Orlando Magic Grades: Cleveland Cavaliers 104, Orlando Magic 103

The Orlando Magic led a spirited 20-point comeback in the second half. But some questionable officiating allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to escape.

The basketball gods must really have a sense of humor with the Orlando Magic. Either that or the Magic put the game in official’s hands far too much considering their opponent. The randomness of close games was going to get them.

And Aaron Gordon would finally hit the open three he was desperate for in the fourth quarter after the buzzer.

The Orlando Magic made the Cleveland Cavaliers look bad in the second half. Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, they made them look even worse. Their desperate comeback from a 20-point halftime deficit seemed complete when Shelvin Mack, of all people, got an offensive rebound and hit a floater over LeBron James.

Shelvin Mack though was the one who will take the play that will ultimately cost the team the game.  After a spirited stop that saw Aaron Gordon knock the rebound into the backcourt Reaching in, he appeared to get all ball. Or enough ball to earn a jump ball.

Instead, Isaiah Thomas found himself at the foul line to take the lead with 12 seconds left.

The Magic opted to take the ball out of bounds, foregoing the timeout. Elfrid Payton got all the way to the basket and missed the layup. The ball squirted out of bounds (eventually) ending in an inadvertent whistle and ended in a jump ball with 0.2 seconds left.

The Magic fell 104-103 to the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday with a sour taste in their mouths. Orlando left one on the door.

And it had less to do with the bad call or any of the late-game plays. It had more to do with the Magic’s poor play throughout the first half. A lifeless 24 minutes where Orlando trailed by 20 points at halftime. It felt like the Magic were going to get run out of the gym, James toying with them and the Cavaliers burying 3-pointers.

Orlando had to storm back in the third quarter, using some scrappy defense to do so. The Magic missed plenty of opportunities to take the lead late and take control of the game. Their misses put the game in the officials’ hands late.

And eventually, Orlando has to feel it left one on the board. A frustrating moment for a team that is trying to find some form of confidence right now.

Elfrid Payton can still get into the paint seemingly at will. He can still drive past defenders and make pinpoint passes. And he can still finish at the rim very effectively. Do not let his final shot, a layup he just overcooked by a hair that would have won the game, turn him into the goat. He did everything he needed to score there.

And throughout the game, Payton was effective. One of the few players who was aggressive and assertive throughout the entire game. He finished with 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He added eight assists, all in the second half. Payton was getting wherever he wanted on the floor.

Payton dominated the ball. And sometimes it was too much. The Magic’s late-game execution was not clean. Far too often, the Magic were too slow to get into their offensive sets. They were rushing to finish possessions. That hurt the quality of the Magic’s shots. Orlando needed to pick up its pace late.

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ELFRID PAYTON

PG, Orlando Magic

B+

Elfrid Payton can still get into the paint seemingly at will. He can still drive past defenders and make pinpoint passes. And he can still finish at the rim very effectively. Do not let his final shot, a layup he just overcooked by a hair that would have won the game, turn him into the goat. He did everything he needed to score there.

And throughout the game, Payton was effective. One of the few players who was aggressive and assertive throughout the entire game. He finished with 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He added eight assists, all in the second half. Payton was getting wherever he wanted on the floor.

Payton dominated the ball. And sometimes it was too much. The Magic’s late-game execution was not clean. Far too often, the Magic were too slow to get into their offensive sets. They were rushing to finish possessions. That hurt the quality of the Magic’s shots. Orlando needed to pick up its pace late.

Gordon finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, making just 7 of his 20 shots. Those are fine counting stats. But the Magic need a bit more of the intangibles from him.

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AARON GORDON

PF, Orlando Magic

C

The moment the Orlando Magic’s offense came alive was when Aaron Gordon started hitting shots. Gordon had a forgettable first half. He was struggling to get anything going and that was hurting his team. He still did not finish with an efficient shooting percentage. And he was not strong offensively.

But when he got things going, draining a couple 3-pointers, the team’s energy completely changed on both ends. Something Gordon is going to have to realize, this team goes as he goes. Whether he is ready or not, he has become a leader for this team. He has to play that way, learning how to get others involved. And most importantly, playing with an intensity on both ends. Too often, Gordon did not challenge shooters when he switched. And those turned out to be big shots in the fourth quarter.

Gordon finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, making just 7 of his 20 shots. Those are fine counting stats. But the Magic need a bit more of the intangibles from him.