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Cavs 117, Magic 102: Orlando’s defense can’t hold up against Cleveland

Missing 3 starters, Orlando can’t contain the Cavs explosive offense on the road in their second preseason game

Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

There are two important takeaways from the Magic’s second loss in as many preseason games: there’s a lot of work to be done, especially on the defensive end; and Orlando sorely misses the contributions of their 3 missing starters. Playing again without Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Serge Ibaka thanks to nagging injuries, the Magic couldn’t contain Cleveland, falling 117-102 on the road. Starting again for the Magic were D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jeff Green, Nikola Vucevic, and Bismack Biyombo. Green led Orlando with 19 points in 24 minutes, while Cleveland’s Jordan McRae led all scorers with 20.

The first quarter was all about Fournier for the Magic, and little else. He accounted for 4 of Orlando’s 6 made shots, dropping 11 points thanks to a couple 3-pointers and some nice drives into the paint. While Fournier appeared to maintain his form from last season, the rest of the team didn’t fare nearly as well. combining to shoot 2-18 from the field. The defense was acceptable for the first half of the quarter, but quickly deteriorated thanks to multiple communication breakdowns and fastbreak points off of turnovers. The Cavaliers led 31-21 after 12 minutes.

The defense was rough in the first quarter, but it went completely off the rails in the second. Cleveland dominated the Magic behind the arc, burying 3s from the corners and wings over and over again, hitting 9-12 in the half. 11 first-half turnovers were killer for the Magic, and Cleveland punished those mistakes consistently in transition. Mario Hezonja got some run in the second quarter, and while he was 2-4 from beyond the arc, he struggled with his defensive decision-making. For the Cavs, LeBron had 7 points and 6 assists, while McRae led the team in scoring with 14. Cleveland’s offensive explosion expanded their lead to 68-42 at halftime.

Orlando briefly brought back the starting lineup for the third quarter against the Cavs backups (LeBron did not play the second half), and about halfway through the quarter they’d made a small dent in the lead held by Cleveland. Vucevic struggled in the post most of the game, but he found Green in the corner for a 3-pointer, and Green threw down a reverse dunk to expand his scoring total to 19. The Magic starters slowly filtered out from there, with Green and Biyombo getting a bit more time together before they also sat for the rest of the game. As both teams’ backup units hit the court, the Cavs regained the margin they’d lost, and though it was the Magic’s best quarter on both ends to that point, it wasn’t enough to keep up. Cleveland held a 97-69 advantage.

The main highlights of the fourth came from Hezonja, who got the most minutes of any Magic player. While he managed to get some baskets later in the game and looked comfortable shooting from long range, he was also responsible for 3 turnovers, and he was part of the biggest runs Orlando gave up to Cleveland. One encouraging sign: Orlando took 35 free throws on the night, which will be important for them to maintain moving forward if they want to make progress on the offensive end.