December 22, 2014

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Cavaliers beat Magic for 6th straight win

Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Jack passes against the Orlando Magic Wednesday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jarrett Jack passes against the Orlando Magic Wednesday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — If any players are traded from the Cavaliers prior to the 3 p.m. deadline today, they’ll leave on a six-game winning streak.

It wasn’t always pretty, but a shorthanded Cleveland team led from start to finish Wednesday en route to a 101-93 victory over the Orlando Magic at Quicken Loans Arena.

With Anderson Varejao (back) and Dion Waiters (knee) out with injuries and trade rumors surrounding veterans Jarrett Jack and Luol Deng, the Cavs (22-33) were all business in handing Orlando (16-40) its 14th straight road loss and 25th in 28 games this season.

“It is what it is,” Jack said of the trade rumors after putting up 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. “I come out and if it happens, it happens. I try to stay focused and be engulfed in what we’re trying to build.”

As press members were going from the Cavs locker room to the press room after finishing postgame interviews, acting general manager David Griffin was talking to Jack, who signed a four-year, $25.2 million contract in the offseason, in the hallway.

“I didn’t sign here in July to leave in February,” Jack said prior to that conversation. “I liked the pieces we had in place and I still like them. … As you can see, we are playing some pretty (darn) good basketball.”

Deng, who finished with 17 points and hit a 3-pointer from the corner that put the Cavs up eight with 35.5 seconds to go, took a similar approach.

“Some (rumors) are right and sometimes people create stories,” he said. “You’ve got to have something to write about.

“For me, I’ve got to have the mindset that I’m here. At the end of the day, if something happens, I’ll deal with the situation.”

The Cavs dealt with every situation against the Magic, including losing C.J. Miles to a sprained left ankle with 8:56 left in the game. Miles’ status is day-to-day.

In addition to Jack and Deng, Cleveland got 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from Kyrie Irving, 16 points and 14 rebounds from Tristan Thompson, 16 points and five boards from Tyler Zeller and seven points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes from Anthony Bennett.

Arron Afflalo had 23 points and Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic, which missed its first nine shots and went 3-for-21 from the field (.143) overall in falling behind 26-11 after the first period.

The Cavs extended their lead to 19 at halftime on a 28-foot bomb by Irving and then to 21 early in the third period, but Orlando stormed back and was already within two with 11:22 to go in the game.

The Magic, which outscored the Cavs 32-17 in the third period after putting up just 36 points in the first half, was still within two when Afflalo converted a three-point play with 2:07 remaining, but Zeller responded by grabbing a Jack miss and turning it into a three-point play of his own with 1:43 left.

Orlando got back within three, but two Irving free throws — the All-Star Game MVP was serenaded with “MVP” chants on numerous occasions — and Deng’s 3-pointer, which came after the Cavs made two extra passes to get the best shot, kept the Magic at bay.

“(Zeller’s) been playing some good basketball,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “His and-one was huge. He’s really starting to show he can be a physical presence — without a play called for him, really.”

In back-to-back games after the All-Star break, Zeller has averaged 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while filling in for Varejao, who missed his fourth straight game.

“It’s tough to pick him up,” Zeller said. “I’m really trying to fill in and do what I can.

“These two games are the best I’ve played in a long time. Hopefully, it’s something I can keep going.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.