Postgame Report: Magic vs. Cavs (2/19/14)

By John Denton
Feb. 19, 2014

CLEVELAND – Had the Orlando Magic played with the same pizzazz and crispness in the first half that it displayed in a spirited second half on Wednesday night they might have been able to finally snap their long road losing streak.

As it was, the Magic trimmed a discouraging 21-point early deficit to two points in the fourth quarter, but the rally left them with little energy late in the game. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has said repeatedly that for his team to win on the road it has to play nearly a flawless 48 minutes, and that was hardly the case on Wednesday as Orlando fell 101-93 to surging Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

``It was tough fighting uphill, but we did a good job in the second half of doing some good things to put us in position to compete and get a win,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``It was a one-possession game. But it’s just tough to be on the road and have to dig out of that hole.’’

Orlando (16-40) outscored Cleveland (22-33) 57-46 in the second half, but it couldn’t overcome a disastrous start to the game. The Magic did get within 72-70 early in the fourth quarter, but they never got over the hump and never led in a second straight road defeat following the NBA All-Star break.

``We played in the second half like we really needed that game. And that’s how we have to start the games,’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who had 19 points and seven rebounds. ``We have to be focused, but we didn’t start the game like that. … We have to bring so much energy on the road to start the game that we discourage the other tesm. It takes a lot but we’re capable of doing it. If we want to win road games, where we don’t have a crowd, we have to be mentally locked in.’’

Orlando once again surged to within 89-87 of the Cavs – winners of six straight games for the first time since the LeBron James era four seasons ago – but Cleveland’s Tyler Zeller delivered a knockout blow. He rebounded a missed shot and sank a layup as he was fouled to give Cleveland a safe five-point lead.

Orlando lost its 14th straight road game, a streak that improbably dates back to Dec. 16 in Chicago. The Magic have the worst road record (3-25) in the NBA and they’ve been unable to carry the confidence gained at home with them in games played outside of Orlando.

The Magic will be off on Thursday, which will be significant because of the NBA trade deadline that comes at 3 p.m. Orlando has taken calls from teams interested in Afflalo and Nelson, but it has shown no inclination to trade either veteran guard.

Nikola Vucevic scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half and finished with 12 rebounds. Afflalo chipped in 23 points – 12 in the second half. Kyle O’Quinn played well off the bench with 10 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:43 to play.

All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving scored 22 points and made three 3-pointers for Cleveland, which has beaten Orlando three times this season.

Down 19 points at the half, Orlando played some inspired basketball in the third quarter and sliced the deficit to four. Orlando had 32 points in the third period, just four points fewer than it had in a dreadful first half. Harris and Vucevic combined to score 20 points in the third quarter by being extremely aggressive around the rim.

The Magic were as flat at the beginning of the game as they have been in months. They missed their first nine shots and 11 of the first 12 tries to fall into 13-point lead in the first six minutes. Before Afflalo drilled a 3-pointer late in the half Orlando’s starting five missed 13 of their 14 shots and the only make came on a point-blank tip-in by Vucevic.

``We just came out very slow at the start and defensively we weren’t doing the right things,’’ Vucevic said. ``Offensively, we were taking quick shots and we weren’t moving the ball or being patient. We had to fight our way back and we did, but you just can’t start games like that and win.’’