All season long for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the excuse for their sometimes sluggish play so has circled back to their injuries; specifically to guards Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert.
The Cavs got a little bit healthier tonight, as Shumpert made his debut against the Orlando Magic, whose presence on the court ignited the Cavs as they easily handled the Magic on the road, 111-76.
Shumpert, who played 24 minutes and scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in his season debut, sparked something in the Cavs that they haven't seen in their last few games, which have involved three losses and win in which they had to come back from a 20-point deficit against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Against the Magic tonight, the Cavs didn't have to worry about coming back from any sort of deficit, as they led from start to finish, including a double-digit lead over the final 26:45 minutes of the game. Part of that dominance came from a big second quarter from LeBron James. James, who scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in that quarter, got anything and everything against whoever was thrown at him.
In fact, James took all six of his attempts at the rim in the second quarter and didn't miss any of those shots. The Magic tried everything from switching defenders to having Elfrid Payton, who gives up 65 pounds to James, try and wrap him up on a fastbreak attempt, which ended with a layup and James slapping his shoulder in the act of swatting a fly off of him.
James wasn't the only one who impressed for the Cavs, as Timofey Mozgov put together his best game of the year. Mozgov, who didn't score a point in the Cavs previous game and hasn't played anything close to how he did last year, scored a season-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
More importantly for Mozgov was how he looked on the court. He's struggled to get himself into shape after offseason knee surgery and his play had shown. Tonight, Mozgov was getting himself into comfortable positions, cutting to the lane off the ball and being effective around the rim. It may have been against very weak defensive frontline for the Magic, but it was encouraging nonetheless.
As the Cavs get healthier, with Shumpert already back and Irving expected to return as early as their game, their play should only get better. And if tonight is an example of what they'll look like as the pieces start to return, it should bode well for them heading forward, getting them closer to the team they were in the second half of last season instead of team they've looked like over the last month.