Kim Klement/USA TODAY
The Magic seemed off to the races running toward the north side of the Amway Center in the first quarter and off to a semi-comfortable win. There were 17 fast break points, Victor Oladipo banking in 3-pointers, the ball moving around the perimeter, the defense rotating and attacking.
Orlando had it all rolling it seemed.
It ended though with the Magic somewhat stunned. The Cavaliers had roared back, grinding away at the lead, making difficult shots and getting to the paint. Cleveland got a necessary lift from Dion Waiters off the bench in the form of 14 points to start the fourth quarter and a 14-0 run over four minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter to put a clamp on the game and secure a 109-100 win at Amway Center on Friday.
"Tonight was a night that was a game we were supposed to win," Glen Davis said. "You just can't give games up like that. It's sad we can't get that game back. It is what it is, back to the drawing board."
The Magic could not find any way to break the defense, seeing their field goal percentage slowly drop and putting in and going to their best scorer and best attacker on this night too late in the fourth quarter. Cleveland had an answer every time the Magic seemed ready to take control of the game. When the Cavaliers finally made their last run — that 14-0 dash — the Magic could not find the offense to make theirs.
Orlando recorded 17 fastbreak points in the first quarter, scoring eight points on five turnovers. The Magic were shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and 47.8 percent from the floor. A strong defensive effort held the Cavaliers to 37.5 percent shooting in the quarter.
Cleveland found a way to chip away at that lead behind 10 points from Kyrie Irving in the second quarter and 11 in the third quarter, on his way eventually to 31 points. For a while it seemed like it would be a scoring duel between Irving and Victor Oladipo, charged with guarding the slippery All-Star point guard.
Oladipo scored 12 of his career-high-tying 26 points in the third quarter, seemingly matching Irving shot for shot by getting to the rim himself and making his improved 3-point shot. The Magic still held the lead heading into the final quarter.
Then a second scorer stepped up for the Cavs while no other scorer did the same for the Magic.
"Those guys hit some tough shots, especially Dion Waiters," Oladipo said. "He got the lande a lot and got a couple and-1s. When we get back on the floor, we have to value each other and every possession, especially on the defensive end.
"I just tried to do a great job of mixing it up, showing them different looks and trying to be aggressive on the other end."
Waiters scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers, helping them stay in the game. Tobias Harris, playing just his second game of the season, hit a difficult and-1 jumper from the elbow that gave the Magic a 82-76 lead. Cleveland answered with a driving layup and-1 from Dion Waiters. Harris hit a corner three to give Orlando an 85-81 lead, only to see Waiters hit another runner and draw a foul.
Waiters became that second scorer getting 16 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and making six of his nine shots. Kyrie Irving did not have to do much work in the fourth quarter to get his 31.
Oladipo did not check in until about midway through the quarter. He did not get a shot really until the final two minutes, when he drove the lane for a layup. Afflalo missed both 3-pointers he had and struggled to get post position against a scrappy, but smaller, Matthe Dellavedova. Jameer Nelson was 2 for 5 int he fourth quarter.
No one else seemed to step up and the Cavaliers, particularly Waiters, found their way into the paint and able to create solid shot opportunities on their way to a 36-point final frame and a win.
"I just think they had shot-makers," Jacque Vaughn said. "At the end of the day that's what the NBA is about, being able to cause the defense to react and put the ball in the bucket. Dion Waiters was able to do it and Kyrie was able to do it down the stretch. I think that one person had the ball in their hands and that one person was shooting it. Whether it was Kyrie shooting it or Dion Waiters shooting it, I think that limited their risk of turning the ball over when that guy shot it."
Vaughn also said the Cavaliers did a good job denying the post entry to Arron Afflalo and disrupting the Magic's offensive flow. With Cleveland not turning the ball over, it was difficult for Orlando to generate much offense.
The Magic made 11 of their season-high 30 3-point attempts. Additionally, the Magic were 15 for 25 in the paint, taking 30 shots from mid-range and making just 11 of those shots. The Magic were not shooting the ball well and needed some more, efficient help. Arron Afflalo missed on six of his seven 3-pointers and struggled to find his rhythm, ending up with 17 points. Jameer Nelson added 17 points too on 7-for-15 shooting.
Andrew Nicholson provided some lift off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds. But he too missed eight of his 12 shots, including a hook shot with the Magic trailing by four that would have put real pressure on the Cavaliers.
His night was marred somewhat by a late-game push on Anderson Varejao on a meaningless layup attempt that showed the frustration the Magic had this night. Nicholson was ejected on a flagrant-2 foul and could face further discipline from the league.
Orlando simply did not get the support or efficiency it needed to pull away. Cleveland hung around, got hot and won the game.
It was a great win for the Cavaliers, and a night of frustration and some questions for the Magic.