Final Dime: Magic 103, Cavaliers 87
Samardo Samuels drops in two of his 16 points on Sunday night in Orlando.
1. For the Cavaliers on Sunday night in Orlando, the song remained the same. And it’s getting to be a tough tune to hear.
The Wine and Gold’s storyline was a familiar one against the Eastern Conference heavyweights: They fell behind early, made a second half run to cut the deficit to single-digits, and watched Orlando hit the gas and pull away down the stretch.
The end result was, unfortunately, even more familiar, as the Cavaliers dropped their franchise-record 20th straight game – including 23 straight on the road – falling to the Magic, 103-87, on Sunday night at the Amway Center.
As Byron Scott reminded reporters after the loss, the game is played for 48 minutes – not 36. But it was those first 12 that cost Cleveland again on Sunday.
The Cavaliers fell behind, 33-17, after one quarter – as Dwight Howard and the Magic shot 67 percent and netted 24 points in the paint. The two teams basically battled to a draw for the rest of the night.
“We can’t allow ourselves to get down by 16 or 17 points and then expect to try to come back,” lamented Coach Scott. “The end of the first quarter was a killer. We get down 33-17, then it’s an uphill battle all night long, and against good teams like this it’s going to be hard to win.”
The Wine and Gold, who battled the Magic for the Eastern Conference crown 19 months ago, were led in scoring by their undrafted rookies – Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels.
Manny Harris, who got the start over Daniel Gibson, led the Cavaliers with 20 points – going 7-for-12 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from long distance. The lithe combo-guard from Michigan added six boards, three assist and a steal.
Samardo Samuels came off Cleveland’s bench to add a career-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The rugged big man from Louisville was 4-for-4 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the stripe in the second half of Sunday’s affair.
Ryan Hollins rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures, going 4-of-5 from the floor despite battle foul trouble that came with checking Orlando’s All-Star big man.
The Wine and Gold were thoroughly dominated on the boards, 61-35, and in second-chance points, 15-4. Apart from those figures, both teams were as statistically close as the score of the game’s final three quarters.
The Cavaliers round out the two-game Sunshine State trip on Monday night in Miami.
2. For just the second time this season, J.J. Hickson failed to get into the scoring column. He did still led the Cavaliers with 11 rebounds (to go with a game-high three blocks) and has now averaged 14.0 rebounds per game over the past five contests.
3. Manny Harris got his first start since January 21 and responded well, leading the Cavaliers with 20 points. It was the second time this month Harris has led the squad in scoring.
4. Ramon Sessions failed to notch double-figures for just the third time in his last 17 outings. Sessions is now averaging an even 14.0. ppg over that span.
5. Cleveland’s bench ranked 6th in the NBA coming into Sunday’s matchup at 35.8 points per contest. Against the Magic, every Cavalier who played scored and the reserves finished with 43 points.
6. Samardo Samuels’ 16-point performance was a career best for the rookie big man.
“Every day I’m getting better,” said Samuels following Sunday’s loss. “I know the team is young and the losing is tough right now. It’s very tough on me because I hate losing. I know I‘m a winner, and everybody in here got better today – so we’re winning.”
7. The Magic are hoping that their new $380 million Amway Arena, which opened on 10/10/10, will follow a trend and host a Championship in its first year, joining the Lakers (Staples Center, 1999) and Spurs (AT&T Center, 2002).
8. Despite just a seven-point outing on Sunday, over his career, Antawn Jamison has averaged more points against the Magic than any other opponent. He’s averaged 23.1ppg against Orlando, followed closely by his 23.9 average against the Clippers and 22.3 against his former squad, the Wizards.
9. In the first half, Ramon Sessions attempted just his fourth three-pointer of the season. In his four-year NBA career, Sessions has attempted only 60 treys total – canning ten.
10. After Monday’s matchup in Miami, the Cavaliers – who have now played the most road games in the East at 27 – have only 13 road games the rest of the way, including just two in February.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.