The new era in Orlando Magic basketball didn't begin as well as one might have hoped. The visiting Cleveland Cavaliers popped off for 67 points after half time on their way to routing the Magic, 118-94. Marreese Speights posted 18 points to lead seven Cavaliers finished in double-figure scoring, enabling Cleveland to prevail despite getting only 12 points from All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who averages 23.7 per game.
Tobias Harris, the 20-year-old combo forward whom Orlando acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, filled the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots, doing his best and most energetic work in garbage time. Arron Afflalo scored 16 to lead the Magic.
Cleveland built some separation in the third quarter, and it started with a play that simply didn't go Orlando's way. E`Twaun Moore missed a fast-break layup, which would have tied the score, after coming up with a steal, and Moe Harkless couldn't finish the follow slam cleanly. Irving snagged the rebound and started a fast-break in the other direction, hitting Alonzo Gee in the right corner for an uncontested three-pointer. After a missed jumper from Andrew Nicholson, the Cavs fed Tyler Zeller on a flash to the restricted area, where he converted a hook before Orlando's defense could react. Dion Waiters hit a triple on Cleveland's next possession to push the lead to eight, the largest it'd been since the 4:30 mark of the first quarter. It reached 11 points on an Irving lob in traffic to Gee.
After an unassuming first half, Zeller asserted himself in the third quarter; he took over the game, with 12 points and six rebounds in the period, helping the Cavs build a 79-72 lead. Cleveland opened the fourth quarter by scoring eight straight points in less than two minutes.
It's understandable that Orlando would wilt as the game progressed: Saturday's game was the Magic's second game in as many nights and fourth in five. In contrast, the Cavs had played just once since the All-Star Break, and were the more rested team.
The Cavs got off to a hot start, despite shooting an airball and committing a shot-clock violation on their first possession. Irving threw an alley-oop off the glass for Alonzo Gee to finish in transition to put Cleveland ahead, 12-5, prompting coach Jacque Vaughn to call timeout.
Orlando's offense continued to struggle with Moore at the helm, leading to two more turnovers for uncontested, run-out slams. On one possession, Moore took a pass from Nikola Vucevic about 40 feet from the basket and with about three seconds left on the shot-clock. Moore attempted to run a pick-and-roll and ultimately lost the ball.
Vaughn replaced Moore with newcomer Beno Udrih at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter, and the eight-year veteran assisted Harkless on a three-pointer just six seconds later.
Later in the period, Udrih broke up an outlet pass which would have resulted in another jam for Cleveland by tipping it to Doron Lamb. The rookie drove hard to his right, but bulldozed Speights for an offensive foul. All told, Udrih helped the Magic go on an 11-2 run over the final four minutes of the first quarter, bringing the team within a point at 26-25.
In general, Udrih kept Orlando's offense moving by making quick decisions in the pick-and-roll. A team like the Magic, with no true go-to scoring options, needs to move its players and the ball quickly and effectively in order to create open shots. Udrih helps in that regard. Given that he played 11 consecutive minutes spanning the first and second quarters, it's clear that he already has Vaughn's trust.
One second-quarter played showcased Udrih's creativity. With a live dribble on the left side of the floor, Udrih waited for Afflalo to curl into the paint off a screen from Nikola Vucevic. Udrih faked the pass to Afflalo before lobbing the ball to Vucevic, who dove to the rim after screening Afflalo's man. Vucevic finished the play.
Udrih's first night in pinstripes was a success for him individually. The Slovenian shot 3-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line for 10 points in 26 minutes, and he dished a team-high seven assists with just one turnover.
The teams entered halftime with the score knotted at 51. An and-one from Afflalo and a tip-in by Nicholson accounted for Orlando's five points in the scoring run it made to tie the score. Harris and Lamb combined to miss all five of their first-half shot attempts, but Harris did manage three rebounds in seven minutes.