CLEVELAND — When it was pointed out to Tristan Thompson that the Cavaliers shot 36 percent from the field and still beat the Orlando Magic 91-85 Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the second-year power forward did a double take.
“What did we shoot?” Thompson asked in amazement.
When told again, he said, “Defense wins games. There it is. Defense wins games. If we shoot 36 percent and win all our games, we’re fine with that.”
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In recording their first two-game winning streak since Feb. 26-27, the Cavs (24-52) survived another horrible shooting night from point guard Kyrie Irving, who was 3-for-15 from the field while finishing with nine points, four rebounds and 10 assists.
While he wasn’t exactly defending Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams, Irving did manage to keep Orlando point guard Beno Udrih (13 points on 4-for-12 shooting, four rebounds, six assists) in front of him most of the evening, which meant Cleveland’s big men didn’t have to come over to stop penetration on every possession.
“I’m probably in the worst shooting slump of my short career,” said Irving, who is 12-for-51 over his last three games. “I’m not really worried about that. I’m just going to do anything I need to do in order to get the win. I’m going to fight for these guys.”
Orlando (19-59) has the second-worst record in basketball and has lost five straight and 13 of its last 14, while Boston was playing without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo on Friday.
Still, the Cavs won those two games with Irving shooting a combined 7-for-35, which coach Byron Scott views as a huge positive.
“I think he knows how important it is to be a two-way player and defend,” Scott said. “Offensively, we know what he can do. But like we’ve been saying all along, he’s the head of the snake.”
In what has been a recent reversal of roles, Thompson took care of a lot of the offense for the second straight game, overcoming a slow start to finish with 15 points and 16 rebounds. In his last two games, the Toronto native has 44 points and 33 boards.
“He’s been awesome,” Irving said. “He’s been unbelievable. We’re going to keep feeding him. He’s rebounding his butt off right now.”
The Cavs, who used Omri Casspi (two points, six rebounds in eight minutes) and Kevin Jones (four points on 2-for-9 shooting, two rebounds in 19 minutes) in their rotation because Luke Walton was out with a sprained ankle and C.J. Miles was lost early in the second quarter after taking an elbow to the forehead, also got 19 points and seven rebounds from Alonzo Gee and 12 points, six rebounds and six assists from backup guard Shaun Livingston.
Orlando, which is only a half-game behind Charlotte in the battle for the worst record in the league, got its third 20-20 game of the season from center Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 21 points and 21 boards. Fourteen of Vucevic’s rebounds came in the first half, tying Anderson Varejao’s arena record for a half.
Small forward Tobias Harris added 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic, which shot .379 from the field (34-for-90) and made just 1-of-13 3-pointers.
“Defensively, we were pretty much all over the place,” Scott said. “In the fourth quarter, we just buckled down.”
Trailing by four at the end of three, the Cavs used a lineup of Livingston, Casspi, Jones, Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights to start the fourth and promptly outscored Orlando 14-7 before Irving and Thompson returned with 6:07 to go.
“Defensively, I thought our guys did some good things, just like we did in Boston,” Scott said. “That’s basically why we got the win.”
Miles left the game with 8:37 left in the second quarter after taking an inadvertent elbow from the 7-foot, 240-pound Vucevic that opened a huge gash right between the small forward’s eyes.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that much of my blood in one spot,” Miles said. “It looked like a big puddle.”
Miles received six stitches but had not yet been tested for a concussion.
“The scar’s going to be an improvement,” Scott said. “He’ll be fine.”
It didn’t seem like Irving was in the mood to talk prior to the game when he was asked about rumors that Scott’s job could be in jeopardy.
“Until that time comes, I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “To even imagine that (he won’t be back), I’m not going down that road. I’m focused on finishing the season with him, and that’s all that matters right now.”
- Prior to Sunday, the Cavs’ lowest shooting percentage in a victory this season had been .370 when they won 87-84 in Washington on Dec. 26. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time Cleveland shot lower than .360 in a win was April 6, 2012, when it hit .342 in an 84-81 victory over Toronto.
- Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu, who served a 20-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, missed the game due to personal reasons, while Glen “Big Baby” Davis (fractured left foot), Arron Afflalo (strained right hamstring) and Jameer Nelson (sprained right ankle) were out with injuries.
- The Magic scored 37 points in the second half.
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Indiana
- WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
- TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WMMS 100.7-FM
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.