The Orlando Magic played good basketball for three quarters against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but ultimately their third quarter meltdown would allow the Cavs to back into a 131-127 win.
It was the same old story for the post-Dwight Magic, who came out guns blazing against a superior team in a Cavs team that entered the game as the No. 3 seed in the East. Orlando trailed by a manageable 67-64 at the half, but another deflating third quarter saw the Cavs’ lead balloon to 23 points.
In that decisive third quarter, the Magic were outscored 40-23 and committed eight of their 19 turnovers. Despite the efforts of Aaron Gordon, who played all 12 minutes and scored 13 of his 30 points, the Cavs sunk seven three-pointers and generated 11 assists.
To their credit, the Magic were able to cut the deficit to three points with 40 seconds left after Elfrid Payton made a difficult shot at the rim, but it was ultimately too little too late.
Magic coach Frank Vogel said he was proud of the fight his team showed after being down by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter. “I’m proud of that part of it,” said Vogel, “we played hard and we didn’t quit on the game. I feel like we shouldn’t have been in a 20-point hole.”
Aside from Gordon and the late comeback, another positive for the Magic was rookie Wes Iwundu, who tied a career-high with 12 points and played solid defense on LeBron James down the stretch. He also chipped in five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
When asked about his growth this season, Iwundu said “just finding myself as a player. Finding things that can keep me on the floor and things that just make the game a little easier for me. Whether that’s cutting on the offensive end, getting big stops on the defensive end, and just being an all-around player.”
Aaron Gordon also had a nice night before fouling out late in the fourth quarter with 30 points, eight rebounds, and two steals.
LeBron had himself a game, leading the Cavs in points (33), rebounds (10), assists (9), steals (6), and blocks (1).
In a line that shouldn’t surprise Magic fans, Jeff Green found a way to go minus-27 in a game where his team led by as many as 23 points.
The Magic (26-13) will hit the road to play Dallas (13-27) and then to Milwaukee (20-17) on Tuesday and Wednesday.