LeBron rallies Irving-less Cavs past Magic
With Kyrie Irving (knee) out, LeBron James rallies Cavaliers by Magic
LeBron’s Big Fourth Leads Cavs
ORLANDO, Fla. — LeBron James took over when the Cleveland Cavaliers needed a lift in the fourth quarter.
James had 29 points, eight assists and five rebounds, and Cleveland rallied to beat the Orlando Magic 98-89 on Friday night.
Kevin Love scored 22 points in three quarters and reserve Dion Waiters added 17 for Cleveland, which bounced back from a 101-91 loss at Miami on Christmas. Tristan Thompson grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Cavaliers played without point guard Kyrie Irving, who was sidelined by a bruised knee. Center Anderson Varejao also had surgery Friday to repair a torn left Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season.
Then coach David Blatt kept Love on the bench in the final period after he struggled to defend Magic center Nikola Vucevic.
“LeBron is the best player in the world. He does what he does and obviously we needed it,” Blatt said. “What he did tonight was significant. It lifted us.”
James said the Cavs settled down in the second half.
“The more that we’re together, the closer the camaraderie we have off the floor, it makes the game that much easier,” he said.
Tobias Harris led Orlando with 16 points. Vucevic had 12 points, seven assists and eight rebounds, and reserve Evan Fournier scored 15.
The Magic were outscored 27-14 in the final period of their fifth loss in the last six games.
“This happens in almost every single game we play at home,” Harris said. “In the last five minutes, we just totally get away from what we’ve been doing the whole game. We took some bad shots, rushed a lot of shots and that’s why we lost.”
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn pointed at James as being the difference.
“A big part of this league is having the ability to put the basketball into somebody’s hands that you want to make plays,” Vaughn said. “There were key possessions at the end of the game with the ball in LeBron’s hands and he made plays for himself and his team.”
Vucevic’s dunk with 1:58 left got Orlando within three, but the Magic were unable to score again.
James converted a three-point play with 40.7 seconds remaining, and then hit three foul shots to help close it out.
The Magic shot 59.6 percent through the first three quarters, but struggled to score in the final period.
Cleveland used an 11-5 surge in the fourth to open a 92-85 lead on a 10-foot jumper from James. The four-time NBA MVP scored or assisted on 17 of the Cavs’ last 19 points.
Cleveland struggled for much of the game.
The Magic put together a 10-0 run to open a 74-65 lead with 2:34 left in the third quarter, punctuated by Fournier’s 3-pointer from the corner.
Orlando carried a 75-71 lead into the final period, but a 15-foot jumper by James and a 3-pointer from Mike Miller gave Cleveland an 84-80 advantage with 6:42 left.
James got into an angry discussion with Harris in the middle of the third quarter. Both players were assessed a technical foul.
“The words (Harris) said got me going,” James said. “I was actually in chill mode tonight, but chill mode was deactivated after he said that.”
James declined to reveal what Harris said.
Love, who also had seven rebounds, said he can’t remember the last time he sat out for the fourth quarter.
“It’s been a while,” Love said. “It was all about the matchups. … More than anything, we got the win and I’m happy with that.”
Cavaliers: Cleveland shot 41 percent from the field, but went 24 for 26 from the foul line. … Miller made three 3-pointers. He also had five rebounds and five assists.
Magic: Orlando’s Kyle O’Quinn, who didn’t make a 3-pointer his rookie year, is 6 for 16 from beyond the arc this season.
Cavaliers: Host Detroit on Sunday.
Magic: Visit Charlotte on Saturday night.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press