The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 110-95 to extend their winning streak to four games. It was a competitive game for three quarters, but the Magic were able to blow things wide open in the fourth quarter and put the Cavaliers away for good. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as six players scored in double-figures. Gilbert Arenas led the way for the Magic coming off the bench, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, and three steals — it’s only the third time, since 1995, that a player came off the bench and had at least 20-plus points, 11-plus assists, and five rebounds (the other players to do it were Magic Johnson and Sam Cassell). Needless to say, Arenas lived up to his billing as sixth man extraordinaire. Jason Richardson had his long overdue breakout game in an Orlando uniform, putting up 20 points, five rebounds, and two steals. J.J. Redick had 14 points, while Dwight Howard and Earl Clark had 12 points each. Lastly, Jameer Nelson chipped in with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds, and two steals.
For the Magic, three-point shooting was the story of the night.
Orlando made a season-high 19 threes, which helped mask porous defense that was an issue throughout the game. Head coach Stan Van Gundy won’t like the effort his players put forth defensively, especially against one of the worst offensive units in the NBA. That’s Cleveland. But the Magic’s execution on offense — thanks in part to the Cavaliers’ own struggles on defense — was excellent, aside from a slow third quarter when they scored 15 points.
In the other periods, Orlando scored at least 30 points or more.
As expected, the Magic took care of business against an inferior opponent on a back-to-back so there’s not much to say about this one. But it would be regrettable if Arenas’ performance wasn’t further examined.
When general manager Otis Smith traded for Arenas from the Washington Wizards, this is the player that he expected to get. Someone that could be a playmaker and create not only for himself but for others. For the first time since he arrived, Orlando caught a glimpse of Arenas at close to his very best. Arenas was a scorer and a facilitator, and he was brilliant at it. It would not behoove Magic fans to expect Arenas to play like this on a nightly basis, but it doesn’t hurt to know that he’s capable of busting out for a big game from time to time.
Arenas got things going late in the first quarter when he was able to make a layup in a 1/5 pick and roll with Howard. In the second quarter, Arenas kicked things off for himself with another layup in a 1/5 pick and roll with Brandon Bass. From there, Arenas found his range from beyond the arc and he was able to make two three-pointers in the period off of feeds from Hedo Turkoglu. When Arenas wasn’t too busy scoring, he did an excellent job of using the 1/5 pick and roll with Bass to find Redick for a three-pointer. Sharpshooting from the perimeter, forays to the rim, distributing to his teammates, Arenas was locked in offensively.
The third quarter saw Arenas’ court vision at its best. Arenas had a layup and two assists in the period, but one of his dimes was a beauty. Arenas made a nifty crossover behind-the-back dribble move that froze his defender and a split-second later, he made a behind-the-back pass to Howard for a layup in transition.
There are not many players in the NBA that can make that play, but Arenas is one of them.
In the fourth quarter, with Howard dealing with foul trouble, Van Gundy elected to play Nelson and Arenas together alongside Turkoglu, Anderson, and Clark. This unit has rarely played with each other, but it was this 5-man combination that was able to explode on offense against the Cavaliers and put things out of reach.
Arenas was lethal in the pick and roll, able to find Anderson and Clark on separate occasions for jumpers. Arenas was also able to find Anderson and Clark for jumpers when he was posting up. However, perhaps the sequence that exemplifies a rejuvenated Arenas came at the 5:01 mark in the period.
Arenas found himself open for a three-point shot in transition and after he made it, he let out a smile. Later in the quarter, with the game already decided, Arenas connected on two more three-pointers for good measure. Needless to say, it hasn’t taken long for Arenas to find his comfort zone with the Magic.
Somewhere, Smith — Arenas’ mentor — is smiling too.
Hibachi at last.