CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Orlando Magic were exactly what the doctor ordered for the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers.
For a half they were the perfect elixir for the wine and gold. Then came the second half.
Having lost 4 straight and 9 of their last 12 the Cavs needed a pair of free throws late to hold on for a 10-4-103 victory Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena after racing out to a 23-point first half lead.
“A win’s a win,” head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game.
The Cavs dished out 19 assists on 25 field goals in the first half, a season high in the first half this season topping 18 against Atlanta on Dec. 12, 2017 to race out to a 67-47 halftime advantage but only had 3 on 13 field goals made in the second half.
“Stopped moving the ball, stopped moving bodies, took bad shots, had turnovers,” Lue Lamented.
Orlando turned 19 turnovers into 27 points.
“We want to play better and we know we have the ability to do it but right now we’re in Strugglesville,” LeBron James said. “But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely.”
James scored 16 points to go with 5 rebounds and 6 assists but he also committed a game-high 6 turnovers.
In that fateful third, the crisp passing disappeared, as did their big lead as Orlando tied the game at 80 with just under a minute left in the quarter using an 18-3 run over 4:40 to do it. Cleveland led by four after three but they were outscored 33-17 in the quarter and had just one assist on six field goals made.
After starting six of seven from three, the Cavs hit just four of their last 27 from beyond the arc the rest of the way including one of 17 in the second half.
“Obviously we know we’ve been struggling as of late,” James said. “We’re just trying to figure out how we can put two halves together. Obviously we had a great first half on Monday (against Golden State), great first half today and the same result. So we’ve got to keep pushing, keep watching film and seeing ways we can be better.”
Kevin Love shot three of 10 to finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“We’ve always had lapses like this,” Love said about another January swoon for the wine and gold.
The Magic took their first lead of the night on a Shelvin Mack floater with 31.5 left in the fourth at 103-102.
Isaiah Thomas’ free throws with 11.2 left provided the final margin on the scoreboard. Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points off of a seven of 15 night from the field.
The final two seconds were bizzare.
First Elfrid Payton missed a layup, then an inadvertent whistle on a ball that went out of bounds resulted in a jump ball with 0.2 left. A 45-foot half-court heave by Aaron Gordon off the jump ball went in but there wasn’t enough time to catch and shoot anyway. On top of that, the shot was waived off because he committed a jump ball violation by grabbing the ball instead of tipping it giving Cleveland possession and the ability to kill the clock.
Road To 30k – James entered Thursday night’s game with 29,959 points – 41 shy of the exclusive 30,000 point club that is soon to have 6 members.
Once James hits the milestone – presumably Saturday afternoon against Oklahoma City, he’ll pass Kobe Bryant as the youngest to do it by over a year. Bryant was 34 yards and 104 days old while James currently is 33 years and 19 days old.
“Just, I think scoring the basketball,” Lue said when asked what’s most impressive about the impending feat by the 4-time NBA MVP. “When he came into the league he used to talk about he was a pass first kind of guy, a guy that’ll pass the basketball and is known for making guys better. But then to make guys better and still score 30,000 points, that’s a great achievement.”
James is 25 away after finishing with 16 points against Orlando.
Rose Returns – Derrick Rose stepped on the floor for the first time since Nov. 7 to start the second quarter.
Rose, who was sidelined due to ankle injuries, scored 9 points with 3 rebounds in 13 minutes.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” James said. “For as long as he’s been out, can’t ask for much. He gave us everything he had. Defensively he was in tune, offensively he made some great moves.”
New Bench Bunch – Lue tried out a new 5 off the bench Thursday night – Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson.
The group combined for 26 points in the first half and they finished with 39 points, 19 rebounds and 7 assists as a unit.
Wade and Green finished in double figures – Wade with 11 and Green 10.
JR 2k – JR Smith hit the 2,000 assist mark for his career with his second dime tonight – a sweet behind the back dish that LeBron finished at the rim late in the first quarter.