop in someone's driveway. With the Magic's threes not falling and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs' best defensive center, out for the year, Orlando took advantage of its single biggest mismatch time and again, and Howard responded by carrying his team to victory. When he wasn't able to catch and go to work in the halfcourt, he created his own chances by hitting the offensive glass, grabbing 6 offensive boards. When he did post-up, the Cavaliers' only real hope was that he'd miss whatever ensuing shot he created for himself, as they have no one strong enough or fast enough to prevent Howard from asserting himself down low. Anderson (9 offensive rebounds) and Brandon Bass (4) also did admirable work here.

The 29 percent three-point shooting might seem like a concern on the surface, especially against the league's worst three-point defensive team, but I wouldn't read too deeply into that. The Magic got some great looks from long range that they simply didn't knock down, which says more about their team-wide shooting slump than it does about Cleveland's defense. Another point is the Cavs' defense is so dreadful anyway the Magic might've been more inclined to drive the ball down its throat, which is true to an extent.

The bigger concerns for Orlando? Ball control and interior defense. With Howard out of the game, Samuels and Hollins went to work, getting to the rim fairly easily against Bass, Anderson, and Earl Clark, particularly late in the game. If that motley trio can get inside position against Orlando, what'll more skilled teams do with Howard on the bench? It only mattered in the academic sense tonight, but in the playoffs, it'll be a problem.

Orlando also played carelessly with the ball, as its 19 turnovers in 95 possessions attests. Some of the miscues were particularly goofy, with Chris Duhon and J.J. Redick both simply dribbling the ball out of bounds. Turkoglu, with 5 turnovers, also made some questionable choices. As a team, the Cavaliers don't force many turnovers, so it's not as though they really played the passing lanes or baited the Magic into mistakes. It's just sloppy play by Orlando's part, which it overcame thanks to Howard and Anderson lighting it up, and a team-wide victory on the boards: the Magic outrebounded the Cavaliers by a 61-35 margin. And yes, that means Howard and Anderson outrebounded Cleveland by themselves.

The Magic now head to Memphis for the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow evening. If they duplicate their performance from tonight, they'll be the team that falls by 16.

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