Magic Display Clutch Poise in Defeating Cavs
The Orlando Magic did not make it easy on themselves, but they improved to a record of 5-7 as they dispatched of the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-104. A riveting finish to a contest that saw 54 fouls whistled in forty-eight minutes in what was a sluggishly-paced first 36 minutes. Arron Afflalo knocked down an immense 3-pointer to put Orlando up 98-94 with 1:57 remaining in the contest. Afflalo scored 19 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range, for just the second time this year, had a field goal percentage over 50%. Jameer Nelson exploded for a season-high 22 points. Nik Vucevic went from being scoreless in the first half, to finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds as the Montenegrin proved vital down the stretch as he uplifted the Magic to a 100-97 advantage with 32.3 seconds left on a driving lay-up. JJ Redick poured in 18 points off the bench, eight of those coming off free throws in the last 21.9 seconds to guarantee victory. Let’s also not forget Glen Davis’ 16 points and 8 rebounds despite a rough 5-of-14 shooting night. The Cavs failed to win, but that team earned a morale boost for competing so hard without Kyrie Irving. Two consecutive Magic wins on this 5-game home stretch. Last I checked that’s called a ‘win streak’. That is easily the loudest Amway Center has been since the Pacers playoff series last season. Much respect, Magic nation.
Coach Vaughn on team play: “You look down at the stat sheet and the minutes and there’s numbers all over the place, guys contributing in a lot of different ways…We tried to complicate it a little bit with turnovers in the first half…second half only two turnovers.”
Cleveland led after one period of play 26-24 as the Magic seemed a little groggy from turkey consumption. I understand that Jacque Vaughn’s defensive scheme is to have everyone crowd the paint and to give up the perimeter looks, but it’s Cleveland. The Cavaliers, aside from Anderson Varejao rely on jumpers to have a decent chance at victory. Orlando could’ve had the lead if not unforced errors galore and atrocious player positioning. Varejao poured in eight points in the first period with little resistance shown by Nik Vucevic or Gustavo Ayon.
Coach Vaughn on being able to get JJ Redick the ball: “It’s a luxury. I’ve said it before that when he shoots the basketball, when he has it in his hands, I think good things are going to happen. And I felt he was going to make every free throw…”
The second quarter saw Omri Casspi score 7 points and treat the Magic as if it was Israel playing a scrub European basketball country. I’ve only seen Casspi make crazy attempts like the ones he drained in international play. That’s just bad luck. I do have to congratulate the officiating crew of Scott Foster, Brian Forte, and Violet Palmer (appropriately wearing #12 in Orlando’s eyes) for allowing zero flow to this contest. A personal foul call every minute is not something a paying crowd should be forced to witness. The in-game action was brutal those first 24 minutes because the two squads had no chance to build any rhythm. Despite 14 personal fouls (4 belonging to Afflalo) and 16 turnovers, Orlando only trailed 51-45 at the break. Give thanks to the 7-for-12 3-point shooting.
Coach Vaughn on Nik and his confidence: “I keep telling him I believe in him and it’s not just words, I believe in him. I believe in his ability to make shots. I want him to shoot the basketball. He has great hands, great touch. He caught some great balls down the stretch and finished.”
Coach Vaughn on Glen Davis diving into the seats: “I was worried…he’s at the mercy of seats and elbows and someone could be playing with their keys and he stabs his arm into someone’s car keys…”
Even with Orlando begging Cleveland to shoot jumpers, Cavs Coach Byron Scott’s squad still held a 22-8 point in the paint advantage going into the 3rd period that would eventually finish dead even at 40-40. How? Jameer Nelson took it upon himself to attack the rack. After a Jameer steal and lay-up, Orlando finally caught up and tied the contest at 67-67 with 2:53 remaining in the period. Nelson posted 12 points in that quarter including a massive trey to put the game at 76-76 entering the last twelve minutes.
A Glen Davis ‘And 1’ would hand home side a 90-88 lead with 5:59 remaining in the game. Big Baby ‘turned it up’ when he needed to. Glen had 6 points heading into the final period, but managed ten in the 4th quarter. Big Baby pulled a ‘Shamu’ and also dove over and cleared all three rows of Amway Center courtside seats. There were 3 chairs as casualties and one shaken up woman, but disaster was averted. The Redick free throws in the final seconds would earn the win, but fabulous screens and amazing ball movement got the job done overall. Cleveland could’ve thrown four players on JJ and he still would’ve gotten the ball in his hands as the go-to free throw taker. Boston comes to town on Sunday.
Adam Papageorgiou runs Orlando Magic Greek and is a proud MBO contributor.