CLEVELAND: Cavaliers coach Byron Scott turned to an unlikely five-man lineup for a spark in the fourth quarter Sunday night and the decision paid off big time.
Starter Wayne Ellington joined reserves Omri Casspi, Kevin Jones, Shaun Livingston, and Marreese Speights to help the host Cavs rally from a deficit to the Orlando Magic and earn a 91-85 victory.
“That group I thought played pretty good basketball, especially defensively,” Scott said. “We didn’t score a lot, but they didn’t either.”
A crowd of 16,341 witnessed the Cavs (24-52) start off slow against the Magic (19-59), but regain their composure in time to notch a second consecutive win.
“It was a good win,” Scott said. “On the defensive end again, I thought our guys did a lot of good things just like we did in Boston [in a 97-91 win Friday night]. That is basically why we got the win tonight.”
Alonzo Gee led the Cavs with 19 points and seven rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 15 points and 16 rebounds, and Livingston added 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
“The effort was great,” Scott said. “Offensively, we just couldn’t seem to get into a good rhythm, but defensively I thought we were pretty much all over the place. In the fourth quarter, we just buckled down.”
Tobias Harris paced Orlando with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic also gave Cleveland fits with 21 points, 21 rebounds and six assists.
Ellington (nine points), Speights (eight points), Livingston, Casspi and Jones made their presence felt with their defensive play, which carried over to when Gee, Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Tyler Zeller returned to the floor.
“We just really shared the basketball,” Ellington said. “We made sure we were helping each other on the defensive end of the floor. We were protecting each other. We all came together as a group. We were not doing anything special, other than making sure we were there for each other on defense.”
Irving finished with nine points, 10 assists and four rebounds. He made 3-of-15 shots from the field for a Cavaliers team that made 32-of-89 field goals (36.0 percent).
“He is just in a bad shooting slump right now,” Scott said. “He will be fine. He just has to keep playing. What I am proud of is how he has played on the defensive end the last two nights. … We have won our last two games without him playing really well. That to me is big time for the growth of this team. I am not worried about Kyrie’s shooting.”
Irving acknowledged he was struggling with his shot.
“I am probably in the worst shooting slump ever in my short career,” Irving said. “I am not really worried about that. I am just going to do everything I need to do in order to get a win. I am going to fight for these guys. Obviously, my shot is not going to fall every night. It is the law of averages. As long as I can contribute on the defensive end, that is my job.”
Orlando led 24-22 following one quarter. The Magic held leads of 10-2, 12-4 and 22-14 in the opening quarter before the Cavaliers got in sync offensively and rallied back following a pair of 3-pointers by C.J. Miles.
Miles left the game with 8:37 to go in second quarter following an accidental elbow by Vucevic on a rebound. The Cavaliers held a 30-28 lead when Miles was taken to the locker room. He did not return after receiving six stitches for a vertical gash to his forehead above his nose.
“I saw C.J. in there and he looked fine,” Scott said.
He then laughed and said: “I told him the scar will be an improvement [to his face].”
Miles said he was concerned when he saw his blood on the court.
“I am a country boy,” Miles said. “I have done and seen falls, scrapes and scratches. I don’t think I have ever really seen that much of my blood in one spot. It was just in front of me. It was like a big puddle.”
Vucevic and Harris helped the Magic to a 48-44 halftime advantage and a 66-62 lead after three quarters. Thompson had six points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Cavs outscored the Magic 29-19.
“We just tightened up on the defensive end,” Thompson said. “We are just playing hard and competing. The season is not over for us. We are playing for pride. Coach has been stressing that and we have been amongst the group we have.”
The Cavs play at Indiana on Tuesday to start a six-game stretch in nine days to conclude the season.
“It is a pride thing for us and we are going to continue to finish out the season strong,” Irving said.
Irving focused on season
Irving was asked before the game about the speculation that Scott could be let go following the season. He downplayed it and said: “Until that time comes, I’m not really worried about it. To even imagine that, I’m not going down that road. I’m focused on finishing the season with him and that’s all that matters right now.”
Luke Walton of the Cavs and Jameer Nelson of the Magic each did not suit up due to sprained right ankles. … Former Indians All-Star Carlos Baerga was at the game Sunday. He received a loud ovation after being shown on the video scoreboard following the announcement that the Indians beat the host Tampa Bay Rays 13-0 earlier in the day.