Isaiah Thomas returned to the starting lineup and scored 19 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Orlando Magic 131-127 on Saturday night in Orlando.
LeBron James finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. He also had six steals. Kevin Love had a big game with 27 points.
Cleveland (26-13) won for just the second time in six games and is in third place in the Eastern Conference behind Boston and Toronto.
Meanwhile, the Magic (12-28) have struggled all season and dropped 13 of their past 14 games. Orlando ranks 27th in the NBA, allowing 110.2 points per game and are 28th with a minus-5.7 point differential.
Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 30 points. Elfrid Payton scored 20 and Evan Fournier added 18.
Thomas hit a pair of jumpers and Cleveland took control by scoring the opening eight points of the third quarter to take a 75-64 lead. A 3-pointer by Love increased the margin to 80-71.
The Cavaliers continued to make shots, A jumper by James capped a 13-5 run and Cleveland led 90-76 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
A jumper by JR Smith boosted the lead to 20. The Magic would not go quietly, however, and Gordon cut the lead to 109-99 early in the fourth quarter. Orlando chipped away and Payton hit a jumper that cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 128-125 with 40 seconds left. However, Dwyane Wade (16 points) iced the game with a 3-foot shot.
Thomas has been eased back from a hip injury and scored 17 points in just under 19 minutes Tuesday’ in a 127-110 victory over Portland. He did not play the following night in a 102-88 loss at Boston. Thomas played 21 minutes against the Magic and did not show any ill-effects from injury.
The Magic have sorely missed and have not been able to make key shots without forward Nikola Vucevic, who suffered a fractured left index finger in December.
Cleveland led 31-27 at the end of a wide-open first quarter. Thomas found a comfort zone and his pull-up jumper provided a 33-30 lead early in the second quarter. Orlando played tough and a 27-foot, 3-pointer by D.J. Augustin later tied the game, 45-45.
The Cavaliers shot 23 of 44 (52.3 percent) from the field and led 67-64 at the break.
--Field Level Media