The Cavaliers have the longest win streak in the Eastern Conference. It's been an easy schedule, sure. A team that started 16-33, withering at the slightest adversity, has now started to show they can step up a bit when challenged. You don't want to read too much into this; Orlando has just three road wins all season. Still, this was a team that played without Anderson Varejao. Without Dion Waiters. That lost C.J. Miles. That gave up a big run in the 3rd quarter.
That won the game.
It was in some ways exactly what you expect from the Cavaliers. Tristan Thompson was good but found ways to do everything that you get annoyed with anyway. He finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes. Coming off a back to back, his energy was incredibly important. He had three turnovers and didn't record an assist. His defense was good but not great.
Kyrie Irving was really good. 22 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 turnovers. November falls further and further out of focus, and Irving's numbers slowly improve. He was engaged defensively. He took a bad three pointer with 2:30 to go early in the shot clock with the Cavs clinging to a lead but was otherwise making good decisions.
The Cavaliers defensive intensity faltered a bit as the game went on, but on the second night of a back to back with a short bench, this is to be expected on some level. The Magic turned a 20+ deficit into a two point game. Cleveland dug deep and got solid play from a source that would have been unexpected a year ago at this time. This year, though? Tyler Zeller's play is right in line with what we have seen from him all year.
The 2nd year big man finished with 16 points on five shots. Seriously. It was amazing. He is getting to the line, playing strong, hitting shots and stretching defenses and has excellent defensive positioning. His rebounding isn't quite where you want it to be, but when he plays with a rebounding power forward like Thompson, you can give that up a little bit. His three point play with a little over a minute left in the game might have been the difference.
Orlando got solid performances from NIkola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Arron Afflalo. It wasn't quite enough. Irving had Afflalo on him for most of the night and still scored efficiently, and Vucevic failed to defend Zeller.
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