CLEVELAND — Two bad teams, each minus a top player, led to some very bad basketball Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
It was so bad, in fact, that it actually got exciting at the end of regulation and in overtime.
On a night when horrible weather led to a horrible crowd, the only thing that really mattered was the Cavs somehow ended a six-game losing streak with an 87-81 overtime victory.
The game completely lived down to expectations until the final minute of the fourth quarter, when the Magic somehow pulled off one of the most epic collapses in history.
Paid attendance was announced at 14,248, but there were actually about 6,000 fans on hand. Rest assured, years from now 60,000 people won’t claim to have seen this one.
The Cavs (11-21) were playing minus point guard Kyrie Irving (bruised knee), who missed his first game of the season, while Orlando (10-22) was minus center Nikola Vucevic.
Veteran Jarrett Jack started in place of Irving, Jason Maxiel started for Vucevic and arena promotion strategists started by cranking the bass to uncomfortably high levels in an unsuccessful attempt to pump some energy into The Q.
The place finally got loud at the end of regulation. That’s when Orlando, apparently intent on proving that anything the Cavs could do bad, it could do worse, somehow found a way to blow a nine-point lead in less than a minute.
The Magic committed some incredibly dumb fouls — one on a Jack 3-point attempt with 13.9 seconds to go and the Cavs down seven — while also failing to get the ball inbounds and bricking two free throws.
All this happened in the final 15 seconds of regulation, making it a microcosm of the entire game.
Not a team to rest on its laurels, the Magic also played incredibly bad defense with the Cavs down two, as Dion Waiters drove right past Aaron Afflalo and was never contested at the hoop on a layup that tied the game with 0.6 seconds left in regulation.
Given new life, Cleveland never trailed in OT, going up 85-81 with 1:34 to go after back-to-back set shots by Anderson Varejao, who was sensational in finishing with 18 points and a career-high 25 rebounds.
“Wild Thing” added six free throws with 23.9 seconds left in OT to put the Cavs up six, which was more than enough for the victory given that Orlando scored exactly two points in the five-minute extra session.
The Cavs also got 17 points from Waiters, who was 6-for-20 from the field, 16 points and 10 rebounds from Tristan Thompson, 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from Jack, who was 5-for-16 from the field, and 14 points from C.J. Miles.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis led Orlando with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but he was 6-for-19 from the field and 4-for-8 at the line.
The Cavs shot a woeful .344 from the field (33-for-96) and made just 4-of-19 3-pointers, but Orlando wasn’t much better, hitting at a .381 clip (32-for-84) while going 7-for-25 from downtown.
The most memorable part of the first quarter, which ended with Orlando up 23-19, was Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett wasting no time making an immediate impact.
Two seconds after he checked in, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft bricked a jumper. Mere seconds later, he picked up a foul at the other end of the court. The next time Cleveland was on defense, Bennett completed his quick trifecta with yet another foul.
The second quarter featured undrafted Cleveland rookie Matthew Dellavedova, who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, in a Sumo-style clash for the basketball with the 6-9, 289-pound Davis, with the Cavs actually gaining possession on the ensuing jump ball.
Other than that, the first half, which ended with Cleveland up 41-39, was most noteworthy for the fact you could hear the point guards calling plays while seated 20 rows up.
Not that either club ran them successfully. Cavs small forward Earl Clark jacked up shots like he was Bernard King, but clanged most of them like he was B.B. King.
Clark’s 2-for-8 performance, however, was outdone by “Big Bricky” Davis, who went 1-for-8 in the first half.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.