The Orlando Magic averted matching a season-high four-game losing skid by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.
On Friday, the Magic return to Cleveland aiming to record a campaign-best four-game winning streak at the expense of the struggling Cavaliers.
Orlando, which recorded its first road win of the season with a 116-104 victory over Cleveland on Nov. 27, has moved within one game of .500 after toppling Golden State, Washington and Phoenix in a four-day span.
Offense hasn’t been an issue recently for the Magic, who followed up their 127-120 win over the Wizards on Tuesday with a 128-114 triumph against the Suns the following night. The victory over Phoenix marked the third time in franchise history that Orlando scored at least 125 points in back-to-back games.
The Magic have also been more efficient on the floor, shooting 51.1 percent from the field versus the Wizards before eclipsing that season-best total with a sizzling 57.6 effort against the Suns.
Orlando coach Steve Clifford referenced those troubles when he shed light on the team’s 3-point shooting.
“Our No. 1 weakness so far this year has been 3-point shooting,” Clifford said of his team, which has made 34.7 percent of its attempts to rank 23rd out of 30 NBA teams entering play on Thursday.
“Last year, I think we were 11th. We have good shooters getting into rhythm, and they’re starting to shoot the ball better.”
Aaron Gordon, who missed the first encounter with the Cavaliers with an ankle injury, made all five 3-pointers he attempted and shot 13 of 15 from the field for a season-high 32 points on Wednesday.
“It’s just about relaxing and shooting my shot,” the 24-year-old said.
Evan Fournier highlighted his 21-point performance versus Phoenix by making three shots from beyond the arc, including one to cap a 14-1 run early in the third quarter. The 27-year-old has averaged 24.8 points over his last 10 games, with four 3-pointers underscoring his then-season-high 30-point effort in the previous meeting with Cleveland.
Defending the 3-point line has been an issue for the Cavaliers, who have been rather generous in that regard en route to sustaining their fourth consecutive loss and 10th in 11 outings in Tuesday’s 129-94 setback to Detroit. Cleveland permitted the Pistons to make 51.4 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc (18 of 35).
“One of the biggest problems with our defense right now is we are overhelping. Really overhelping and giving up 3s,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re not standing around sometimes, but then other times we’re just standing around and watching a guy go 1-on-1.”
Second-year guard Collin Sexton scored a team-high 22 points against the Pistons and added 20 in the previous encounter with the Magic.
Those numbers aren’t the concerning ones for Cleveland, which has allowed 10 consecutive opponents to score at least 100 points in a game.
“You got to keep pushing forward,” forward/center John Henson said, per Cleveland.com. “Stay positive, hold onto the rope and don’t flinch, as Coach says.
“We are going to keep trekking this path. We’re not where we want to be, but the way the East is setting up, especially with sixth, seventh, eighth seed, playoff wise, a three- or four-game win streak can put you right back in the mix. So, we can’t stop fighting and give up. It’s too early.”
–Field Level Media