By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
ORLANDO, FLA.: For a team that has struggled to win on the road this season, the Cavaliers’ only two road victories have both been dramatic comebacks.
Kyrie Irving had 31 points and Dion Waiters had 21, including 16 in a red-hot fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers rallied from 14 down in the first quarter to beat the Orlando Magic on Friday 109-100.
The Cavs trailed 26-12 in the first quarter, making this their second-largest comeback of the season. Their largest comeback was also their only other road victory, when they trailed by 15 at the Washington Wizards before winning in overtime.
“Our guys recouped, they bounced back and they just found a way to win,” coach Mike Brown said. “That’s what’s going to have to happen sometimes on the road. You’re going to have to win ugly.”
Waiters missed his first five shots, all in the first half, before catching fire in the fourth quarter. He made 6-of-9 shots at one point and scored the Cavs’ first 14 points of the fourth quarter — all within 5½ minutes. His driving layup tied the score 85-85, then his jumper gave the Cavs an 87-85 lead. Matthew Dellavedova followed with two 3-pointers to give the Cavs a 95-85 lead while the Magic went scoreless for more than three minutes.
“Once that first shot goes down I’m always in the zone,” Waiters said. “In the first half a couple ones went in and out on me, I put my head down. It was a frustrating half for me. I gathered myself in the second half, had to get my thoughts together, go out there and perform.”
Irving followed his 37-point performance Tuesday against the New York Knicks by going 12-for-24 against the Magic. He had 27 points through the third quarter before watching from the bench, and Waiters commanded the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Cavs survived a scare late in the first half when Anderson Varejao banged knees with Magic rookie Victor Oladipo and crumpled to the ground holding his right knee — the same knee that ended his season last year when he banged knees with another player. Varejao had 10 points and 14 rebounds, then went down again in the final 10 seconds when he scored the Cavs’ final basket on a breakaway and was shoved to the ground by the Magic’s Andrew Nicholson.
Varejao remained on the ground for a few moments under the basket while Waiters charged at Nicholson and began shouting at him. Players had to be separated before the incident intensified. Nicholson, who said after the game he didn’t mean to hurt Varejao and didn’t think he shoved him that hard, was assessed a flagrant-2 and ejected.
“I thought it was a cheap shot,” said Waiters, who conceded he didn’t actually see the shove but heard Varejao shouting in pain. “That’s my big brother. If anybody else was in that situation, I’d have done the same thing. It’s not about being the toughest guy on the team, it’s about having your teammates’ back and sticking up for one another.”
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.