Cleveland Cavaliers 122
Orlando Magic 102
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Orlando Magic, many of the questions surrounded the Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers’ opponent on Wednesday. It’s the Celtics, after all, who held a slight lead on Cleveland who fell to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference following a brutal month of March that included way too much traveling and a brutal stretch of road games. Cavs head coach Ty Lue stressed the importance, however, of the game at hand as a win over the 27-win Magic would mean three wins in a row before the team heads on the road.
What Lue would get from his team would be an up-and-down dismantling of the Magic. The Cavs used a huge 43-point third quarter run to propel themselves from a halftime deficit to 21-point lead heading into the game’s final period. Using halftime to watch clips of the first two quarters, the Cavs found themselves being more unlucky than anything, down despite holding their opponent to 40.9 percent from the floor. Fifty-fifty balls not going their way, would-be rebounds being tipped at the last second or careening off the rim back into the backcourt. “It happened three, four, or five times,” said Kevin Love following the game. “In the second half, it was good to finally have karma and some luck back on our side.”
Fans in attendance could not have asked for more from the Cavs’ Big Three—combining for 70 points, 26 rebounds, and 21 assists—while they also got to see Kyle Korver’s return from a nagging foot injury, and the continued solid play of J.R. Smith. They also saw the Cavs take their consecutive game streak over the Magic to 17.
Cavaliers won 17th straight game over the Magic, which is the longest active winning streak by one franchise over another (via @eliassports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2017
28 and 11 — Welcome back Kevin Love. The Cavs’ stretch forward has spent the majority of the last two weeks looking like a shell of his former self, still recovering from midseason knee surgery. On Tuesday, however, Love was lethal, leading the team with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting, adding 11 rebounds for his 37th double-double of the year. Had he not missed four layups, No. 0 could’ve finished with 36, but we won’t hold that against him. Following the game, Love had a conversation with James Jones where he expressed this was how the Cavs are supposed to play.
12 — In recording 18 points (7-of-14 shooting), 11 rebounds and 11 assists, LeBron James recorded his 12th triple-double of the season. James had five combined triple-doubles over his first two seasons since returning to the club.
82.8 — The combined eFG% of Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith. As Korver would say following the game, “the best thing you can give a shooter is more shooters.” Irving finished with 24 points on 10-15 (.667) shooting a 3-5 (.600) mark from deep, four rebounds, eight assists and a steal in 30 minutes. No. 2 has scored 20 or more points in 25 of his last 26 contests. Smith tallied 19 points on .636 (7-11) shooting and a .625 (5-8) mark from downtown, five rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Smith has now drained at least four three-pointers in each of his last four games and is averaging 15.8 points on .537 (22-41) shooting and a .576 (19-33) mark from deep and 4.3 rebounds in 34.5 minutes over that stretch.
1 — The number of suits Korver brought with him to Cleveland. “It was only a few games, but it felt like I sat out more,” said he of his recent foot injury. “I definitely didn’t come here to sit, wearing the same sport coat. I only brought one suit, and I didn’t expect to wear it.” When I asked him if he was going to have to get it dry cleaned now that he’s back, Korver quickly shot that down. “I’d rather throw it in the trash.”
25-6 — From 8:51 to the 6:02 mark in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a crucial 15-4 run that included a pair of J.R. Smith three-pointers, a Kevin Love three-ball that caught front rim and somehow fell in, an Aaron Gordon charge, and back-to-back plays where LeBron James scored, the second of which included him stealing the inbound pass and laying it back in. Orlando would call a timeout suddenly down 10, but it was a stretch that not only appeared to revitalize the team, but get fans inside of Quicken Loans Arena more into a game that was frustrating at best prior to this moment. Tristan Thompson and Love would stretch the lead to 17 in the subsequent minutes, and the Cavs never looked back.
Best Cavs scoring 3rd quarter in over 9 years! 43 in this one..
— Fred McLeod (@CavsFredMcLeod) April 5, 2017
9-13 — Piling on that massive third quarter, the Cavaliers shot 9-of-13 from three-point range over those 12 minutes. J.R. Smith was 4-of-4, Kevin Love was 2-of-4, Kyle Korver was 2-of-3, and Kyrie Irving chipped in the other.
16 — Of the 17 field goals (24 attempts) in the third quarter, 16 of them were assisted. LeBron had seven. Kyrie had six. It was an outright slicing and dicing, entirely the product of ball movement and pace rather than forced nonsense that had become commonplace a month earlier. It was the kind of passing and shooting that gives you a quick reminder of how lethal this team could be when they’re executing their drive-and-kick game. The Magic were helpless.
24 — The number of points in the paint scored by the Orlando Magic, an opponent season low for the otherwise defensively bereft Cavaliers.
21 — The number of wins (compared to just one loss) when the Cavaliers score at least 120 points this season.
0 — Iman Shumpert’s minutes in the third quarter. Just saying.
0 — The Celtics’ lead in the East following the Cavs’ win. Not playing since Sunday isn’t entirely an advantage. Still just saying.
0 — The number of Fs LeBron James appears to give about Wednesday night’s game. “I’ve been to six straight NBA Finals—I’m the last person to ask about a regular season game,” he said following the game. Really, really just saying.