CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers have been a .500 team over their last 22 games, but that’s just average.
They’ve also won three straight and seven of their last 10 following a 119-108 victory over a totally depleted Orlando Magic team Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena, but coach Byron Scott and his players want more.
“My bad,” Scott said when told he didn’t seem very happy. “I probably should be more excited. But my expectations of our team are a little higher than 11-11 in the last 22 games.”
The Cavs (16-34), who also won for the sixth time in their last seven games at The Q, weren’t great by any means, but they were good enough to end their 10-game losing streak to Orlando (14-36), which dropped its 12th straight overall.
As he almost always does, point guard Kyrie Irving led the way with 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists, while reserve big man Marreese Speights overcame 3-for-13 shooting from the field by making all 12 of his free throws for 18 points.
The Cavs also got 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting from Tristan Thompson, 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting from Dion Waiters and 14 points from reserve Wayne Ellington, who helped Cleveland’s reserves outscore Orlando’s totally depleted bench by a whopping 51-15.
“It’s fun playing out there,” Irving said. “It’s fun being with all these guys that come to work every day.”
Scott, though, was not happy with Orlando’s .523 shooting from the field (45-for-86) or the Magic’s 39-32 edge on the glass.
“We won the game,” he said. “We should have won the game.”
Orlando, which isn’t very good when everyone is healthy, was without Hedo Turkoglu (flu), J.J. Redick (shoulder), Glen “Big Baby” Davis (foot) and Al Harrington (knee).
That forced the Magic to start rookies Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson at forward, second-year man Nikola Vucevic in the middle and veterans Aaron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson at guard.
Those players more than held their own, particularly the 7-foot Vucevic, who is from Montenegro and played a year at USC, and Nicholson, the No. 19 pick in the draft out of St. Bonaventure.
Vucevic had a career-high 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds and three assists, while Nicholson had 21 points, eight boards and three assists. Combined, they were 21-for-32 from the field.
At intermission, when the game was tied at 56 after a half of rec ball, Vucevic and Nicholson had 29 points on 13-for-21 shooting and 13 rebounds.
“Their bigs were killing us tonight,” Scott said. “They were hitting shots and getting offensive rebounds. In the first half, they just kind of dominated our guys. In the second half, we got a little more aggressive and physical.”
With Denver coming to town tonight, the Cavs will need that aggressiveness from the start if they are to record their first four-game winning streak since LeBron James left town.
The Magic, which got 23 points from Afflalo, led 83-77 in the third period and was still up 78-75 late in the quarter, but the Cavs went on a 15-2 spurt over the end of the third and start of the fourth to build a 10-point lead.
A brief Cavs nap and some hot Orlando 3-point shooting got the Magic within 104-101 with 4:43 left, but Irving had the last five points in a 7-0 Cleveland run that sealed the deal.
“They’re not happy with how we played tonight,” Scott said. “They’re happy for the win, but they’re starting to have higher expectations.”
Nelson, who had 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting, five rebounds, 13 assists and six turnovers, had three 3-pointers and 11 points in the final period to keep Orlando close, but the Cavs did enough to win on a night when they were not at their best.
On the positive side, Cleveland has scored at least 115 points in three straight games for the first time since January 15-20, 1993 and has committed a season-low six turnovers in each of its last two games.
“We’re definitely making steps in the right direction,” Scott said. “Putting pressure on our guys to be even better is what I want to do, and I want them to understand that.
“This is good. We’re playing good basketball right now, but we can play a lot better. I think when we get to the point where I’m not challenging them like that, then we have a problem.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.