JJ Hickson scored 20 points, Anderson Varejao put in 16 off the bench, Shaquile O'Neal had an effective 19 minutes and Daniel Gibson recorded 11 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists while replacing the injured Mo Williams in the starting lineup. The Cavs improved upon their 42-11 record and were primed for a long playoff run with home court throughout the entire playoffs.
The date was February 11, 2010 and it was the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic. Since then, they have played 10 games against the Magic and have lost each one. It goes without saying that the Magic were at an advantage during all but nine of those games because they were playoff contenders. With the loss of Dwight Howard, this was quite possibly Cleveland's best chance at beating the Magic since they did so three seasons ago. The Cavs were without Kyrie Irving for the second straight game, but the Magic also do not have the benefit of having two top four lottery picks on their roster.
Like other games this season, the Cavs came close to winning. The final score was a 108-104 victory for the Orlando Magic. In the world of professional sports, close is not good enough. However, all is not doom and gloom in Cleveland. Dion Waiters had one of his best games as a professional. He recorded 25 points, 5 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers on an improved 41% shooting. Waiters looked comfortable in his 12th game in the NBA. The one criticism that can be made of Waiters against the Magic is that he shot far too many times from beyond the three point line. There is not reason that Dion Waiters should ever shoot 11 threes in one game. His strength is driving and breaking double teams. With a highly-skilled screen setter in Anderson Varejao as a teammate, Waiters should be playing up to his skills.
Anderson Varejao was simply phenomenal again. The Brazilian big man has played in 11 games this season and he has pulled down 15 rebounds in 6 of them. Varejao finished the game with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 3 assists. Things proved to be difficult for Varejao due to foul trouble. He had his fourth foul with one minute left in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Cavs, Varejao becomes a leff effective player when he is in foul trouble due to the way he plays the game.
Jeremy Pargo followed up his career night with a solid 15 point performance. Pargo did not do much of anything besides score points. If he wants to be named the permanent backup to Kyrie Irving, he will need to record some more assists and rebounds.
The Cavs had every opportunity to win the game. They rebounded better, fouled less, forced more turnovers, had more possessions and took 10 more free throws than the Magic. The difference was that the Magic shot much more effectively from the field. Winning an NBA game is very difficult when one team shoots 42.5% and the other one scores on 50% of their attempts.
The Cavs will look back at this game with regret in the upcoming week. The Cavs play three out of their next four games on the road and three of them are against team that project to be in the playoffs. It is very possible for the team to be looking at a 3-13 record by the time the month of November is completed. The Cavs were never going to contend for a playoff berth this season, but with three high lottery picks on the team, it is imperative that they find their way out of the cellar sooner than later. The Cavs travel to Miami and take on the Heat on Saturday night.