The Orlando Magic’s enigma is well-known by this point: despite beating superior competition on a regular basis, they’ve been unable to get up games against weaker foes. Whether that’s just a string of unusual luck or lack of motivation on the part of Orlando is difficult to say, but the Magic broke the streak by walloping the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-91.
Aaron Gordon led the way with 21 points, including 3-6 shooting from deep, while D.J. Augustin and Nikola Vucevic added an efficient 20 and 19 points respectively. Terrence Ross continued his up-and-down season with another “up” game, hitting 3-6 on 3-pointers himself and setting the tone early.
For the Cavaliers, Colin Sexton led all scorers with 23 points, and his ability to get to the line (7-8 FTs) was one of the few bright spots for Cleveland. Notably, the Magic held Kevin Love to 10 points on just 3-9 shooting, reversing the scoring spree he dropped on the Magic the last time these teams played.
The Magic won every quarter of the game, largely by returning to their defensive principles (relaxing only in the fourth quarter when the game was no longer in doubt). Cleveland shot just 41% from the field, including a miserable 23% from downtown.
No doubt Cleveland did the Magic a lot of favors on their defensive end. One notable play featured an improbable Jonathan Isaac post-up on the left block, followed by an even more improbable double-team. Isaac calmly kicked the ball out to the top of the key, and it quickly found its way to Gordon in the corner for an easy 3-pointer. Overall, Orlando’s long-ball carried the offense to the tune of 45% shooting, many coming on similarly easy looks.
One burning question troubling the Magic has been how to deal with their poor bench play as of late. Coach Steve Clifford suggested as much prior to this game, saying that D.J. Augustin may need to take on a few more minutes each game, but Orlando was fortunate to be able to preserve their starting guard thanks to the blowout. The bench still wasn’t incredible (Jerian Grant was only 1-5 for 3 points), but they did just enough to maintain the usual lead the starters established.
Orlando gets a few days of rest before facing their next lottery-bound opponent when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.