Denton: Magic vs. Cavaliers Analysis (1/2/14)


While the Magic were without Vucevic (sprained ankle), the Cavs didn’t have all-star point guard Kyrie Irving (knee contusion). Vucevic sprained his ankle on Tuesday against Golden State – a 94-81 loss – and hoped to play on Thursday. However, he was scratched from the starting lineup 75 minutes before tipoff.

Veteran forward Jason Maxiell (six points and six rebounds) started at center, giving the smallish Magic two players with Davis and Maxiell at 6-foot-7 along the frontline.

It was an otherwise forgettable night for the top two picks in last June’s NBA Draft – Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo. They combined to miss their first seven shots, none of them uglier than Bennett’s 3-point try at the end of the third quarter that hit off the side of the backboard.

Oladipo (six points and four rebounds) scored his first points of the game midway through the fourth quarter and had a key bucket with 2:46 remaining to put the Magic up 76-68. Bennett missed all four of his shots and did not score in 11 minutes.

But there simply wasn’t enough Magic offense for the Magic after Oladipo’s jump shot. Orlando didn’t have a field goal the rest of the way in regulation.

``We just can’t have those letdowns on either end of the court,’’ Nelson said. ``We don’t have the kind of team that can make those mistakes. It hurts when we do. We just have to play a better game for 48 minutes.’’

The Magic were playing their first road game in more than two weeks after spending the past 16 days and six games in Orlando. The Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Saturday night when they host the rival Miami Heat.

Down two at the half and struggling offensively, Orlando came out of the locker room dialed in and sharp in the third period. Nelson had a stellar sequence with two passes to cutters for buckets and then hit a 3-pointer. Nelson had eight points and five assists in the third quarter alone to give Orlando a 62-57 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

That lead would grow to as much as 10 points in the fourth period, but it would quickly vanish as the Cavs finished regulation with a flurry.

In the four games that Vucevic missed in early December with a sprained ankle, Orlando was outrebounded in all four games and a total of 213-143. The Magic made their rebounding a team effort in the early going, nearly matching the Cavs on the glass.

But in the end, Orlando was outrebounded again 59-49. More importantly, Cleveland grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 12 more field goal attempts for the Cavs.

With him enjoying a career year and playing at an all-star level, Afflalo has seen increased defensive scrutiny of late. Cleveland repeatedly sent double-teams at him on Thursday to get the ball out of his hands. As a result, Afflalo had just one shot and went scoreless in the game’s first 16 minutes. He did get himself going midway through the second period with a tip-in, a quick, catch-and-shoot basket along the baseline and a 3-pointer from the wing. For the game, he made just five of 15 shots – his second straight poor shooting performance following a five-game streak of shooting at least 50 percent from the floor and the 3-point line.

Nelson said in time the young Magic will learn from frustrating nights like Thursday and they will better understand how to close out games. Until then, Nelson said this loss will haunt the Magic.

``It’s tough, but in the NBA we have another opponent coming up in two days. But definitely this one stings right now,’’ the 10-year veteran said. ``I felt like we were in control of the game for the most part, especially in the second half. … It’s a process to learn how to win. I’m not saying we played that bad. There are a couple of more things we need to do mentally and collectively.’’


Follow John Denton on Twitter here