Mitchell less Cavaliers fall to Magic 116-109  
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - After eight days off due to the NBA All-Star break the Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17, 19-9 home) were back in action on Thursday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against the visiting Orlando Magic (30-25, 12-17 away).

The two clubs have met three different times this season with the Cavs winning two of three including the last meeting where the Cavs blew out the Magic 126-99 in Orlando on January 22. The Cavs also led the all-time series heading into the game 65-60 and held a 39-22 edge in Cleveland (Richfield Coliseum, RMFH). The Magic cut the Cavs’ all-time lead to four games with a 116-109 win.

The Cavs were without All-Star Donovan Mitchell as he missed the contest due to illness. The Magic jumped out to a 12-6 lead when Wendell Carter, Jr hit a three pointer with 9:24 left in the first quarter. The Cavs tied the game 12-12 with 7:35 left when Evan Mobley drove the lane and scored a turnaround jumper. The Cavs took their first lead of the game 15-14 with 5:46 left when Dean Wade drained a three. After Magic regained the lead, the Cavs took it right back when Isaac Okoro hit a three with 5:19 left on the first quarter clock and gave the Cavs an 18-16 lead. The Cavs relinquished the lead with 4:10 left when Carter, Jr. hit his second three of the quarter to put the Magic on top 21-20. The Magic extended their lead to 26-20 with 1:18 left in the first on a three by Joe Ingles who appeared to push off on Max Strus, but no foul was called. The Cavs pulled to within two points just 15 seconds later when Sam Merrill drained a three and was fouled by Cole Anthony. Carter, Jr. led everyone with eight first quarter points as the quarter ended with Orlando on top 29-24. Mobley led the Cavs with six points. The Magic was leading the battle of the board after the first 12 minutes 13-12.

The Magic were playing with intensity to start the second with 8:15 left in the half. The Magic extended their lead to double digits at 40-30 on a layup by Franz Wagner. The Cavs were struggling defensively to stop the Magic inside and out as the Magic had 20 points in the paint and 23 points outside the paint with 7:03 left in the half. With Orlando leading 47-35 Jarret Allen was called for a foul on Carter, Jr. Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff challenged the call, it was overturned, and the call went against Carter, Jr and the Cavs got possession of the ball and took advantage as Allen hit a hook shot with 4:39 left to pull the Cavs back to ten points at 47-37. The Cavs cut the lead to 49-40 with 3:23 on a three by Darius Garland after an Orlando turnover. The Magic came right back with a three at the other end by Gary Harris to extend the Magic lead to 52-40 with 3:07 left in the opening half. With 1:14 left Allen missed a dunk but was fouled by Paolo Banchero. Allen hit both free throws and the Orlando lead was cut to 54-46. After a missed shot by Orlando Jalen Suggs fouled Allen. Allen went to line and hit both cutting the Orland lead to six at 54-48 with :57.1 left on the clock. After a missed Orlando shot at the other end Allen pulled down the rebound and Max Strus drove the lane at the other end to cut the Magic lead to 54-50 at halftime. The Cavs who were getting beat in the paint for most of the first half ended the half with the edge outscoring Orlando 26-24 inside. The battle of the boards also ended up even after 24 minutes with both clubs pulling down 20 rebounds. Orlando’s bench had a slight edge over Cleveland, outscoring them 20-17.

After Franz Wagner hit a jumper in the paint to start the half, Struss hit a three pointer at the other end and the Cavs stopped the Magic at the other end and took possession. The Cavs scored on the next two possessions capped off by a layup by Okoro and he was fouled with 10:25 left, he hit the free throw and just like that the Cavs led 58-56. However Orlando scored the next five points to take a 61-58 lead with 9:31 left in the third. The Cavs regained the lead 68-66 with 5:48 left on a jumper by Garland. B. The Magic came right back scoring the next four points to take a 70-68 lead. The game stayed close, but at the 2:21 mark of the period the Magic’s enforcer and resident crybaby Moritz Wagner elbowed Mobley, but Mobley was called for a personal foul, it was his third. Bickerstaff disagreed with the call and was assessed a technical foul. When the dust settled the Magic led 77-73. Wagner, whiny as ever, was then hit with two consecutive fouls. As result of the second foul on Strus the Cavs pulled to within one point at 79-78 with 1:29 left on the clock. The Magic continued to respond as Ingles hit a three the next time down the floor to give the Magic an 82-78 lead. Strus then responded with a layup at the other end that did not go in initially but was determined to be basket interference by none other than Moritz Wagner. The quarter ended with Orlando leading 86-82. Strus led everyone in scoring with 15 points. Franz Wagner, Carter, Jr. and Ingles paced the Magic with 12 points apiece. The Cavs now had the edge on the boards 26-24 and led points in the paint 40-36 with 12 minutes remaining. The difference in the game was the Magic had hit 11 threes and the Cavs had hit seven.

Both teams started the final quarter with threes and the Magic led 89-85. With 9:43 left the Magic extended their lead to 94-87 when Moritz Wagner was fouled on a layup. The Magic continued to build their lead and with 8:20 left on the game clock led 100-89 and had all the momentum. With 7:22 left Allen was fouled by Moritz Wagner and made both free throws cutting the Orlando lead to 100-91, it was Moritz’s fourth foul which as usual he whined about. The Cavs then played great defense at the other end rejecting two Magic shots and Okoro recovered the ball and took it to the other end to trim Orlando’s lead to 100-93 with 6:57 left. Magic coach Jamahl Mosley took a timeout feeling the momentum switch. The timeout worked as the Magic scored the next four points to build the lead back to 11 at 104-93 with 5:53 left. The Cavs did cut the lead to 10 at 107-97 with 4:19 left but could have cut it to nine, but after being fouled by Banchero Garland missed the free throw. The foul was Banchero’s fifth. After the Cavs forced a bad shot by the Magic Garland took the ball down the floor delivering to Allen who laid it in to cut the Magic lead to 107-99 and then on a Cavs good defensive stop Allen slammed the ball home at the other end to cut the lead to 107-101 with 3:12 left. With 2:09 left Danny Ainge clone Moritz Wagner hit two free throws to give Orland a 111-101 lead. The Cavs cut the score to 114-107 after Strus was fouled and he hit one of two with :47.9 left. The Cavs could not stop the Magic defensively and could not score quick enough to make up for the defensive lapses and went home losers 116-109.

Moritz Wagner led everyone in scoring, whining his way to 22 points. Allen and Garland paced the Cavs in a losing effort with 18 points apiece. Allen had another double double. Okoro also had 17 points. Orlando outrebounded the Cavs 33-31. The Orlando bench was the big factor in the game as they outscored the Cavs bench 63-24. Goerges Niang led the Cavs bench with nine points.

The Cavs will be in action next on Friday night in Philadelphia against the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 pm. The Cavs trail the all-time series with the 76ers 108-117 and are 46-67 in Philadelphia. The two teams have split the season series this year with the Cavs winning in Philadelphia 122-119 in overtime on November 21st. The 76ers won the other meeting at RMFH on February 12, ending the Cavs nine game winning streak 123-121. 
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​POSTED 02/22/2024 22:04
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Cavaliers Evan Mobley and Dean Wade.                            Photo by Tommy Shirer