ORLANDO, FLA.: The problems that have plagued the Cavs for years returned Friday, but coach Byron Scott didn’t appear as disheartened as he has been in the past.
The Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic 108-104 because they again allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better, the Magic destroyed the Cavs on 3-pointers and the Cavs missed some crucial free throws down the stretch. But Scott wasn’t as irritated with the Magic shooting 50 percent as he has been when some of the previous opponents have done it.
“They shot the ball well, you have to give them a lot of credit,” Scott said. “At times, I thought we were right there and tried to affect the shot, but they just shot the ball well. … I thought for the most part, we did some of the things we wanted on the defensive end.”
The one thing they couldn’t do, however, was deny J.J. Redick an inbounds pass. Redick made all eight of his free throws in the final 22 seconds to prevent the Cavs from taking the lead. Four times during that stretch, the Magic had to inbound the ball. All four times it went to Redick, who entered shooting 87 percent from the line, and the Cavs appeared powerless to stop it.
“It’s hard with that guy,” Scott said. “He moves so well without the ball. He does a terrific job and they do a terrific job of setting screens for him, too.”
Dion Waiters, who scored a game-high 25 points, was surprised and aggravated by how well Redick made crucial free throws.
“Can you miss?” Waiters asked Redick. “I was just playing, but I was serious. It’s like, ‘Damn, miss a shot. Please.’ ”
The Magic made 17-of-20 free throws. The Cavs made 22-of-30. Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao each split two free throws in the final two minutes while the Cavaliers were trying to erase a small deficit.
They led by as many as 12 in the first half, when the Magic turned the ball over 16 times. But the Magic cleaned up their ball-handling and assaulted the Cavs from the outside.
That was common during the Dwight Howard era, when they surrounded their big man with shooters, but those days are long gone.
The Magic began the night averaging less than five 3-pointers per game, which ranks 28th in the league. They more than doubled that total on Friday, which is why it was a bit surprising that Scott seemed relatively pleased with the defensive effort and Waiters, not so surprisingly, agreed with his coach.
“I thought we played great D,” Waiters said. “They just made a lot of tough shots, especially down the stretch.”
Waiters scored 25 points and shot 9-of-22. It was an improvement over his recent games, but Waiters still seems to be settling for more jump shots than Scott would like. Varejao had 19 points and 17 rebounds despite foul trouble and Jeremy Pargo had 15 points in his second game since replacing Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup.
The Cavs’ defensive deficiencies will keep getting exposed until something changes. They face an explosive Miami Heat team today that leads the league in scoring (104.3 points) and field-goal percentage (49 percent) and ranks second in 3-pointers per game (9.1) and 3-point percentage (43 percent).
“Guys are going to hit shots in the NBA,” Waiters said. “We just have to keep playing defense and try to run guys off their spots.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.