The Orlando Magic ran into a buzzsaw Monday night, falling down early and staying down against a talented, motivated Cleveland Cavaliers team which entered the contest on a four-game skid. LeBron James scored 29 points and dished 11 assists as Cleveland prevailed by a 107-74 final, with James needing not play in the fourth quarter. The Magic's 74 points sets a new season-low total, and the Cavs extended their lead in every period.
Nik Vučević turned in another fine performance for Orlando, tallying 18 points and 13 rebounds, but no other Magic player came to his aid: excepting Vucevic, Orlando shot a frigid 32.3 percent from the floor. The young center; Victor Oladipo, who did most of his damage in garbage time; and Dewayne Dedmon, a low-usage reserve big; were the only Orlando players to make more than two field goals.
James started the game on the attack, setting the tone for the game to follow. He matched Orlando in the first period, scoring 16 of Cleveland's 26 as the Cavs took a 10-point edge into the second. With Tobias Harris out, Orlando called on Maurice Harkless to start and therefore to open the game defending James. The four-time MVP's hot start says more about his ability than it does about Harkless' effort; there's only so much one can do against him.
The Magic had their chances on offense, creating some open looks off dribble penetration and ball reversal. The issue was getting them to fall: Orlando went 2-of-11 outside the painted area, including 0-of-5 on threes, in the opening quarter.
To counter that malaise, coach Jacque Vaughn tried to go small in the second period as the Cavs rested James and Kevin Love, surrounding Channing Frye at center with his four best outside-shooting guards. A solid idea in theory, but poor in practice, as Cleveland extended its lead to as much as 16 before Vaughn relented and subbed Andrew Nicholson, a forward, to give his lineup a bit more balance. All told, the Cavs extended their lead by four points with James and Love getting a breather, which fact boded ill for the Magic's chances of mounting a comeback.
Cleveland poured it on after halftime, expanding its lead to as much as 26 in the third quarter and 33 in the fourth, the largest deficit the Magic have faced in the young season. The Cavs' speed in transition, off Orlando turnovers or its frequent misses, kept the Magic on their heels and produced easy shot attempts.
Minus Harris, Orlando didn't have much of a chance against the Cavaliers, given the disparity in talent between the two teams. Yet it is disconcerting to see the Magic turn in a comprehensively poor effort.