Somehow, the lowly Orlando Magic have found some positives about their situation.
Cleveland goes for its first road win in this series in three seasons on Saturday night when the Magic return home with three new players - and without J.J. Redick.
The Cavaliers (17-37) obviously have plenty of room for improvement - sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference is proof of that - but Irving, among the NBA leaders with 23.7 points per game, is the star the team has been looking for since LeBron James left for Miami in 2010.
The main knock on Irving has been his durability - he missed 11 games earlier this season with a broken finger after being sidelined for 15 during his rookie of the year campaign in 2011-12 - but when healthy, he's among the top point guards in the NBA.
Fresh off winning the 3-point contest and scoring 15 points in his All-Star debut on Sunday, Irving poured in 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 105-100 victory over New Orleans.
Cleveland had dropped three straight since ending a 10-game losing streak to the Magic with a 119-108 victory on Feb. 8.
"You can see it coming (from Irving),'' coach Byron Scott said after the Cavs finished their 4-3 homestand. "He gets a little bit of a gleam in his eye. He hits one or two shots and just kind of gets going.''
Irving will get his second look at the Magic this season. He was injured for a 108-104 loss at Orlando on Nov. 23, but he finished with team highs of 24 points and eight assists on Feb. 8.
Orlando (15-40) has won six straight and 11 of 13 at home against the Cavs, but the team has dropped 27 of 30 following back-to-back road losses to Dallas and Memphis.
A bigger loss may have happened between those two defeats when Redick - the team's top 3-point shooter - was dealt to Milwaukee on Thursday along with center Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith. Orlando received Beno Udrih, rookie guard Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris in that swap, but they did not play in Friday's 88-82 loss to the Grizzlies.
Neither did Hakim Warrick, who will likely get waived after Orlando acquired him from Charlotte for big man Josh McRoberts.
"(The younger players') focus was unbelievable tonight. ... It was really, really impressive by those guys," Arron Afflalo said. "Once we get some more guys coming in to help us out a little bit, this is the way we need to play moving forward."
Udrih could see plenty of minutes on Saturday if starting point guard Jameer Nelson misses a second straight game with a strained left patellar tendon.
Nelson is averaging 18.5 points - second to Afflalo's 21.0 - with 9.5 assists against Cleveland this season.
Cavs guard Dion Waiters, the league's second-highest rookie scorer with 14.2 points per game, has a team-best 40 in those two matchups. Waiters' 25 points on Nov. 23 led all scorers.
Cleveland's last victory at Orlando was 102-93 on Nov. 11, 2009.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Orlando Magic
- Kyrie Irving