A punishing three-point attack fueled the Orlando Magic's 110-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Orlando shot 19-of-31 from three-point distance against Cleveland, which allows opponents to shoot 41.1 percent on 20.9 trey attempts per game on the season. Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Earl Clark turned in their finest efforts since joining the Magic in separate trades ten days ago, with Arenas standing out in particular. The veteran combo guard led Orlando with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, and 5 three-pointers off the Magic's bench, and drained three trey in the decisive fourth quarter, in which Orlando outscored the hosts by a 35-21 margin.
Richardson scored 20 points with four three-pointers, getting good elevation and balance on his jumper from either distance. And though Clark didn't impress anyone with his shot selection, he nonetheless added 12 points in 18 reserve minutes at both power positions, at least providing glimpses of the potential which tempted the Phoenix Suns to use the 14th overall selection in last summer's Draft on him.
Cleveland, a hideous offensive team, managed to score 57 points on the Magic's lazy defense in the first half. It's fair to say it got lucky with some friendly loose-ball bounces, but were it not for the Magic's lights-out shooting, the Cavs may have pulled out this victory on the strength of their own freelancing offense. Antawn Jamison led the Cavaliers with 21 points on a series of his signature scoops and flips around the basket, plus an assortment of jumpers. Point guard Mo Williams set the tone for Orlando's mostly awful defensive night by scoring all 14 of his points in the first period. But the Magic tightened the screws, after much pleading from coach Stan Van Gundy, and held Cleveland to 33 percent shooting after intermission.
|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.
The three-point shooting for Orlando is just about the only offensive bright spot, as it struggled to involve Dwight Howard. The Cavaliers bottled up Howard by closing down entry-pass lanes, varying double-team coverages, and sometimes just letting Anderson Varejao hold his own against him. Howard finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 turnovers in just 29 minutes. Credit goes to Cavs coach Byron Scott for neutralizing Howard despite having only one credible post defender, Varejao, to throw at him.
But credit, too, to the Magic for playing effectively on offense without a low-post anchor. They moved the ball, save for a few first-half lapses, fairly well all night. Naturally, it helps they shot the ball with such accuracy, but if the measure of an offense is how many open looks it creates, Orlando would rate highly on that scale tonight despite the 19 turnovers.
About the only blight on Arenas' play tonight? His 5 turnovers, mostly due to losing the ball dribbling through traffic. Call me foolish, but I see those as a sign of progress in the long term. Arenas more aggressively probed the defense with his dribble tonight, even getting to the basket for at-rim finishes on a few occasions. Not quite so much settling tonight; he played more within his limitations, and the team's offense overall, in the victory.
Cleveland's rotation, which features three small guards, afforded Van Gundy the opportunity to feature Arenas in the same backcourt with Jameer Nelson. The results were solid, at least from here. The two are capable, willing passers, and a team without a "true" shooting guard failed to exploit their potential defensive shortcomings.
Though the final score makes this game appear like a laugher, remember that Orlando only led by a 75-74 score when the fourth quarter began. Ryan Anderson sank two three-pointers to open it up a bit, and the Magic's kicked into high gear once again.