The tank rolls on. While the bench is usually an easy scapegoat, it’s hard to lay the blame on them for Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Cavaliers, given that the majority of the damage was done in the third quarter with the starters on the court. In the first half, it looked like the Magic were going to stay competitive, but against a Cleveland team trying to avoid more embarrassing losses before the playoffs, they stood little chance once the defending champs got serious. Evan Fournier led Orlando with 21 points, while Kevin Love led all scorers with 28.
Things looked like they were going to get out of hand early, with the Cavaliers going up 9-2 after just a couple minutes, but Orlando roared right back with a 13-0 run, including 3-pointers from Fournier and Gordon. Fournier in particular was hot right from the beginning, scoring 10 of their first 17 points. On the other end, Kevin Love had a bizarre start, missing 3 very easy shots at the rim, but sinking 3-3 from deep to lead the Cavs early. It turned into a point guard battle after that, with Payton earning 6 quick points against the 10 from Kyrie Irving. At the end of it all, the Magic led after the offensive first quarter, 31-28.
While neither team kept up the torrid scoring pace from the first 10 minutes of the game, the Magic were able to maintain and slowly build on their lead, in part thanks to the sloppiness and poor shot making of the Cavs. Orlando kept things flowing by keeping their turnovers low...at least, until Gordon starting trying to throw lobs to Terrence Ross. Aside from those, the Magic were able to finish most possessions with shot attempts or free throws (10-10 from the line). When the shots didn’t go in, they made up for it with _____ offensive boards in the first half, most of those earned by Vucevic. Orlando held a 47-41 lead at one point, but a LeBron-led 8-2 run tied the score at 49. In the end, the Magic would hold a small lead at halftime, 55-53.
While Orlando’s offense continued at the Magic’s mediocre standards, the Cavaliers turned up the offense to ridiculous levels, dropping 43 in the quarter and effectively ending the game before the fourth quarter. LeBron, Kyrie, and Love continued their outstanding play from the first three quarters, but J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver started to pile on as well, and the Magic appeared totally helpless to stop it. At one point, they allowed the Cavs to throw a full-court pass to LeBron for a layup, then threw the ball of Aaron Gordon’s back on the inbounds, allowing LeBron to then grab it and make another layup just seconds later. For the Magic, Fournier continued his solid scoring, getting up to 21 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with Cleveland’s renewed effort in the second half.