It seemed over right when the game started. One of those games between a team dialed in and fighting for its Playoff lives and another one coasting to the Lottery.
In the final 10 games of last season, the Magic lost by an average margin of 12.5 points per game, averaging 92.1 points per game and giving up 100.6 points per game. They won only two of their final 10 games. That is the fate of a team drifting toward the bottom of the standings and looking forward to a May trip to Secaucus or New York City rather than an April trip to the Playoffs.
Orlando could be in for another one of those types of finishes to the season as it comes nearer to its close. This game Wednesday night was as forgettable as any of the others in a season that has seen the Magic show improvement but fail to put it all together. Sometimes with a team like this it is going to be a rough night and the other team is going to have your number.
That would be this night with the Cavaliers.
Cleveland took as much as a 28-point lead in coasting to an important 119-98 win as the team tries to fight its way back into the Playoff picture. The Cavaliers took little pity on the Magic in scoring 35 points in both the first and second quarters and shooting 57.7 percent from the floor for the game.
This was a beatdown in every way.
“They moved the ball real well offensively,” Maurice Harkless said. “They were aggressive on both ends of the floor. On defense they had us under pressure and offensively they had us scrambling the whole game. They made shots. That’s a good team over there. They played well tonight.”
The Magic never quite found their footing despite a solid offensive first quarter — they scored 27 points and had a better field goal percentage at 55.0 percent. But that would not last and defense is ultimately the decider in differentiating teams in the end. Orlando’s defense struggled to keep Cleveland in front. The Cavaliers had almost an easy time driving into the lane and dishing back out to the 3-point line or dishing along the interior to the next player when the help came.
This was basketball 101 and the Magic were the the team getting schooled.
Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 26 points and Spencer Hawes and Tristan Thompson added 20 points each. Kyrie Irving, playing in his first game since March 16, fit in very nicely in scoring 17 points and dishing out eight assists.
The Magic had no answer as the Cavaliers scored 64 points in the paint to the Magic’s 32 and had 25 fast break points to the Magic’s six. Cleveland scored 21 points off 17 Orlando turnovers.
In other words, everything was working the Cavaliers’ way.
“Hopefully when you go to work, you take pride in what you do,” Jacque Vaughn said. “I believe the men in that locker room do take pride in what they do. They work extremely hard every day. Some days, it’s not your day. Over an 82-game season, I’ll continue to push these guys and want the most and best out of them.
“But am I embarrassed for them tonight? No, I’m proud to be their coach. We’ll get back at it, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, we’ll get to Charlotte and have shootaround. We’ll be ready to play again.”
That is about all the Magic can do is lick their wounds and move on to Friday’s game against the Bobcats.
Maurice Harkless was the only Magic starter to score at least 10 points. Victor Oladipo came off the bench to score 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Doron Lamb had a nice performance too with 14 points off the bench. Orlando ended up shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and made 11 of 28 3-pointers. The Magic scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, showing the no-quit we are accustomed to seeing.
But Orlando never got closer than 17 points in the second half — once in the third and once very late in the fourth quarter. The only positives are the garbage time positives of playing experience and somewhat inflated box score numbers. That can be growth nonetheless, but it is hard to find a silver lining in a game as thoroughly dominated as this one.
The best thing to do is forget about it and move on.
“It’s over. We’ve got another game on Friday,” Harkless said. “Just worry about that one. After probably being mad about it for a couple of hours. Then I’m over it.”