ORLANDO, FLA.: When the players walked to the locker room with the game tied at 51 on Saturday, the coach wasn’t very happy with his pupil. Only this time, it wasn’t Byron Scott giving the Cavs an earful, it was assistant coach Jamahl Mosley.
Mosley works primarily with the big men, and none of the coaches were pleased with what they saw out of Tyler Zeller in the first half of what became a 118-94 rout of the Orlando Magic.
The coaches didn’t think Zeller was particularly aggressive in the first half or into the game mentally, so Mosley ripped him in the locker room while Scott stood back and listened.
Zeller was listening, too. He had 12 points and six rebounds in the third quarter, when the Cavs took control of the game. He finished with 16 points and seven assists and could’ve made a run at his career high of 20 points, but with Saturday’s game the start of four games in five nights, Scott held all of his starters out of the fourth quarter in the blowout.
“I think some words that were said in our locker room probably helped him,” Scott said of Zeller. “I thought the first half he didn’t play particularly well. … He played extremely well in the third quarter. Just got really aggressive and physical.”
Zeller, and the Cavs as a whole, were crushed by Magic center Nikola Vucevic in a game in Cleveland two weeks ago, when Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds. The coaching staff harped on Vucevic’s big night throughout the morning shootaround, then he was held to six points and seven rebounds.
“I got in a rhythm, finally quit trying to think so much and just started playing,” Zeller said of his third quarter.
After a miserable four-week stretch in which he was pushed around by some of the league’s more formidable centers and appeared to lose confidence in his shot, Zeller has rebounded the past three games. Starting with the loss against the San Antonio Spurs in the final game before the All-Star break, Zeller is averaging 14 points and six rebounds in his past three games. Even Zeller conceded the All-Star break has helped recharge him a little bit for the season’s final 29 games.
“Physically, it helped a lot,” Zeller said. “Physically and mentally, I had a couple days where I got away from it.”
The Cavs led by 10 early in the first quarter Saturday, but squandered the lead as quickly as they built it and went into the half tied. The Cavs kicked the lead back out to 13 during the third quarter and carried a 79-72 lead into the fourth.
When C.J. Miles made two 3-pointers within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Cavs led by 15 and the starters got the rest of the night off.
It was the second-biggest win and the most lopsided road victory of the season for the Cavs, who placed seven scorers in double figures for the first time in a regulation game (they had eight in double figures in a double-overtime loss against the Portland Trail Blazers).
The Magic have lost 28 of their past 31 games and were reeling even before trading away J.J. Redick at Thursday’s trade deadline. Saturday was the first game for all of the new players acquired in that deal, but the Magic were also without starting point guard Jameer Nelson, who remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Mo Speights had 18 points and eight rebounds off the bench, and Alonzo Gee had 17 points.
The fourth quarter of rest was particularly important for Kyrie Irving, who had 12 points and nine assists in his abbreviated night. Irving has a sore right knee after banging it in practice and he spent parts of the fourth quarter on the exercise bike trying to stay loose. But no one considers the injury to be serious.
Asked if the knee was anything to worry about, Irving said, “I hope not.”
The Cavs were without Daniel Gibson and Omri Casspi. Gibson was excused from the team to deal with a personal matter, and Casspi was taken to an Orlando hospital with sharp stomach pains.
Casspi remained at the hospital late Saturday as the players showered and left Amway Center, but it was unclear if Casspi was delayed by his own ailments or if the wreck at nearby Daytona Speedway was slowing his care.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.