The Orlando Magic were ready to push the Cleveland Cavaliers to the limit. Victor Oladipo’s career-best game had them on the ropes. But the Cavs prevailed.
The Cleveland Cavaliers got pushed. That much they can say. But they also had the quiet confidence that they would finish out the game.
Never mind Victor Oladipo scoring 45 points, setting a new career high and becoming the first Magic play to hit that mark since Dwight Howard in Jan. 2012. Never mind the Magic continuing to fight back and give themselves a chance to steal a game from the Cavaliers.
Cleveland got the big shots they needed. It was Kyrie Irving making difficult 3-pointers and getting to the basket. It was LeBron James whipping the ball to the perimeter as the defense sucked in to stop him. It was Tristan Thompson scratching out a big offensive rebound.
Cleveland had all those plays. And they shut out the Orlando Magic’s best weapon on the day — Victor Oladipo — in the fourth quarter. The Magic could not get it to their other key players and their offense faltered.
That put the pressure on the Magic to execute better and finish off defensive possessions. That is when the Cavaliers thrived most and held on for the win.
VICTOR OLADIPOSG, Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo was dialed into this game from the opening tip. He had a deflection off of J.R. Smith on the first possession and then a steal for the first points of the game. He was hounding on defense and setting a tone for the Orlando Magic.
Oladipo was fantastic on both ends of the floor. Everything he did carried over. He scored a career-high 45 points and made 16 of 22 shots. He was throwing things at the rim and they were just going in. But he was aggressive too.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had to change their defense to deal with him and deny him the ball. If Oladipo did anything wrong, it was not getting others more involved or freeing himself up more in the fourth quarter. That is something he can continue to learn if he is to become this kind of player. But he was dialed in on both ends and played superbly.
EVAN FOURNIERSF, Orlando Magic
Evan Fournier had something to make up for after Wednesday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. He struggled to be physical with Nicolas Batum and the bigger Batum shot over the top of him and took him to the woodshed. It was a bad game for Fournier.
He recovered, but in a somewhat unexpected way. Defensively he held his own against LeBron James, a player with the similar physicality and size he struggled with the night before. James shot just 6 for 15 for the game. The Magic were there to help, but Fournier largely did his job.
Fournier scored 18 points of his own, but struggled some with his shot. He too shot 6 for 15 from the floor. His desire to be physical also led him to commit six fouls. He used everything at his disposal to help slow James down. He did the best he could, in the end.
JASON SMITHC, Orlando Magic
Jason Smith is starting to become a bit of a flash point for the Orlando Magic and their fans. He has a good mid-range jumper and some good defensive skills, but it is also clear he needs to be coming off the bench. Now that he gets starters minutes off the bench, fans are noticing his flaws a bit more and getting frustrated with his play late in games.
Smith scored 10 points, shooting 4 for 10 from the floor. He took several jumpers late in the game that did not go down. And he got beat on a key rebound by Tristan Thompson late in the game with the deficit hanging in the balance.
Smith was decent defensively, perhaps a hair late on some helpside rotations. And like many Magic players, he got sucked in by LeBron James’ penetration a little bit too often. But that is a typical game for Smith. One the Magic should not have to rely on as much as they do.
AARON GORDONPF, Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon recovered decently from his disappointing effort Wednesday. At least on the defensive end of the floor.
Gordon got some of the call on James and did a good job staying in front of him and making his life difficult. Gordon played really well in that regard.
He had his struggles offensively though, making just two of his eight shots for seven points to go with his 10 rebound.s He missed some shots around the basket too, even after offensive rebounds. He was struggling in that regard, but largely played a better game and played his role defensively.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS49-19, 1st, East
The Cleveland Cavaliers are certainly the best team in the Eastern Conference despite all the well-publicized issues the team has. Their ball movement is superb and the team quickly moved things around the perimeter when things were moving well for the Cavaliers.
That was not the case for most of the game. Their offense was extremely sloppy to the tune of 19 turnovers and the Orlando Magic took advantage time and time again. They did a good job keeping the Magic on the perimeter, but Victor Oladipo was making his shots.
The Magic stayed in the game and pushed the Cavaliers hard in this game. But Cleveland made the right plays at the right times. They got the baskets from Kyrie Irving and several key rebounds and they eked out the win.