Despite building a 14-point lead in the first quarter on Friday, the Orlando Magic were unable to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. Cleveland, which entered the game with a 1-10 record on the road, picked up the 109-100 victory, rallying behind Dion Waiters in the fourth quarter to upset the Magic, who entered the period with a three-point lead.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 31 points, while Waiters scored 16 of his 21 in the final frame. Victor Oladipo did yeoman's work for Orlando, scoring a career-high-tying 26 points of his own. Jameer Nelson added 17 and three three-pointers, while Tobias Harris scored 10 with five rebounds in his second game of the season.
Orlando, in the most literal sense, raced to a 28-19 lead in the first quarter, scoring 17 fast-break points against a listless, flagging Cavaliers team playing as if it were triple overtime on the second night of a back-to-back, not the first quarter of a game after two days of rest. The Magic shot 7-of-8 on transition chances in the opening stanza, and as Allie Clifton of Fox Sports Ohio points out, they had only exceeded 17 fast-break points in two games for the entire season.
And while it's certainly a positive that Orlando was able to make the most of the Cavaliers' lax energy, it's a negative that they relied so heavily on transition chances to produce buckets: Orlando shot just 4-of-15 against Cleveland's D, ranked 15th in the league under coach Mike Brown, in the first quarter. If those opportunities to run became less frequent, then Orlando would struggle to produce points.
True enough, that dynamic played out as the first half progressed. With just one fast-break field-goal try in the second quarter, Orlando managed only 18 points as the Cavaliers worked their way back into the game on the back of Irving, the All-Star point guard. The former Rookie of the Year scored 10 points in the period, with each of his four baskets coming from a completely different spot on the floor as he demonstrated his off-the-dribble creativity and shooting stroke.
A driving dunk by Irving at the 8:59 mark of the third gave the Cavs their first lead since 4-2, but Oladipo answered for the Magic with a pull-up deuce; Cleveland would not lead again in the period. An Oladipo triple--his third of the night, setting a new career-high--put Orlando up nine at the 6:12 mark, but Cleveland closed the period on a 13-7 run to draw to within three entering the final period.
That's when Waiters erupted. The second-year guard resembled Irving with the way he shredded Orlando's defense off the bounce, scoring the Cavaliers' first 14 points of the period on 6-of-7 shooting and then assisting for Cleveland's next five points. Neither Oladipo nor Arron Afflalo could keep Waiters in front of him. As a result, the Cavs took control of the game, with a Mattew Dellavedova triple at the 5:22 mark putting them up 10 points.
The Magic drew to as close as five points on a pair of Afflalo free throws with 1:06 to play, but an Anderson Varejão stickback of a Waiters miss on the Cavs' next possession effectively put the game out of reach. Nik Vučević fumbled the ball away on Orlando's next trip--out of a timeout, no less--further icing the game.
Varejão took a meaningless layup with 10.2 seconds to play and the outcome already secure, a play with which Nicholson objected: he shoved Varejão in the back as the ball dropped through the net, earning an ejection after a lengthy video review.