Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (4/2/14)

Maurice Harkless

By John Denton
April 2, 2014

ORLANDO – Cleveland continued its push for a playoff spot by scoring 70 points in the first half and getting at least 20 points from three players in a 119-98 whipping of the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Here are five takeaways from Orlando’s loss at the Amway Center:

BIZARRO BASKETBALL: Cleveland played the game backwards on the offensive end Wednesday night, using their guards to get to the rim and big man Spencer Hawes to bomb away from the 3-point line. The strategy worked especially well and it had the Magic in scramble mode defensively all night long.

Cleveland’s penetration-based system produced 70 points in the first half, nine 3-pointers in the game and 57.7 percent shooting for the night. Dion Waiters, a Magic killer all season, made 10 of 15 shots and scored 26 points, Hawes added 20 points, eight rebounds and four 3-pointers and Tristan Thompson chipped in 20 points and 11 boards.

``They had a little bit of both going and you give those guys a lot of credit,’’ said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, referring to Cleveland’s inside-outside attack. ``They were really intent coming into this game and Mike (Brown) had those guys ready to play and they were the aggressors. Spencer shot the ball well and they had good penetration, so give them credit.’’

PAINT BALL: Maybe the most frustrating aspect of the night for the Magic was the assault that they allowed Cleveland to make on the rim. Cleveland double up Orlando on paint points, outscoring the Magic 64-32 in the lane.

Here’s the part that should particularly disgust a Magic team that has been good of late at protecting the rim: Cleveland had nine dunks and 10 layups in Wednesday’s game.

``We didn’t do a good job defensively, but you’ve got to give them credit,’’ said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who saw a run of three impressive games in a row come to an end. ``They played hard and they executed really well. They took the game to us and we didn’t respond very well. They were very aggressive and we didn’t respond the right way.’’

BLOWOUT RARITY: The Magic have certainly had their struggles this season, but one of the team’s trademarks is that it usually in every game down to the wire. This game, however, was an exception to the rule.

Before Wednesday night, Orlando had gone nearly three months without losing a game by 20-or-more points. The last time that the Magic were whitewashed in a game was Jan. 11 in Denver – a 120-94 defeat in which Orlando was on the second night of a back-to-back and ravaged by injuries.

There were no injuries on Wednesday, but Orlando simply could match the intensity and physicality of a Cleveland team in the midst of a late-season playoff push.

``A loss is a loss and you would love to compete and be competitive because that’s what makes the game fun and enjoyable. But I don’t really feel like the game was competitive after the first quarter,’’ Afflalo said. ``It made for a long, boring game in a sense. But a loss is a loss.’’

BECOMING CAVS FANS: The Magic have good reason to become big-time fans of the Cavaliers over the course of the next two weeks. Because of the impact that it will have on the June NBA Draft, the Magic need surging Cleveland to overtake New York (and fading Atlanta) and claim the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

By virtue of the Dwight Howard trade from August of 2012, Orlando will get the worst of Denver’s two first-round picks this June. Denver owns its pick and the first-round selection from the New York Knicks. The least-favorable of those picks will be transferred to the Magic.

When the Knicks routed the Brooklyn Nets and the Hawks lost to Chicago on Wednesday night, New York moved out of the lottery and into the eighth spot in the East. Cleveland, winners of two straight games, is just two games back of the Knicks.

New York’s ever-changing pick fell from 11th to 15th on Wednesday night when the Knicks surged into the playoffs and out of the lottery. With Atlanta in the tank of late, Cleveland might offer the best shot at passing New York down the stretch. The Cavs have six games left with four coming against teams with losing records. Meanwhile, all six of the Knicks’ remaining games are against teams with winning records, including being at Miami, twice against Toronto and home games with Chicago and Brooklyn.

QUOTABLE: ``Terrible, terrible. It’s self explanatory and this is not how we want to play. That just shows no effort.’’ – Tobias Harris on the Magic shockingly getting outscored 64-32 in the paint.