Coming off an emotional victory over their in-state rivals, the Magic look to avoid a letdown when they face a struggling Cavaliers team hoping to build on a thrilling win.
Orlando (10-4) became the latest team to frustrate Miami with a 104-95 victory Wednesday, avenging a 26-point loss earlier this season while sending the Heat to their first three-game losing streak.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, however, tried to downplay the significance of the victory.
“I just think it’s another game, another win,” he said. “You would think we were in the NBA finals with all the people here. Everybody in the media is so interested in the Heat, but I just think it’s another team.”
The Cavaliers were in a similar position when James played for them, and Orlando routinely did a solid job of rising to the occasion.
The Magic have won nine of the last 13 regular-season meetings with Cleveland, taking six of the last eight in Orlando. They also defeated the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals in 2009.
With James gone, Cleveland (6-8) no longer has championship aspirations. The Cavaliers are also missing a go-to player they can count on to take the big shots in the clutch, but Mo Williams(notes) appeared to be up to the task Wednesday.
Williams hit a 15-foot jumper as time expired to give Cleveland an 83-81 victory over Milwaukee, its second win in seven games. It was a shot that likely would have gone to James in previous seasons.
“There’s a lot of pressure to take those shots,” Williams said. “You got to be willing to take ‘em and make ‘em. I definitely got to be the guy who makes plays. I’ll accept that role. Somebody has to be that aggressive guy every single night. We need that one guy.”
Williams hit several big shots down the stretch, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
Orlando’s Jameer Nelson(notes) made similar big plays with the game on the line Wednesday. He finished with a career-high 14 assists and scored eight of his 17 points in the final 4:21 as the Magic closed the game on a 15-6 run.
“One of my teammates came up and told me that he felt that it was time for me to score more,” Nelson said. “We’ve got great guys on this team that you listen to them and it kind of popped into my head that I need to.”
Dwight Howard(notes) finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double. The Magic are 9-1 when Howard records a double-double, and the four-time All-Star center had three double-doubles in four games against Cleveland last season.
The Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak Wednesday and picked up a much-needed win with a daunting schedule looming. After visiting Orlando, Cleveland returns home to face Memphis, Boston and Miami.
“It was almost survival mode,” said Williams, who averaged 17.0 points against the Magic in 2009-10. “We needed to win this game and get on a good slide and feel good about ourselves.”