The Orlando Magic lost 119-108 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 8, 2013. Kyrie Irving’s 24 points led a parade of five Cavaliers in double figures, and the Cavs outscored the Magic entirely in the second half as the game was knotted at intermission.
For a more detailed recap of the game’s proceedings, check out the game recap.
Let’s take a position-by-position look at how the Magic played tonight in our post-game grades:
Point Guard: Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson had his hands full with All-Star Kyrie Irving, but he did a remarkably good job against Cleveland’s franchise player. Nelson didn’t have a great night shooting (5-of-16, 4-of-9 from three).
He did, however, dish out 13 assists.
Nelson had trouble with Kyrie Irving, but played him well when Maurice Harkless wasn’t handling the duties. The Cavs put Alonzo Gee on Nelson to wear him out, and the Magic followed suit.
Irving did still score 24 points, but he’s had some pretty huge nights this season and one would generally figure such a night would come against the diminutive Nelson, who is typically a poor defender.
Irving wasn’t responsible for Nelson’s poor shooting night, as Nelson was covered by Cavs small forward Alonzo Gee. Gee forced Nelson to turn it over six times, and the Magic coughed the ball up 19 times in the game.
Grade: B -
Shooting Guard: Aaron Afflalo
Aaron Afflalo had a good night shooting the basketball. He hit 9-of-17 from the floor, including 2-of-6 from three-point range to finish with 23 points.
Afflalo did allow Dion Waiters to have a good night, but most of Waiters offense was generated in transition from Magic turnovers, and Afflalo did a solid job on Waiters in half court sets. Afflalo struggled for the short period that Alonzo Gee covered him while Jameer Nelson was on the bench, but had a strong night save that period in the late third quarter.
Grade: B +
Small Forward: Maurice Harkless
Maurice Harkless played a team-tying high 43 minutes in the game and the 19 year old quietly played a very good game. Harkless attempted just five field goals, but made four, and he had several nice defensive plays that showed he has great potential on the defensive end.
Harkless was covered by Kyrie Irving since Alonzo Gee matched up with Nelson. Harkless has a five inch height advantage on Irving, but is not a physical enough player to take advantage of it, at just 210 pounds.
Power Forward: Andrew Nicholson
Hit first bucket, a pull up from the top of the key to get the Magic back 7-4. Andrew Nicholson worked hard inside, and came up with eight rebounds, two of which were offensive. Nicholson doesn’t have great leaping ability but fights hard for position and has great shooting touch.
Many felt Rob Hennigan drafted Nicholson directly to replace Ryan Anderson as a stretch-4, but with a different coach the typical stretch-4, D12-inside, offense has changed. Nicholson’s range doesn’t extend as far as Hornets 4-man Ryan Anderson, but he’s very good from 20 feet and in.
Nicholson hit 9-of-13 from the floor to finish with 21 points in 30 minutes of work. It was his second-highest point total of the season (22 points on Dec. 29 vs. Toronto).
Cavs color commentator Austin Carr said “We’re making him an All-Star tonight!”
The hope in Orlando is that he actually becomes one.
Center: Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic scored the first Magic bucket on a pick and roll with Jameer Nelson and it seemed to set the tone for the rest of the night. In the first quarter, Vucevic had 11 of the first 19 Magic points and showed some great touch around the basket, hitting some hook shots on the baseline and finishing well with both hands.
Vucevic was chosen for the Rising Stars challenge and is the best part of the Dwight Howard package the Magic received. He’s so active around the basket and extremely coordinated, and he feasted on the Cavs weak interior defense. The Cavs are the worst shot blocking team in the NBA and Nik went to work on them, going 12-of-19 from the floor en route to 25 points and 13 rebounds.
Tyler Zeller was also unable to keep Vucevic off the offensive glass, and Vucevic had five offensive rebounds as the Magic out-rebounded the Cavs 39-32.
Zeller was in foul trouble the entire night and scored just seven points while grabbing only four rebounds. All of Zeller’s points came from the line. The Cavs miss Anderson Varejao, because the UNC product Zeller was completely outclassed by the Magic’s second year man tonight. He just didn’t have the strength to keep Nik off the boards and couldn’t stay in front of him on defense.
Hopefully Vucevic gets his chance to display his skill set in the Stars game, as many have not been exposed to his talents due to the Magic’s lack of time on national television.
Grade: A +
E’Twaun Moore made his first shot, a running jumper in the lane, but proceeded to miss his next five shots and finished 1-of-6 from the floor for two points.
Josh McRoberts and Kyle O’Quinn played well in short duty. McRoberts shot 3-of-4 from the floor and O’Quinn contributed five points and two rebounds.
O’Quinn had a nice assist to Harkless late in the first quarter, as he found the small forward looming on the baseline for an easy flush. He also had a nice turnaround hook shot in the second quarter that bounced softly in.
Overall, though, the starters played most of the minutes, with three Orlando Magic starters playing over 40 minutes in the game.