CLEVELAND — Free throws and 3-pointers were scarce through three quarters, but the Cavaliers changed all that in the fourth.
That, combined with some good defense on everyone not named Nikola Vucevic, propelled Cleveland to a 107-93 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs (16-48) have now won five of their last eight and are 7-7 in their last 14 games, while Orlando (30-35), which began the day clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, lost for the fifth time in its last six games.
“It seems a little elementary, but we’re having fun,” said power forward Kevin Love, whose presence helped account for a 50-point turnaround after he sat out a 36-point loss to Detroit on Saturday as a precaution after missing 50 games due to surgery on his left foot.
Aggressiveness and 3-point shooting in the fourth quarter were every bit as important, with Cleveland reserves setting the tone early in the quarter.
The Cavs were just 4-for-4 at the line and 7-for-33 from behind the arc while falling behind 72-67 after three quarters, but went 17-for-19 at the stripe and 7-for-10 on 3-pointers while winning the fourth quarter 40-21.
Cleveland, which attacked the rim early to get the Magic in foul trouble then starting drilling 3-pointers later in the quarter, was 12-for-13 at the line in the first six minutes of the fourth, when it took control of the game for good.
“I can’t explain it,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. “We moved the ball. We got great looks. In the fourth quarter, our shots just seemed to fall.”
Jordan Clarkson led the Cavs with 18 points and Collin Sexton had 17, while Love finished with 16 on 3-for-11 shooting and 14 rebounds. Cedi Osman added 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Only the 7-foot, 260-pound Vucevic played extremely well for the Magic, finishing with 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, though point guard D.J. Augustin fought his way to 19, five and five.
“They were having fun,” Drew said of his players. “It’s been a tough season for us. We’ve acknowledged that. We’re still competing and playing hard. There are going to be good nights and bad nights for us.”
Orlando won an ugly third quarter 24-15 to take a 72-67 lead, at which time Vucevic had 24 points on 11-for-13 shooting, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Cavs made just six of 24 shots in the quarter — they were 1-for-10 on 3-pointers — but scored the last four points to trim a nine-point deficit to five.
That kick-started a 17-0 run that put Cleveland up 80-72 inside the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter, but the Magic came right back with a 9-1 spurt to tie the game before the Cavs took control for good, largely because Orlando got in early foul trouble.
“It was that second unit,” Love said. “They got us in the bonus in the first few minutes of the fourth. ... That was definitely key. ... We were far more aggressive in the fourth.”
Added Drew: “I thought we took a step back in the first six minutes of that third quarter, but our guys off the bench got us going again.”
The Cavs led 52-48 after a first half where one team made a run, then the other. Cleveland played well defensively, but jacked up 23 3-pointers and made just six.
Sexton led the way with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting over the first two quarters but failed to register an assist, giving him zero over six quarters and 49 minutes in the last two games. The streak reached 59 minutes before the 20-year-old assisted Love on a 3-pointer just inside the five-minute mark of the fourth.
Vucevic was about all the Magic had offensively in the first half, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting. His teammates went 14-for-36. That included Orlando reserves going 4-for-12 while getting outscored 21-12 by their Cavs counterparts.
For the game, Cleveland bench players outscored Orlando’s 47-13. Magic subs were 6-for-23 from the floor, while Cavs reserves were 15-for-34.
“We found something that worked and just kept going to it,” Clarkson said of the fourth-quarter turnaround. “We put the ball in (Love’s) hands and he made the play, then someone else made the next play.”