Here’s what we know about the Orlando Magic: they make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Coming off an encouraging victory over the Pacers on Saturday, the Magic suffered yet another disheartening loss to one of the league’s worst teams, losing 107-93 to the Cavs. Another chapter has been added to the the Magic’s inconsistent, unpredictable, bipolar season.
Within their last nine games, the Magic have beaten the East’s top three teams (Bucks, Raptors, Pacers) and lost to the bottom three teams (Bulls, Knicks, Cavs). In fact, the Magic have won 8 of their last 11 games, with the three losses coming to those very Bulls, Knicks and Cavs, who combined have won 46 games this season.
It was quite evident early on against the Cavs that the Magic’s struggles against those in the “Tryin for Zion” tankathon sweepstakes was going to continue, as they quickly fell behind in a defensively sluggish first half.
Cavs’ rookie point guard Collin Sexton scored nine first quarter points, including a layup that gave Cleveland a 27-20 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the first. The Cavs attacked the paint at will and shot nearly 60 percent in the opening quarter, leading 29-24 after the first.
The Magic scored the first eight points of the second during a 10-0 run, capped by consecutive threes by Evan Fournier, to take a 32-29 advantage. The Cavs immediately responded with a 9-0 run of their own to go up, 38-32. After threes by Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavadova, the Cavs took their largest lead of the half at 46-34 midway through the second quarter. Orlando closed the half on a 14-4 run, led by Nikola Vucevic who scored six of his 14 first half points during that stretch, to cut the lead to 52-48 heading into the break.
The Cavs scored 30 points in the paint in the first half and shot nearly 48 percent from the field in the first half. The Cavs’ bench, led by Jordan Clarkson with seven points, outscored the Magic bench, 21-8, in the half. Terrence Ross, coming off his 16-point fourth quarter performance against Indiana, shot just 1-for-6 for two points in the half.
The Magic made adjustments at the half and sealed off the paint to limit the Cavs to perimeter shots that weren’t falling. A 10-0 run Orlando, capped by a Vooch layup off a feed from Jonathan Isaac, gave Orlando a 68-60 lead with 3:40 remaining in the third.
The Magic lead reached nine but the Cavs would cut it to five by the end of the quarter after a Magic turnover led to an easy layup in transition just before the buzzer.
Leading 72-67 entering the fourth, the Magic allowed the Cavs’ run to continue. Cleveland scored the first 13 points of the fourth for a 17-0 run that opened an 80-72 lead. The Magic’s first points of the fourth came on a drive by Isaiah Brisoe 3:08 into the quarter to cut the deficit to six. That sparked a 7-0 Magic run that pulled them within 80-79 with 7:39 remaining. The Cavs continued to get to the line in the fourth and extended their lead to four, before D.J. Augustin hit a three to again pull the Magic within one.
Threes by Cedi Osman and Love then put the Cavs in front 91-84 with 4:56 to go. It was the start of a 17-4 run that blew the game wide open as the Cavs took a 102-88 lead.
Vucevic finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals to lead the Magic, who shot 44.3 percent from the field and just 23.1 percent from three (6 of 26). Augustin, who was questionable to even play after suffering a sprained ankle against the Pacers, had 19 points five assists and five rebounds. Aaron Gordon had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Fournier added 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Ross had one of his worst games of the season, scoring two points on 1-for-12 shooting, including 0-for-6 from three, and posting a team-worst plus/minus of -28. The Magic got just 13 points from their bench overall.
The Cavs bench outscored the Magic bench, 47-13, led by Clarkson, who single-handedly outscored the entire Magic bench on his own with a team-high 18 points. He was one of six members of the Cavs to finish in double-figures. Cleveland had a big advantage at the free throw line where they connected on 21 of 23 attempts, compared to the Magic who shot 9-for-11.
With the loss, the Magic squandered an opportunity to take a one-game lead over the Hornets for the eighth spot in the East. They now complete their three-game road trip on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Playing a Sixers team that is 40-23 would be bad news for most teams. For the Magic, who seem to beat the East’s best and lose to worst, maybe it’s good news.
Within their last nine games, the Orlando Magic have defeated the top three teams in the East (Bucks, Raptors, Pacers) and lost to the bottom three teams in the East (Bulls, Knicks, Cavs).— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) March 4, 2019
Actual footage of me trying to make sense of this.... pic.twitter.com/nCgOTxBOlz