Meeting for the only time in Orlando this season, the Magic welcomed the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers to the Amway Center. Despite hanging close to the champs for much of the night, the Magic couldn’t put it all together late, falling to the Cavaliers, 116-104.
Both teams got off to a somewhat slow start, missing shots early on. The Magic got things going first, jumping out to a brief four point lead before Iman Shumpert began taking things over for the Cavs, scoring 10 of their first 12 points. Despite Cleveland beginning to heat up, the Magic held their own on both ends, playing some solid defense, holding Cleveland to 38.1 percent from the field. After one, the Magic were hanging tough with the champs, leading by one, 25-24.
Turning to their bench, the wheels began to fall off for the Magic. As has been the case recently, the Magic bench struggled, letting the Cavs get downhill and find quality, open looks on many of their possessions, while struggling to find anything of their own. The Magic’s starters briefly got them back in the game, cutting the Cavs lead down to as few as three before Cleveland pushed it back to double digits. The Cavs shot a blazing 13-19 in the quarter, aiding them in taking an eight point halftime lead, up 59-51.
Out of halftime, the Magic came with a renewed energy level and sense of urgency with their backs quickly approaching the wall. Within the quarters first few minutes, the Magic had quickly cut the Cavalier lead down to three, behind buckets from Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Cleveland answered, however, pushing their lead back up near double digits for much of the quarter. After three, Cleveland held steady with an eight point lead, up 87-79.
Into the fourth quarter, the Magic once again kept things close with the Cavs, but were never able to get the lead under three. Whenever Cleveland would go on a run, the Magic would answer with a quick one of their own and vice versa. In the end, the Cavaliers, led by a balanced scoring attack and better shooting from beyond the arc, were too much for the young, struggling Magic.
LeBron James led seven Cavs in double figures, finishing with 24 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds for another triple-double. Kyrie Irving flirted with a triple-double of his own, finishing the night with 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Shumpert finished the night with 15, with Tristan Thompson adding 14 points and 13 rebounds. Channing Frye led three bench members with 12, with J.R. Smith and Deron Williams adding 11 and 10 respectively.
Nikola Vucevic notched another double-double for the Magic, finishing the night with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Aaron Gordon scored 16, while Evan Fournier added 15. Terrence Ross scored 11 on the night.