Cavs stunned by 2nd-half Magic
LEBRON James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crashed to yet another humiliating defeat — this time to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday as James Harden scored his 15,000th career point to extend Houston’s winning streak to five games.
In Orlando, Florida, James scored 25 points but it was not enough to prevent the Cavs from slumping to a 98-116 loss in a roller-coaster game.
Cleveland looked to be in the mood for an emphatic win after piling on a massive 43 points in the first quarter and powering to 67-51 at half-time.
But Orlando dominated the second half, outscoring the Cavs 65-31 in the final two quarters to complete a crushing win before its home fans.
A grim night for Cleveland also saw coach Tyronn Lue leave courtside midway through the second quarter with an undisclosed illness. Lue did not reappear and reportedly watched the remainder of the game from the locker room.
The Magic were sparked by 34 points from Jonathon Simmons, on a night when all of Orlando’s starters cracked double digits.
Cavs star James pinpointed a disastrous third quarter — when Orlando poured on 41 points — for the loss.
“They hit some big-time shots in the third quarter,” James said. “The snowball turned into an avalanche in the third. A 41-point quarter is hard to come back from.”
James also said he will not waive his no-trade clause and is committed to seeing this season through with the Cavs, despite their recent struggles.
“I owe it to my teammates to finish the season out,” he said. “I would never waive my no-trade clause.”
Cleveland has lost 13 of its last 19 games and is in danger of slipping to fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are currently 6 1/2 games back of the No. 2 Toronto Raptors and 7 1/2 back of the conference’s top team, the Boston Celtics.
The Cavs face the Minnesota Timberwolves next, back in Cleveland, who have already beaten Cleveland this season.
“We’ve got a great opportunity tomorrow against a team that beat us up pretty good before,” James said.
“We look forward to the challenge. We’ve got to come out and sustain the challenge.”
In New York, Rockets star Harden brought up 15,000 career points on as Houston swept to a 123-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets to maintain pressure on the Golden State Warriors at the top of the Western Conference.
Harden finished with 36 points as the Rockets bagged a fifth straight victory to improve to 39-13, two wins back from the Warriors.
Chris Paul had 25 points, with Clint Capela adding 18 and Gerald Green contributing 16 points from the bench.
Harden was bombarded with chants “M-V-P!” during the game but said afterwards he was not thinking about personal honors.
“Just want to win, and put ourselves in the best position that we can for postseason and then we’ll take it from there,” Harden said.
In Oakland, California, Golden State was thumped 125-105 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined to dismantle the Warriors defense. George finished with 38 points while Westbrook added 34.
Kevin Durant led the scoring for the Warriors with 33 points against his former team. Draymond Green was ejected for the third time this season after lobbing the ball at an official.
Elsewhere in the NBA on Tuesday, it was: Raptors 111, Celtics 91; 76ers 115, Wizards 102; Hawks 108, Grizzlies 82; Lakers 112, Suns 93; and Bucks 103, Knicks 89.