Orlando had controlled the game the entire way, taking eight-point leads in both the first and third quarter and staying in the lead for pretty much the entire game. Nikola Vucevic was dominating the glass. Kyrie Irving was struggling. The defense was creating stops.
The Magic were doing everything seemingly right to break this losing skid and go home from this long road trip with at least one win.
Like so many games this year though the Magic faltered at the end of the game. Whether it was fatigue, inexperience or coaching or whatever else it might be, the Magic could not finish and could not eke out a win. It was another disappointing and frustrating loss for a team that has shown plenty of growth, but not the wins that should come with that.
The Cavaliers took the lead with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter for a four-point lead. They held on, getting to the line and taking advantage of the Magic's tired legs for a 91-85 win at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday.
Orlando had some nice execution throughout, getting plenty of points in the paint, but the team was unable to hit a shot from the perimeter. When Cleveland made that final push, Orlando could not do much to stop them. The team was caught fouling and could not secure rebounds.
The Cavaliers took three quarters but they finally broke through the Magic.
Cleveland was able to come back and make pushes throughout the game time and time again thanks to shooting 7 for 17 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers got to the line and made 20 of 24 free throws, many in that fourth quarter. Cleveland also had 17 offensive rebounds.
It all helped add up to the Cavaliers to a 29-19 advantage in the final 12 minutes.
Orlando did not have an answer. The Magic shot just 1 of 13 from beyond the arc and 37.8 percent from the floor. They scored 50 points in the paint and got the third 20-20 game for Nikola Vucevic for the year — 21 points and 21 rebounds — and 26 points and 12 rebounds from Tobias Harris.
It was not enough with no jumpers falling. The Magic just could not getinto the paint enough times and it enabled the Cavaliers to double the post hard. Every time Vucevic or Andrew Nicholson caught the ball in the paint, they saw quick and nearly immediate double teams. They were effective for most of the game, just not at the end.
Maurice Harkless was 3 for 12 from the floor, Andrew Nicholson was 4 for 12 and Beno Udrih was 4 for 12. No one could spread the floor for the Magic. Eventually someone's shots had to fall.
It turned out it was the Cavaliers shots that would oblige. Despite Kyrie Irving shooting 3 for 15, the Cavaliers got the shots they needed when they needed them and kept within striking distance. Alonzo Gee had 19 points, including three 3-pointers. He was able to make key shots when the Magic defense rotated.
Eventually fatigue seemed to set in. Three of Orlando's starters played 40 minutes or more and Harkless played 39. At the end of the game, it seemed the Cavaliers were parading to the free throw line, the rim or the offensive glass.
This was again a game the Magic played well enough to win. They just did not have the horses to finish things off. It seems like that has been the key thing missing in these late-season games.
And it is too hard to tell if the team is learning anything from it right now.