"They’re a pretty good team," he said after scoring 29 points in a 104-79 rout Saturday night, Cleveland’s 13th straight win over Orlando. "They’re a well-coached team. They’ve been playing some good basketball. We’ve been able to play some good ball against them this year."
The Cavaliers’ lead reached 31 points in the third quarter of their third win over the Magic this season — and it wasn’t even the most lopsided matchup. On Dec. 11, Cleveland led by as many as 40 in a 111-76 rout.
The Cavaliers went ahead for good after the teams exchanged baskets to begin the game. Orlando coach Scott Skiles, who called Friday’s loss at Washington embarrassing, needed a timeout less than five minutes into Saturday’s game. The Cavaliers jumped ahead 19-4 and led 29-9 late in the first quarter.
Skiles had a simple message for his players after watching a miserable first half.
"I told them, ‘We’re playing like we have no heart,’ " he said.
Skiles had nothing good to say about his team’s performance.
"We didn’t compete," he said. "It’s no secret, they’re better than us. They’ve been to the NBA Finals. But not only were we not sharp, we were really, really poor."
James was 11 of 18 from the field with five rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes. Kyrie Irving, playing his fifth game since returning from a broken left kneecap, scored 13 points while Kevin Love added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Tristan Thompson scored 10 points with 12 rebounds as none of Cleveland’s starters played the fourth quarter.
Orlando’s starters were held to 20 points. Aaron Gordon scored a team-high 11 points while rookie centre Mario Hezonja and Shabazz Napier both added 10.
The lopsided loss led to several more low moments for the Magic. Orlando fouled Cleveland’s 3-point shooters five times. James’ 3-pointer gave Cleveland a 44-17 lead midway through the second, which was followed by Orlando committing an offensive foul while inbounding the ball.
James moved into 21st place on the all-time assist list with 6,477, passing Nate Archibald.
James admitted he wasn’t feeling well before the game, the Cavaliers’ first at home after a four-game trip.
"I had some good, I had some bad moments," James said. "Hopefully I can try to shake whatever I got going on and it doesn’t linger the next couple days."
THE KNEE HELD UP
Irving dived head-first to the sidelines in an attempt to save the ball as it was rolling out of bounds with the Cavaliers up by 20 in the third quarter. His knee survived the hard fall.
"That was the biggest thing," he said. "I think there was a gasp of air, not only from my teammates and the staff, but also everyone in the building. For me, too. That was one of those moments we all talk about when you come back from surgery. That was the moment, ‘OK, I’m good.’ I bumped my knee on the floor. It felt better when I got back up."
Skiles acknowledges his team’s inability to beat the Cavaliers has some significance.
"It’s not unimportant, but there are other streaks with the Magic," he said. "After (Friday) night, Washington has beaten us 11 in a row. Depending on the guys you have, it will either tick you off or it can scare you to death."
Magic: Evan Fournier scored nine points to lead Orlando’s starters. Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic scored four apiece, Channing Frye had three and Elfrid Payton was scoreless. … The Magic last defeated Cleveland on Nov. 23, 2012.
Cavaliers: Cleveland’s only home loss came against Washington on Dec. 1 … Irving was 17 of 17 from the foul line for the season before missing in the second quarter. … J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer in the third quarter moved him past Nick Van Exel (1,528) for 22nd place all-time.
Magic: visit Detroit on Monday.
Cavaliers: host Toronto on Monday.