The Orlando Magic held off a late rally by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night to win their second straight game, 102-94, behind five players in double-figure scoring. Dwight Howard and Jason Richardson scored 19 apiece, while Hedo Turkoglu posted 18 points, seven boards, and four assists in leading the Magic past Cleveland.
The Cavs trailed by 21 points entering the final frame, but their three-guard lineup of Ramon Sessions, Kyrie Irving, and Alonzo Gee gave the Magic fits; the trio combined for 31 of Cleveland's 41 fourth-quarter points on 10-of-15 shooting. Gee drilled an 18-footer at the 1:48 mark to bring Cleveland to within five, but Turkoglu answered with a long deuce of his own on the Magic's ensuing possession to pad the host's lead. Cleveland hacked Howard, a 47.4 percent foul shooter, on the Magic's ensuing possessions in an attempt to prolong the game, but Howard shot 3-of-4 to seal the game.
In his Magic debut, point guard Ish Smith played nine minutes in relief of Chris Duhon, contributing two points, two rebounds, four assists, and no turnovers. Though backup center Glen Davis served the first of a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, Howard played 38 minutes, only one more than his season average. Anderson shifted to center in some sets, with Earl Clark getting extended burn at power forward; he scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and snared five boards.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Though the Magic ought to be concerned with their defense--they yielded 40-plus fourth-quarter points to an offensively inept team for the second consecutive game--they should be equally encouraged with their offense, which had cratered during their span of five losses in seven games. Orlando scored better than 1.1 points per possession for the second time in as many games, and did so despite sub-par shooting overall. Maintaining control of the ball proved key; the Magic finished with five turnovers, which is the second-best figure in franchise history.
Richardson's play, too, offers encouragement. The veteran two-guard's 19 points are just three off his season-best, and he scored them on a night when backup J.J. Redick, who had soundly outplayed him on both ends of the floor throughout the season, missed all five of his shots and scored no points.
And though Irving, the prohibitive Rookie of the Year favorite, put in 18 points, he shot only 7-of-21 from the floor. Orlando has struggled covering hyper-athletic guards of Irving's ilk in the past, and the league as a whole seems to find covering Irving problematic, given his 51.1 percent shooting on the season. If we're honest, a bigger problem is yielding 20 points to the likes of Gee.
Orlando is back in action Saturday when it visits the Indiana Pacers. Due to the Super Bowl making hotels in Indianapolis scarce, the team won't fly to Indiana until Saturday morning, play that evening, and fly back the very same night. Under those conditions, pulling off a win would be impressive indeed.