The Orlando Magic became the first team in NBA history to sweep four-game season series with the Cleveland Cavaliers..."/> The Orlando Magic became the first team in NBA history to sweep four-game season series with the Cleveland Cavaliers..."/>

Magic Let Up Again, Still Defeat Cavaliers 97-86


The Orlando Magic became the first team in NBA history to sweep four-game season series with the Cleveland Cavaliers by winning every game by double digits with a 97-86 win over in Cleveland Monday night.

Dwight Howard led the Magic with 28 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, four assists and four steals. J.J. Hickson led the Cavs with 18 points and six rebounds.  It was the first time anyone has thrown out a stat line like that since Hakeem the Dream in 1990.

The Magic started off a little slow and sluggish and had just five points in the first three minutes and 58 seconds of the game. After Dwight Howard threw down a dunk off of a bullet pass from Jameer Nelson to give the Magic a 7-6 lead, Orlando finished the quarter on a 24-9 run and took a 30-15 lead. In the period, the Magic shot 11-of-22 from the field, hit six free throws and grabbed 17 rebounds. The Cavaliers shot 6-of-26 from the field (23.1%), made only three free throws and grabbed just 12 rebounds. The Magic shot even better in the second quarter (12-of-19) and extended the lead to 18 at the half.

During the third quarter, Cleveland played a little better and threatened to cut into the lead but they still couldn’t shoot (7-of-18) and couldn’t stop the Magic in the paint. The Cavs were even able to make Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy furious because a J.J. Hickson dunk. The Cavs went on a 7-0 run and cut a 26-point Magic lead down to seven before a Gilbert Arenas three pushed it back to 22.

Cleveland started the fourth quarter with 11 straight points (an 18-3 run in total) and cut the Magic lead to just 11. It stayed around that score for the remainder of the game. Cleveland got the lead down to single digits (nine) with just over three minutes to go but Hedo Turkoglu immediately answered with a three-pointer to push it back to 12.

After the jump, you can read more thoughts and observations from the game.

The Cavs had absolutely no answer for the Magic underneath. Orlando’s big man trio of Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass ad Ryan Anderson did whatever they want on the offensive end and weren’t challenged much on the defensive end. The three combined to score 62 points on 23-of-32 shooting (65.6%). Take out Anderson’s 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and it’s even more impressive – Bass and Howard had 50 points and 18-of-21 shooting (85.7%) Howard was insanely efficient, going 9-of-11 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free throw line.

The Cavs did do a much better job in the paint in the second half but it wasn’t nearly enough. Overall, the Magic outrebounded the Cavaliers 47-38. Howard grabbed 18 of those rebounds while Bass finished with six and Anderson five.

Gilbert Arenas returned from his injury and still couldn’t get anything going. He made a couple of big shots in the second half but was just 2-of-8 from the field and made several stupid mistakes, which included poor shot selection and a foul of a three-point shooter.

Jameer Nelson didn’t shoot the ball much because, well, he didn’t have to. Nelson was aggressive when he needed to be but for the most part, he tried to consistently get the ball to his big men because of Cleveland’s lack of interior defenders. Nelson finished with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

Earl Clark didn’t get off the bench but Quentin Richardson got a lot more burn than usual. He didn’t shoot well (1-of-5) but he did a fourth quarter three-pointer that pushed Orlando’s lead back to 14 when Cleveland was threatening to make a game of it. Q also added four rebounds.

Turnovers were the only reason this game stayed close in the early going. Orlando had 12 first half turnovers, leading to seven Cleveland points. The Magic turned the ball over once in the third quarter but were back to their old tricks while Cleveland was making their fourth quarter run. Orlando turned the ball over seven times in the final period and finished with 20 for the game.

Orlando’s Duhon-Arenas backcourt really helps up the turnovers. Duhon had just one but Arenas had four. Van Gundy can’t really afford to play that backcourt without Hedo Turkoglu in to help handle the ball and make plays for his teammates like he did for a stretch in Monday night’s game.

The fourth quarter had to be disappointing to Van Gundy in his players. The Magic still can’t put teams away even when their opponent is completely overmatched, which was the case Monday night. The Magic continue to get into lulls, where they don’t play for extended stretches and they did that again Monday. Complacency and “scoreboard watching” as Jameer Nelson says sets in with this team too often. If Orlando wants to make noise in the postseason, that absolutely cannot happen. If you can nearly let Cleveland get back into a game from 26 down, what happens when you see the Boston’s, Miami’s and Chicago’s of the word?

Final Thought: The Magic have to get better about putting teams away or it’s going to come back to haunt them when it matters most.

Next Up: The Magic will be in New York to take on the Knicks Wednesday night.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider ( Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).