January 7, 2018 / 3:06 AM / 2 months ago

Thomas starts, scores 19 as Cavs hold off Magic

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.

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