ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Free of the minutes’ restriction that had been placed on him early this season as he recovered from a hamstring injury, Orlando forward Aaron Gordon made the most of his extra time on the floor.
Gordon broke out of a shooting slump Monday night, hitting six of nine 3-pointers on the way to a season-high 24 points as the Magic beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-83.
Orlando snapped a two-game losing streak that had followed four straight victories to open the season. The Magic made a season-high 15 3-pointers, easily surpassing their previous season high of 11. Orlando entered the game 30th in the NBA in 3-point makes per game with nine.
Gordon entered having made just three of 20 3-point attempts. He tied a career best with the six made 3s midway through the third quarter. Gordon scored 13 points in the third as the Magic broke open a close game. He also grabbed a season-best 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
“They bumped me up a little bit and I think I’m around 28 or 30 minutes now, and I want to be on the floor as much as I possibly can,” said Gordon, who is still nursing a hamstring injury from late last season. “I don’t want to be limited in any way. I just want to go out there and be free and play in the game’s flow.”
Up two points at the break, Orlando outscored Cleveland 38-18 in the third period, pushing its lead to 89-67. The Magic made six of 10 shots from beyond the arc in the third period and posted their second-highest scoring quarter of the season.
“We were better in the second half, but they’re hard to play against,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of Cleveland’s zone defenses. “They switch things up, which takes away your rhythm. In the second half, we did a better job of taking care of the ball and Aaron Gordon was great.”
Nikola Vucevic scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Terrence Ross chipped in 15 points off the bench. Khem Birch added 12 points and 12 rebounds, while rookie guard Cole Anthony added nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Cleveland lost its fifth straight to Orlando, a streak that dates to 2019. The Cavaliers are 1-3 since starting the season 3-0.
Cleveland guard Collin Sexton scored 24 points and tied LeBron James’ franchise record for consecutive games with at least 20 points to open a season. Sexton, who came into Monday 10th in the NBA in scoring at 26 points per game, has scored at least 20 points in all seven games. James scored at least 20 in seven straight to open the 2004-05 season.
Cedi Osman scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half and added seven rebounds and seven assists. Andre Drummond had 10 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double.
Cavaliers: Already without starters Kevin Love (calf strain), Darius Garland (shoulder strain) and Isaac Okoro (foot sprain), Cleveland lost guard Dante Exum to a left leg injury just 47 seconds in. Cleveland is already down seven players. “It is what it is and we’ve just got to figure it out,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We are down bodies and we talked about adversity a few games back and this is the epitome of it. We’ve just got to figure it out.”
Magic: Magic coach Steve Clifford chatted with Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera on Monday morning to congratulate him on getting Washington to the NFL playoffs. Clifford and Rivera are close friends from their time together in Charlotte — the former with the Hornets and the latter while coaching the Panthers. “We communicated this morning and we have a good friendship,” Clifford said. “He’s a great coach and a tremendous human being. They’ve had a phenomenal season after a tough start. His teams always get better and better.”
Cavaliers: Cleveland will play Orlando again tonight.
Magic: Orlando hosts Cleveland again tonight. The Magic have won five in a row and eight of 11 against the Cavaliers.