Following a chase-down block by LeBron James on a lay-up attempt by D.J. Augustin, Dwyane Wade hit a three, sending the Cleveland crowd into a frenzy. What had been a 22-point Magic lead was down to seven.
Frank Vogel called a timeout. The Magic walked to the bench, somewhat dejected.
In years past, this would have been the point where the Magic crumbled. Where what had been a valiant effort concluded with a disappointing finish. But on this night, with a shorthanded Magic team facing the heavily favored Eastern Conference champions, that was not the case.
After the Magic came out of the timeout, Terrence Ross delivered an entry pass to Nikola Vucevic, who converted a baby hook to increase the Magic lead to 67-58 with 6:02 remaining in the third. Evan Fournier then hit a three, stripped the ball during a double-team on Kyle Korver, drove the lane at the other end to draw the foul and hit two free throws. On the next possession, Augustin sent up a prayer with the shot clock winding down and improbably banked it in for a 75-58 lead. Jonathon Simmons then attacked the basket, something he has done with regularity so far this season, to increase the Magic lead to 19. Vooch then capped a 14-0 Magic run with a baseline jumper as the Magic built a 79-58 lead.
The lead would ultimately swell to as many as 37.
After Wade made the aforementioned three, which at the time made it seem as if the sleeping giant known as the Cleveland Cavaliers has been awoken, the Magic held the Cavs to two field goals and a few free throws for the remainder of the third. With the way the offense was flowing for Orlando, it seemed Simmons heave from beyond halfcourt at the end of the third would fall. And it nearly did, drawing front rim.
A tip-in by Bismack Biyombo with 7:15 left in the fourth gave the Magic a 101-67 lead, capping a 36-9 run. Shortly after, a three by Marreese Speights opened the Magic's largest lead at 106-69.
The Magic, playing without Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton on the second night of a back-to-back, went on to win 114-93. The victory snapped a 17-game losing streak against the Cavaliers that dated back to 2012, which the Orlando Sentinel reported was the Magic’s longest losing streak against one opponent in franchise history.
The Magic impressed in a variety of ways, earning a win that, despite being just the third game of the season, is as meaningful as any Orlando victory in recent memory. There was the 17 three-pointers made, the first time in Magic history that the team made 17 or more threes in consecutive games. There was the ball movement and the quick passes around the perimeter that helped the Magic register 28 assists on 40 made field goals and have six players finish in double figures.
But, perhaps most importantly, there was the Magic’s response after their large lead had been squandered. When the Cavaliers came charging at them, they stood and fought, where as in games over the last few seasons they would have wilted and watched a potential win turn into a loss.
The Magic won’t sustain the record-setting three-point shooting barrage. There will be nights when the ball movement isn’t as crisp. But the lesson learned in closing out a game against one of the league’s elite is invaluable. A win of this nature, even so early in the season, helps young players gain confidence. Helps a fan base keep hope. Helps a playoff-starved organization believe reaching the postseason is a possibility.
That the Magic face the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday with a chance at redemption is almost poetic. Before Orlando’s impressive win over the Cavs on Saturday, they suffered a disappointing loss to the Nets on Friday. Let’s see how the Magic respond.