Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 109, Cleveland Cavaliers 104

Gary Harris continues to make an impact for the Orlando Magic, helping the team to a big win. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris continues to make an impact for the Orlando Magic, helping the team to a big win. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

38. 104. 156. Final. 109

The lead was gone. A 23-point lead had evaporated slowly over the course of 12 minutes as the Cleveland Cavaliers put a press that sped up the young Orlando Magic and pushed them into mistake after mistake.

Turnovers were the plague the entire game and every victory against the press seemed to follow a crushing blow. The Magic’s thin margin for error, even with a sizable lead was small and shrinking.

When Kevin Love finally hit the tying 3-pointer with a minute to play, it felt like the Magic might be due for catastrophe. The kind of loss a young team suffers against a team desperate for a win. The conditions were all there.

Cole Anthony was not going to let the game end this way. He has been a fiery competitor all year long even if, as a rookie, he has not always had the power or knowledge to lift the team.

All the restrictions feel off now. Anthony is playing with an eye on the basket and the patience of someone who is taking command of the team.

A game after a veteran took him to town and taught him a lesson on how to close a game, Anthony applied those lessons directly.

The Orlando Magic nearly lost a 23-point lead in the second half but held on thanks to some heady play from rookie point guard Cole Anthony.

On the possession immediately after Love’s game-tying 3-pointer, Cole Anthony drove to the lane, got into the body of Jarrett Allen and double-clutched a layup to give the Magic the lead for good. He would be instrumental on the next possession as he helped guide Darius Garland toward a trap, forcing him to make a baseline pass that Dwayne Bacon easily stole.

Anthony iced the game from the foul line to give Orlando a 109-104 win over Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Magic were straight-out dominant through three quarters. Their defense suffocated the Cavaliers in the third quarter especially as they expanded their lead to 23 points. Cleveland’s poor shooting and turnovers gave Orlando an early lead and the team never let go.

The comeback for the Cavaliers happened slowly. They started pressing the young Magic and their confidence disappeared. Cleveland forced six turnovers, leading to 12 points. There were several made in the backcourt that led directly to shots. Another trap led to Chuma Okeke rolling his ankle. It was a costly fourth quarter in that sense as the team struggled with the pressure.

But Orlando broke through enough times to stay ahead. The Cavaliers never led in the fourth quarter. Anthony had at least two more wild finishes at the rim to keep the magic in front and give them just enough cushion to breathe and keep the Cavaliers at bay.

Orlando has a lot to learn about closing games for sure. This was not how the team wanted to finish things. But they also showed grit and poise to close the game out and secure the win.

Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY. A-. . PG

Cole Anthony had choice words for himself in the postgame on Bally Sports Florida for his first three quarters. It was not that he played poorly — maybe his shot was off — but he was not making the clear impact or finishing at the rim as he has.

The fourth quarter was his game. He took over. The Magic could not get the ball into his hands quick enough. And while the team struggled to break the press, so long as he had the ball, he was going to get the team into their sets.

When the Magic needed a basket late, Anthony was the one who delivered time and time again. The veterans were deferring to the rookie to deliver. Anthony was in complete control and playing with supreme confidence. All anyone could ever ask for.

He scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. It was an impressive finishing flourish for the rookie guard who has matured tremendously in the last month of the season.

A. . SG. Orlando Magic. GARY HARRIS

Gary Harris has always been very quietly good. He is able to fill up a stat sheet, especially when he is put into a supporting role. His shooting is good enough to keep defenses honest (even if he is not hitting) and he has the athleticism to finish at the rim. His defense is still impeccable and where he hangs his hat most. Harris has tried to get his feet under him with the Orlando Magic, but he has found ways to impact games. His veteran leadership is definitely felt every time he is on the floor.

Harris put in perhaps his best game in a Magic uniform with 19 points (9-for-16 shooting), six rebounds and seven assists. He did everything to fill in the box score. He was great defensively as he usually is and proved to be a person who could help calm the offense. He was the one making sure Cole Anthony had the ball late.

A-. . F. Orlando Magic. CHUMA OKEKE

Chuma Okeke built upon a really strong game Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers with another solid shooting effort. Something he desperately needed after a few weeks where he could not find his shot. He played and shot with confidence and even showed off some of his driving ability, getting to the basket on a few occasions.

Okeke had 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 3-for-6 shooting from deep. He hit several big shots in the fourth quarter to keep the Cavaliers at a distance. His departure with 3:26 left and the Magic up six was a turning point in the game. Orlando was hurting without him and another scoring option who they can trust to handle the ball against the press.

. SF. Orlando Magic. JAMES ENNIS. B

James Ennis was back in the lineup for the first time in four games. His presence was certainly a huge boost to the starting lineup. He gave the Orlando Magic another outside shooting threat and a solid defender. The team was more organized and a lot of the team’s early offensive success was because of the way he could support and let others operate. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

But Ennis was among the players who got hurried and rushed in the fourth quarter. He had three turnovers, at least two of them as the Magic broke the press in the fourth quarter. Those were critical mistakes that nearly cost the Magic the game. And something the team should expect more from a veteran. Even in his first game back.

21-41. 13th East. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS. B-.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were struggling. A lot of it was bad 3-point luck. They made only 12 of 44 3-pointers and six of those came in the fourth quarter, a key part of their comeback. But the Cavaliers were struggling to get shots to go down. And in the third quarter, they were struggling to get shots period. The Orlando Magic did a good job taking them out of rhythm.

Cleveland found something in throwing out a press to junk up the game. And Darius Garland and Cedi Osman made some big shots when the team got desperate. But the Magic largely got what they wanted offensively for much of the game. And when they were not, the Cavaliers could not take advantage. Cleveland should not be falling behind by 23 to a team like Orlando. The Cavaliers showed good resolve, but this was not good enough.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic's young players learn best in close games

The Orlando Magic are now 19-43, 14th in the Eastern Conference and nine games behind the Washington Wizards with 10 games to play.

The Magic will be eliminated from the playoffs with any combination of two losses or two Wizards wins.

The Orlando Magic’s road trip continues Friday when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies on the road to start a home-and-home set.