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LeBron James scored 29 points and Kevin Love had 10 points and 13 rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 104-79 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night for their 13th consecutive win in the series. Facing the Pistons should be a good test of adversity for Orlando, as they will need to forget their terrible showing in Cleveland.
Those woeful performances included two lopsided losses to the Cavaliers earlier this season: a 117-103 loss in Cleveland on November 23 and a 111-76 demolition in Orlando on December 11.
The Cavaliers never trailed and went ahead for good after the teams exchanged baskets to begin the game.
Leading Orlando in the loss to the Wizards was guard Victor Oladipo who tallied 20 points, one rebound, five assists, and four steals in 31 minutes played off the bench.
Late in the first quarter, they took a 20-point lead when Iman Shumpert sank a 3-pointer.
Skiles had a simple message for his players after watching a miserable first half. “Guys gotta understand – and I’ve told them this – only so many guys can play”, he said.
“We didn’t compete”, said Skiles, whose team lost to Washington for the 11th straight time Friday.
“We’ve had some ups, we’ve had some downs”, James said. “It’s no secret, they’re better than us”. He responded by shooting 11 of 18, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.
Center Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 12 rebounds and guard Kyrie Irving scored 13 points for Cleveland, which has won its last three games.
The Magic really did themselves in when they scored only 13 points in the 1st quarter, as they played their worst half of the season.
Most would think it was an off-shooting night for Orlando who came into the game winning 7 of their last 10 games, but it was actually the Cavaliers smothering defense that forced them into tough shots and nearly no scoring in the paint uncontested. Adding insult to injury was that the Magic fouled the Cavs 5 times from behind the 3-point line. James’ 3-pointer gave Cleveland a 44-17 lead midway through the second, which was followed by Orlando committing an offensive foul while inbounding the ball. LeBron James also hit another milestone in Saturday’s game, having his 6,477th career assist and passing Tiny Archibald for 21st all-time.
Breaking from his normal routine, James has appeared on court before games for extra shooting prior to each of the last four games.
The damage could have been worse, but James and the rest of the starters sat for much of the 4th quarter. “Hopefully I can try to shake whatever I got going on and it doesn’t linger the next couple days”. He went diving headfirst into an empty row of seats chasing a loose ball but came away unscathed. His knee survived the hard fall.
Before the game, James said he assesses where the Cavaliers are in the grand scheme of things each day.
“There was a gasp of air but not only my teammates and staff but also everyone in the building and for me, too”, he said.
Timofey Mozgov, who had seemed to turn a corner as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, struggled mightily in losses to Golden State and Portland – going a combined 1-for-9 from the floor in those two contests.