Going into Saturday night’s match in Cleveland, both teams had plenty of excuses for poor play. Back-to-back games and multiple injuries to starters plagued both the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, but it was the Magic who overcame their problems in dominating problems, taking the 114-93 win in Cleveland. The road win breaks a 17-game losing streak against the Cavaliers, dating back to 2012. Nikola Vucevic once again fueled the Magic’s offensive attack with 23 points on 11-16 shooting, while Jonathon Simmons added 19 points in just 20 minutes of playing time off the bench. The win over the Eastern Conference champs is arguably one of, if not the best win in the last few seasons.
D.J. Augustin and Jonathan Isaac started in place of Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon. While the rookie continues to work through typical rookie mistakes, Augustin was a solid fill-in, especially with his long-range shooting (3-4 on 3s). Fournier continued his solid offensive play as well, shooting 3-5 from distance and hitting baskets at key moments to maintain or regain the Magic’s momentum. Mario Hezonja had one of his most effective games in a long time, too, overcome a few fouling and turnover issues to efficiently shoot the ball (4-5 for 11 points).
In a very small sample size, the 2-1 Magic’s offense doesn’t just look average or good, it looks great. Averaging 118 points per game, Orlando’s scoring has been outstanding, particularly from deep, where they’ve hit a ludicrous (and totally unsustainable) 48% of their shots. The big question will be what the Magic do when the shots stop falling, but for now the Magic are as fun to watch as they’ve been in a long time. Simmons, in particular, has added elements that Orlando’s lacked recently, like his ability to attack off the bounce, finish in traffic, and leverage his athleticism.
The defense is another question, but the Magic had their best defensive effort yet in holding the high-powered Cavaliers to less than 100 points. Dwyane Wade is a total non-factor on the court, and only Kevin Love was able to support LeBron James, especially in the second quarter.
Orlando got off to a hot start right out of the gate, going up 12-2, and later 30-10 on the back of Vucevic’s consistent shooting. If Vucevic is able to to bounce back from last year’s poor shooting, it will pay huge dividends, especially if his 3-point shooting is legitimate.
Cleveland rallied behind James and Love in the second quarter, as well as the first part of the third. They got as close as 7 about halfway through the third, but the Magic quickly regained their composure and put Cleveland away with a 41-11 run.
Thanks to the blowout, Orlando got their first look at newcomers Wesley Iwundu and Khem Birch. Unfortunately, neither provided too much to get excited about, but there’s plenty of time for them to continue learning the system and to grow.
The Orlando Magic host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.