(AP) — However unlikely, Jeremy Pargo is trying to continue softening the blow of a major absence for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Orlando Magic are just looking for some consistency.
Pargo looks to build on the best performance of his career and help the visiting Cavaliers beat the Magic for the first time in 10 tries Friday night.
Cleveland’s already rough start looked to get much worse when it found out earlier this week that Kyrie Irving would miss a month with a broken left index finger.
It was only one game, but Pargo filled in quite nicely for the reigning rookie of the year Wednesday. He scored a career-high 28 points while hitting 11 of 19 from the field – 4 for 8 from beyond the arc – to power a 92-83 win over Philadelphia that snapped the Cavaliers’ six-game slide.
“Those are some big shoes to fill,” said Pargo, who made his sixth NBA start and first with Cleveland (3-8). “I wanted to come out aggressive, play within myself and do whatever it took to win the game. You don’t want to come out and force things.”
While Pargo and rookie Dion Waiters are tasked with keeping the starting backcourt stable, Anderson Varejao continues to be a force on the boards, averaging 13.7 rebounds to rank behind only Memphis’ Zach Randolph (13.8). The center pulled down 19 boards while adding 10 points Wednesday, but has missed four of Cleveland’s last five games against the Magic (4-7).
He wasn’t around for the Cavaliers’ 93-80 road loss March 23, extending their slide in Orlando to five games. That’s part of their nine-game overall losing streak to the Magic, during which they’ve averaged 90.3 points on 41.6 percent shooting.
Orlando is trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since starting the season 2-0.
The Magic opened this five-game homestand with a balanced effort Wednesday, when five players scored in double digits in a 90-74 win over Detroit. Orlando trailed by three at the half before a 21-0 run to open the third quarter, and it wound up holding the Pistons to 32.9 percent shooting.
The Magic, who also host Boston, San Antonio and Brooklyn on this homestand, have 30 fast-break points over their last two games – upping an 8.7-point average on the break that was the third-worst in the league.
“That’s the key for us, we have to become a better transition team,” swingman Arron Afflalo said. “And the only way we’re going to do that is to start getting stops. That was very welcoming to see for us to put together a defensive effort like that (Wednesday). That kind of allowed us to dictate the game a little bit.
“So hopefully we can carry that over.”
Afflalo leads the Magic with 15.0 points per game, but he’s totaled 18 while making 8 of 23 from the floor over the last two games.
He’s connected on 20 of 33 field goals, including 7 of 13 from beyond the arc, to average 19.0 points over his last three meetings with Cleveland – all with Denver.