In a game that lacked any drama, whatsoever, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 103-87. For the Cavaliers, the latest loss puts them on a 20-game losing streak. Clearly, this is not the same franchise that was piloted by LeBron James for the past seven years. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Despite playing barely 27 minutes, Dwight Howard was able to put together his fourth 20-20 game of the regular season with exactly 20 points, 20 rebounds, and two blocks. Not bad. Ryan Anderson is beginning to emerge as one of the best role players in the league, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds off the bench. J.J. Redick had another of his efficient outings, putting up 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Jason Richardson and Brandon Bass each chipped in with 12 points. The story of the game wasn’t so much about Orlando winning, but more so the dramatic fall of grace that Cleveland has had to endure this season. Without the services of Anderson Varejao, arguably their best player on the team, the Cavaliers have had to endure a lot of losing and there doesn’t seem to be any hope in sight for the foreseeable future, not until the offseason when they have a chance to pick first in the 2011 NBA Draft. In some ways, Cleveland offers a cautionary tale of what happens when a player of James’ caliber leaves.
The Magic know first-hand with Shaquille O’Neal.
Not only was Varejao missing in action for the Cavaliers but Mo Williams has been sidelined too with a strained left hip flexor. Because Cleveland is missing two of the better players on the roster, head coach Byron Scott was forced to trot out names like Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga in the starting lineup. Heck, Harris and Eyenga were able to play admirably against Orlando and look to have futures in the league but they’re nowhere near the caliber of the counterparts that they faced off against in Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, even if it can be argued that both of them outplayed two of the more savvy veterans in the NBA. And when examining the game, that’s the crux of the problem for the Cavaliers — they’re not good.
Entering the contest, Cleveland ranked last in offensive and defensive efficiency.
It became noticeable, almost immediately, that there doesn’t appear to be a rhyme or reason for what the Cavaliers do on the court. It seems as if Scott is more than content to watch Cleveland play basketball without any expectations of winning or losing. It’s an apathetic point of view, but that was the vibe out there. It’s remarkable how much has changed with the Cavaliers. It really is.
As such, it’s hard to blame the Magic from going through the motions and doing just enough to win. Did Orlando play with energy and effort? Sure, but if the Magic really wanted to play at their peak, they could have done so. Head coach Stan Van Gundy was more than content to let his bench players, like Redick, Chris Duhon, and Anderson, to carry the load in the second half with the outcome decided.
Everything was just okay for Orlando.
The Magic as a unit, aside from Redick, Howard and Anderson, didn’t really play all that well.
Amassing 18 turnovers screams of sloppiness, for example.
If there’s one thing to take away from the game against the artist formerly known as Cleveland, Orlando’s interior defense when Howard is sitting on the bench is a problem. To be frank, it’s been a problem for the Magic but it has to be mentioned because — again — the Cavaliers have the worst offense in the NBA. There’s no reason that Samardo Samuels and Ryan Hollins should be getting easy looks at the rim with little to no resistance. Yes, some of this was to be expected when Orlando made the decision to trade Marcin Gortat away, arguably the league’s best back-up center when he was playing behind Howard. But this is bad. Howard can’t afford to play 48 minutes a night.
The Magic won, but it’s hard to be encouraged by fatal flaws that have been cropping up lately.