Final Dime: Magic 97, Cavaliers 86
Daniel Gibson finished with 16 points off the bench on Monday night at The Q.
David Liam Kyle
Cleveland trailed by 15 after one quarter and by 22 after three – and it looked like Orlando might run away with it. But Daniel Gibson and Christian Eyenga’s hot shooting gave the Wine and Gold hope, cutting Orlando’s 26-point edge to just nine in the closing minutes.
But Hedo Turkoglu canned a three-pointer from the corner with just under three minutes to play, giving Orlando a 12-point lead and enough breathing room to hand the Cavaliers the 97-86 loss at The Q.
In that fourth quarter, the Cavaliers outscored Orlando, 28-17, with Gibson and Eyenga combining to hit four of the Cavs’ five three-pointers in the final period. Cleveland shot 52 percent in the period and held Orlando to 33 percent – but it was a case of too little, too late.
The Cavaliers were led by J.J. Hickson, who finished with 18 points and six boards while battling Dwight Howard most of the evening. Hickson was 6-for-14 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the stripe and led the squad with three blocks.
“We just came out slow,” said Hickson. “When we get ourselves in that big of a hole, even when we fight back, it’s tough to keep climbing uphill the whole game. When we play like we did in the fourth with that second unit, if the game was closer, I think we would have won this game.”
Gibson followed up with 16 points – a dozen of which he netted in the closing quarter. Boobie was 7-for-11 from the floor overall, including 2-of-5 from long-distance.
Eyenga was the only other Cavalier in double-figures with 10 points, going 4-for-6 from the floor in the fourth period and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc.
Gibson and Eyenga were two of the five reserves who played the entire fourth quarter. Byron Scott gave all five of his starters the final quarter off.
“The second unit guys just came in and did a much better job of just competing and playing hard,” reasoned Coach Scott. “That was the bottom line and we have to find a way to do that for 48 minutes.”
The Wine and Gold shot 40 percent on the night, but where handled on the boards, due largely to Dwight Howard’s 18-rebound performance. Howard added 28 points and he and Brandon Bass teamed for 50 of Orlando’s 97 points – going a combined 18-for-21 from the floor. Howard even managed to go 10-of-12 from the stripe.
The Cavaliers are back in action on Wednesday night when they welcome Brooke Lopez and the New Jersey Nets to The Q.
2. The Cavaliers have used 21 different starting lineups this season and yet are just one of just four teams to use the same starting five for every game in March. (Gee, Parker, Hickson, Sessions, Samuels).
3. J.J. Hickson will be glad there are only three back-to-backs remaining. His numbers on one day’s rest vs. zero day’s rest are stark – including points per game (9.6/13.9 ppg), rebounds (6.7/8.5 rpg), field goal percentage (.390/.462 FG) and free throw percentage (.567/.680 FT).
4. Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels are both looking to break the Cavaliers mark for most points by an undrafted rookie. Smush Parker set the mark in 2002-03 with 408, followed by Henry James, who scored 300 points in 1990-91. This year, Manny and Samardo have 295 and 246 points respectively.
5. Samardo is currently second in scoring among all undrafted rookies at 7.7 points per contest. (San Antonio’s Gary Neal is tops at 9.5 ppg.)
6. Of all the Cavaliers that suited up on Monday night, only one – Daniel Gibson – saw action when these two teams met in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. (Anderson Varejao is currently out; J.J. Hickson was inactive at the time.)
7. Since March 9, Daniel Gibson is averaging 12.0 ppg and has drained at least one three-pointer in nine straight games.
8. Before Monday’s game, Coach Byron Scott was asked if he’s watching this year’s NCAA Tournament with a little different perspective or focus with the Cavs having a pair of high picks this summer.
“Yes and no,” said Scott. “I don’t watch games as a fan, I watch as a coach. But I am looking at a lot of these guys thinking: ‘HE can help us.’ So I’m kind of looking both ways, which is the only way I can look at it right now.”
9. Browns cornerback Joe Haden has made plenty of appearances at Cavs games, but on Monday night, he and his little brothers went the extra mile – all three dressed in FULL Cavaliers uniforms (including jerseys, shorts, wristbands, headbands, etc.).
10. The Cavaliers will play their next four at The Q, closing out the homestand with their last meeting of the season against Miami on March 29. In the final month of the season, Cleveland plays eight games in 13 days.
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.