ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The work is only beginning for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and LeBron James had 18, including a layup and pair of free throws down the stretch to help the Cavs hold off the Orlando Magic 109-103 on Friday night and clinch a playoff spot.
“There’s nothing much to say,” coach Tyronn Lue said after the defending Eastern Conference champions improved the best record in the East to 49-19 with their fifth victory in six games.
“We thought we were going to make the playoffs, so it wasn’t really a big deal to clinch,” Lue added. “We have bigger things ahead of us. We have a bigger deal in front of us.”
Channing Frye came off the bench to make four 3-pointers and score 14 against his old team as the Cavs beat the Magic for the 14th consecutive time. A rested James returned to the lineup after taking off Wednesday’s home victory over Dallas and finished 6-of-15 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds.
“This one’s definitely for him. He showed up and showed why he’s a valuable part of our team,” James said of 6-foot-11 Frye. “He has the ability to shoot the ball.”
Victor Oladipo had a career-high 45 points for Orlando, but only scored six in the fourth quarter. The last of his six 3-pointers trimmed Cleveland’s lead to 107-103 before James made two free throws to put it away.
“That team has been punking us. I wanted to set a tone that we aren’t here to get punked, we’re here to compete, and I think we did a good job of that,” said Oladipo, who was 16 of 22, including 6 of 7 on 3-pointers.
Cleveland’s defense tightened in the fourth quarter, and the third-year pro only got off three shots.
“I’m still upset about the fourth quarter. I can’t let them deny me the ball like that. I’ve got to demand the ball much more. That’s something I need to learn and get better at,” Oladipo said.
The Cavs led 63-54 at the half, using a 31-9 run to wipe out an 11-point deficit. Kevin Love delivered two 3-pointers and a dunk during an 11-0 burst that built Cleveland’s lead to double digits.
Oladipo scored 24 before halftime and 15 more in the third quarter, when the Magic opened with an 18-7 run to regain the lead and cling to an 86-83 edge going into the fourth.
But in the end, Oladipo simply didn’t get enough help – offensively or defensively – for Orlando to finish the job.
“When he’s making his jump shots he’s tough to guard. He’s athletic, he gets to the basket and can finish,” Lue said. “I thought our bench did a great job of finding him at the end and being physical with him.”
Love finished with 14 points in 23 minutes. Frye, obtained from Orlando at the trade deadline, made four of six 3-pointers, and Tristan Thompson contributed 11 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of them in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like our guys really did come to play,” Oladipo said. “They just had too much firepower for us.”
Cavaliers: The winning streak over the Magic is their longest against any team since taking 13 straight over the Philadelphia 76ers from 1991 to 1994. … Shot 50 percent, including 13 of 28 on 3-point attempts. They have made at least 10 3-pointers in eight of their last nine games. … Held Orlando to 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Magic: Lost the first three games of the season series by an average of 24.7 points. … Oladipo was 8 of 11 from the field and made all six on his free throws in the opening half. No one else on his team had more than six points in the first two quarters. … Oladipo is the ninth player in franchise history score 40, first since Aaron Affalo in December 2013. … G Elfred Payton sat out his fifth consecutive game with a right elbow sprain.
Cavaliers at Miami on Saturday night.
Magic at Toronto on Sunday.