Cavaliers hurting as Magic show heads to town
Something as magical as Walt Disney World just might be taking place in Orlando.
After beating the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, the Magic were out to prove they're no Mickey Mouse team.
Indiana found out firsthand Saturday night after the Magic outscored the Pacers 34-25 in the fourth quarter to win in Indianapolis for the first time since March 31, 2016.
And for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, the Magic are in the playoff hunt. Winners of eight of their last 10, Orlando sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and just two games out of the sixth spot.
The Magic hope to stay on their roll toward the postseason when they travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers on Sunday.
The Cavaliers had been playing well since the All-Star break going, 3-2. Kevin Love's return has made all the difference. But on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, without Love and big man Tristan Thompson, Cleveland put up a stinker on its home court, losing 129-93.
Love, who is expected to play against the Magic, sat out as a precaution as he works his way back from foot surgery that cost him more than 50 games this season.
Still, to lose by 36 points ... at home.
"Not pleased with (the energy) from top to bottom," Larry Nance Jr. told reporters. "It's easy to point fingers and blame one another. That's certainly what I thought we did tonight. There was a whole lot of finger pointing. I thought we took a step back, even without Kev. That shouldn't have been a 40-point game. That's something that we gotta look in the mirror tonight and come back tomorrow with a better attitude."
Without a healthy frontline, Detroit had its way. The Pistons outrebounded the Cavs, 51-33. Blake Griffin finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
Cleveland didn't have Thompson, who has played only 35 games this season because of a foot injury. Cavaliers' starting center Ante Zizic took an elbow to the head against the New York Knicks and is in the league's concussion protocol. His status is day-to-day.
That spells bad news for the Cavaliers, who face a young, athletic Magic frontline that includes Aaron Gordon (25), Jonathan Isaac (21) and Nikola Vucevic (28).
Vucevic is averaging over 20 points and 12 boards a game. Against the Pacers, the seven-year pro scored 27, had eight rebounds and three assists.
Gordon, who seems to always play well against Cleveland, scored only 11 points but had eight rebounds, six assists and a block.
The Cavaliers should heed Vucevic's approach.
"No matter how big of a win you have or how bad of a loss you have, you have to move on," Vucevic said before the Indiana game. "The Golden State game doesn't matter today. We have to focus on the Pacers and try to win this game tonight. Then, tomorrow we have another one (in Cleveland). No matter what happens tonight, you have to move on and learn from your mistakes."
The two teams have met just once this season, with the Magic erasing a five-point deficit in the final 40 seconds to earn a 102-100 win. Evan Fournier's jumper at the buzzer was the difference.
Three starters for the Cavaliers that game have been traded and the fourth, Thompson, won't play Sunday. Gordon led the Magic with 23 points, and Vucevic had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 3, 2019